Croatians in London Newsletter No. 24 October 2006
Welcome to the October issue of Croatians in London
We interview Croatian Sculptor Ivan Klape¾ and Croatian Magicians - Branko and Branka
Interview with Ivan Klape¾
Ivan Klapez is a renowned sculptor living in London. His work is to be featured at the London Art Fair and a new book, 'Destination Art' will also cover his sculptures.
Can you tell us something about how you came to London.
I came to London in 1987 after my academy program in Zagreb, being in the class of Professor Sikirica. I came to study post graduate at City and Guilds. Afterwards I continued my work. It was a quite different kind of experimental work. At that time I was founding in bronze some sculptures and was exhibiting in London around 1990/1.
Why did you stay in London?
I stayed here primarily because originally I came to challenge myself abroad. When I showed some of my work to art schools, they took me as a post-graduate - that was why I was in London and not other cities.
There was one event where there was a Margaret Thatcher award - for aims of industry. Her office was promoting that. They chose me [to produce the award]. I did a sculpture called Liberty, about 2 foot high.
At that time (1990/1) I insisted that Croatia's legal representatives can meet Margaret Thatcher. I negotiated with her office. That's how it happened on 1 July 1991; we met her at the party for the promotion of British Enterprise. Afterwards they kept in touch with her and she was very helpful with the Croatian cause.
At that period of time I had some trouble with Serbs who were suddenly calling me and threatening me for about 20 days.
During those years of war I was producing work and exhibiting a lot in western galleries. There were also several commissions for works, from institutions such as TSB Bank.
It's most important to keep up experimental work in sculpture. I am always trying to move into other fields, I am always following my aesthetic intuition in my work.
What's been your most recent exhibition?
About a year ago, there was one in the Crypt Gallery in St.Pancras Church, about a hundred sculptures. The most recent one was in May, in the same place, with mostly new work. The next one will be in London Art fair in the Roman Black Gallery. It will be one piece in marble and two or three pieces in bronze.
Ivan Klapez in Tanzania working on sculptures of Cardinal Stepinac and Julius Nyerere
You have a project in Tanzania?
My brother Drazen, with two others, is a missionary in Tanzania. They invited me to come for a holiday around 1998/9 and to create a small sculpture. So I did. We were often going hunting in the bush. I came across some amazing shapes of granite. I decided to make much bigger sculpture. When I went next, I was bringing some tools and my brother organised heavy machinery to excavate the granite.
The project is half-way finished. I plan to go to soon for 4 or 5 months, together with my assistant Anton Vuko from Croatia who has helped me before.
I intend to make a sculpture of Alojzije Stepinac [Croatian Cardinal imprisoned by Yugoslav communists] which will be 4 metres tall, and Julius Nyerere which is 3 metres.
The reason I chose Stepinac is that he is a historical character from the Croatian church and Croatian national history. Primarily, he was inspiring especially what he did during Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Second World War and afterwards at the beginning of [communist] Yugoslavia.
Nyerere I chose to do as he also a national hero for Tanzania as he made a peaceful transition from colonial rule to a republic. He was a writer and poet. He also did something for the language, uniting 120 tribes to speak the Swahili language.
As it's a Croatian Mission, its good to have something from Croatia and something local.
I'm finding the Tanzanian sculpture very inspiring.
Glagolitic on the Stepinac sculpture
On the Stepinac sculpture, I am using Glagolitic script [script used in Croatia's past]. I am inscribing a sentence of what he said from his trial in former Yugoslavia. I am using Glagolitic but using Swahili.
So it will translate from Glagolitic into Swahili?
Yes. So its some kind of symbiosis.
Ivan's work will be seen at the London Art Fair, in the Roman Black Gallery on 17-21 January 2007 see www.londonartfair.co.uk for details.
Ivan's work also features in a new book by Amy Dempsey, 'Destination Art' published by Thames and Hudson.
In the Media
Brian Gallagher, Editor of Croatia Business Report, appeared as a guest this month on the Buy Association's property radio show on Croatia and Montenegro, hosted by veteran consumer broadcaster Adrian Mills. You can listen/download the show here: http://property.buyassociation.co.uk/radio/montenegro/montenegro_show.html
Interview: Branko (the bold) and Branka (the beautiful)
Branko and Branka
CIL has heard intriguing rumours about a Croatian magical act, which had appeared at places such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We soon caught up with Branko and Branka, and observed their act. Amongst other things, CIL discovered the state of Croatian magic and their patriotism - Branko will refuse to consummate his marriage to Branka until Croatia is part of the EU.
We spoke to them - or rather their alter egos Alex Frances and Rob Sutton - about their entertaining act.
Both are actors who met whilst working a the London Dungeon. Rob has acted and written and is relatively new to the business. Alex is an established actress, who is now doing some comedy. She is no stranger to Croatia, having visited it in the past - and indeed knows a few words of Croatian.
We swiftly subjected them to our questioning... we asked how it all came about.
Alex: I always go on about the Croatian influence in my life and the magic thing came up.
Why do you have that influence?
Alex: As a young actor, I went out to Croatia. I was just absolutely gobsmacked by the country and their attitude to theatre. It was dream to go and do some theatre in Croatia. I went to see some productions of Hamlet, I saw some amazing productions in Dubrovnik, in Split. Seeing Shakespeare out there was phenomenal, the language mainly. I started learning Croatian then, I really wanted to master this language and go out there and do some theatre.
I met a lot of Croatian people, been out there loads, mix with the Croatian Students and Young Professionals Network, which is great place to meet people.
It something I'm really proud of and interested in and it sprung from that.
We spoke to a quite a few Croatian friends about Magic and magicians in Croatia - there aren't any really.
Rob: From working together, we have a really good rapport, we know what makes each other laugh. That whole magician thing grew out of things we used to laugh about at work.. Alex does quite a lot of burlesque stuff as well.
We did a lot of research for the show. I watched a film (with Goran Ivanisevic), I realised how beautiful it is. I was stunned with the scenery, the lifestyle.
Our act is not about taking the mickey, it's using the Croatian way of life.
Alex: It's taking people from a completely different culture, shoving them in London and watching them trying to survive.
It's not the Croatian 'Borat' then?
Rob: No! We don't want to go in and offend people or make them look stupid.
Alex: They really believe in themselves, they really think they are the best magicians on the planet, that the translation of their scripts is perfect. Unfortunately it isn't!
Rob: We watched a lot of David Copperfield. He's almost East European in how he does his humour.
Alex: Every Croatian person I spoke about magic just said 'Copperfield'. "I love David Copperfield, I don't know any Croatian magicians'. It's quite funny seeing a Croatian couple trying to be the new Copperfield.
Rob: They have a very sad marriage - he's not particularly interested in her. She's probably the most talented of the two to them, but he's such a bully.
We've had some acts where people think we are actually Croatian. They didn't get the humour until half way through.
Branko and Branka climb the ladder of success
How many Croats have seen it?
Rob: We'd like some Croatians to come and see it!
Alex: I hope they come and laugh loudly.
Alex and Rob are even doing a documentary on the characters, following them as they come over to London.
And you can see them as part of the Wam Bam club which starts at 7.30 PM on 22 October at The Battersea Barge, Nine Elms Lane. Nearest Tube: Vauxhall.
More details at: www.brankobranka.info
Only events run by known and reputable bodies will be listed here.
Branko and Branka - Croatian magical act, The Wam Bam club, at 7.30 PM on 22 October at The Battersea Barge, Nine Elms Lane. Nearest Tube: Vauxhall
Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Ambassador: Josip Paro
Address: 21 Conway Street, London W1T 6BN
Tel No: 020 7387 2022
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Working hours (with clients): Monday - Thursday 11.00-14.00 Fridays 10.00-12.00
Croatian Students and Young Professionals Network
Address: PO Box 36126, London SW7 2RH
Croatian Catholic Mission
Father Drago Berisic, 17 Boutflower Road, SW11
Tel: 020 7223 3530
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