Conversation With Ivica Matijević – Sculptor and Painter

Ivica Matijevic (Photo: Jasna Lovrincevic)

Ivica Matijevic (Photo: Jasna Lovrincevic)

“Creativity to me is being able to allow an accident to happen at the process of creation”, says painter and sculptor, Ivica Matijević
in an interview I conducted with him in February 2019, at his studio, in Moers.

Ivica Matijević, well-known for his wooden objects, has completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo and since 1991 he has lived in Germany where he works as a self-employed artist. His works are regularly exhibited in Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he has also exhibited in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Montenegro, Spain and Mexico. His works are displayed in several museums and galleries in different countries, some of them belong to privat art collections and some of them can be found in open spaces and at some churches in Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of his paintings has been selected for the art collection of the German Federal Parliament in Berlin.

Ivica Matijević is an artist of great personality, with recognizable style and his own art technique. To meet him and his work is a very special experience. His cordiality, his confidence, his work attitude, his love for art and it’s power and his artwork are equally impressive. When you step into his studio, you are faced with a huge round wooden object attached, to a opposite wall. That work occupies you immediately with it’s beautiful blue colour, covered with different coloured dots. The scene is magnificent and mysterious, like a starry sky. It fascinates you so much that you with the same feeling continue to look at other pieces of art, sieted in the studio and in each of them you recognize something monumental and unique: whether it is wooden sculptures, various objects, wooden miniatures or open public space models. In the studio there is also one wooden creation of Matijevic, designed for an exhibition organised to mark 100 years since Bauhaus. Ivica Matijević is among three artists invited to exhibit there.

“A puerly geometrical form, and a flat roof are characteristic of Bauhaus architecture. The name of the exhibition is Inspiration Bauhaus”, said Ivica Matijević. On the sculpture, created for this exhibition, he has applied his original technique, a kind of intarsia.

Ivica Matijević says that he has discovered his technique by accident. His three-year-old daughter had put a pencil into the crack of the wooden cube and when she could not pull it out, he has tried to help her. He also could not do it and he has cut the pencil. Then he has noticed that wooden surfaces with the cut pencil has became so vibrant that he has decided to use different pencils in the similar way for his artistic work.

Until the year 1996 Ivica Matijević was known as a painter. For the first time he exhibited his oil paintings at his high school in Maglaj when he was fifteen years old. His first oil paints he received as the present from his uncle when he was only ten years old.
Jasna Lovrinčević: “Why have you continued using wood and what is so attractiv about that natural material?”

Ivica Matijević: “For twenty years I have been working exclusively in the wood. Wood is a warm material that can be sculpted and painted. When I sculpture an wooden object, I lead a conversation between it’s natural beauty or it’s form and aesthetics that arise by my hand. Wood is natural material and I am inspiried by its natural structures. Coming from Bosnia, I have a special feeling for the wood. Bosnia is forest-rich land. When we, people from Bosnia, live abroad, we notice how much it is in us.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “How do you define your wooden objects, attached on the wall, which give impression of pictures, with smooth surfaces, without any texture?”

Ivica Matijević: “In art jargon, I make the objects. My objects have height, width and depth and in work process I use the sculpture and painting tools. With drill I make holes into which I put pencils. Then I apply different structures and about 20 to 40 layers of different paints onto a surface. It is interesting that time is important factor of my creation process; when I leave the studio, my works continue to be in process of creation, they are drying. Different structures, cracks and forms emerge from that drying process. That process is impossible to control. These new structures can be very inspiring for me. The following phase is the phase of archeologist. I start to hone and doing that I remove the paint layers. It is very important to recognise the moment when I must to stop it.

To be able to control this process to as extent as is possible, I always make an archive with apllied paints on one surface. Removing paints layers by honing I can approximatelly predict what paint is the next. If I remove larger amount of paint than is desirable, then it will be everything destroyed what I have done for 30-40 days.

Classic painting is the act of applying paint onto a canvas. If I do not like the colour, I wait until the paint has dried and then I apply a new paint. My technique is the opposite to that. I remove the paint. This principle is similar to method of archeologists who remove the layers of soil in order to penetrate into the past time.

The Principle of Accident

Ivica Matijević: I consciously apply different paints onto the surface, but what happens during the drying process, it happens by chance, what I call it: the principle of accident. This principle of accident is desirable for me because with it I get structures which is impossible to achive by painting or to create it. These new structures present certain aesthetic moments and it is important for me to recognize them. The interaction between applied paints and other materials create some of surprising effects. It gives the art freshness.

The classic painting that I had previously done, had been created more consciously, but now, my creative process is characterised by conscious and controlle.

Creativity to me is being able to allow an accident to happen at the process of creation.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “There are often visible line likes ribbon on the painted surface edge of your object. Is that also a conscious part of your creative process?”

Ivica Matijević: “One important and recognizable aspect of my art is constructivism. I apply certain geometric shapes and lines with which I try to limit and to tranquillize my compositions to a certain extent.”

Jasna Lovrinčević: “Your artworks mostly have the names. How do you give them?”

Ivica Matijević: “The name is not given to the artwork, but it happens during the process of creation. The name of the artwork is something that has emerged as the painting itself. I can not give the name or title in advance, then it would be work on the subject as by the commission artwork. The name occurs in the process of creation or does not occur, there is no obligation to give a name.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “What does it mean art for you?”

Ivica Matijević immediately answered “all” and he sincerely laughed.

Ivica Matijević: “All. What does it mean art for me? It is difficult question. Life is not art, but life without art is much poorer than with it. I have good luck that my profession, besides my family, is my great love. So, art is my preoccupation. I come to my studio every day. I start to work at eight o’clock and I leave my studio at five o’clock in the afternoon. I don’t need special inspiration. I find it at my work because I have been in a work continuum. Of course, for these 20-30 years of art, my way of thinking and approaching the image has become something as a science. I am constantly in some kind of aesthetic process like quest and search. To me the art is still an adventure and research. Each of my objects is a new challenge for me. At the start of a new work, I often have the feeling as I do it for the first time.”

The Cubes Enriched by Intarsia

Jasna Lovrincevic: “How did you have the idea to designe these cube?”

Ivica Matijević: “Sometimes the worthless pieces of wood that I usually receive from my friends, inspire me and thanks to my original technique, they become, I hope, something special. Today, many people think it is two hours enough to create an artwork. That is not true. It is very important for me to have patience and perseverance and to be clear and precise. Also it is important for me to have a concept and vision about it; how should something look like, not today or in two hours time, but in a month or in two months time.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “You have designed a seriesof wooden cubes. It is interesting, each of them is different?”

Ivica Matijević: “One craftsman creates works using his skills and tools known to him, but one artist always starts from a zero. As an artist I know a technique, but the way how to produce the peace of art, how to breathe aura into my art object, that does not depend on my technical precision. One painting needs to have an aura. It is not necesseraly to look beautifully, but it should initiate some new thought in the viewers or give them an opportunity for discussion. Otherwise, it is just a imitation, an illustration of some idea. I do not accept it as an art. It means, a peace of art has to posses height and depth and each of breach what has to exist in one art work. What is specific to my works today is that they have an esthetic quality. I’m perfectionist, considering the style. It is said that my works look like baroque works considering their high aesthetic quality. Aesthetic is a very important element of my work and I always try to achieve it. The painting should be produced professionally and of high quality, it should have high aesthetic values and should be emotionally charged.

From The East

At the atelier of Ivica Matijević there is one big wooden sculptur, that attracts attention. It is one of fifty that Matijević has done. He says he would like to see them arranged in row, one by one.

Ivica Matijević: “It’s a standing figure. It’s called From the East. To create sculpture like this it is meditative and intensive work process. Actually, I liberate a figure from the wood, led by the structure and the natural growing form, trying to reveal what is hidden beneath the surface. Every beam has its own mystical power, it has something special in itself, and I could repeat the words of Michelangelo, who said: -There is one person inside each stone and I just need to set him free.”

The Public Art

Artworks, produced by Ivica Matijević are often commissioned by different institutions or organisations. Some of his commissioned artwork are still in process of production, and two of them sited on the squares of Neukirchen-Vluyn: a bronze figure called Homeland (Heimat) and Clogs (Klompe).

Jasna Lovrincevic: “Who has given the name for the bronze figure in Neukirchen-Vluyn?”
Ivica Matijević: “Homeland (Heimat) is a statue, created in 2004. That work was a gift to the city, given by a businessman Imre Ladocsi, who came from Hungary. He financed it together with the City of Neukirchen-Vluyn. In fact, he donated the statue to the city in gratitude for his successful years he spent there as an entrepreneur. This is a male figure, 2 meters high, in the middle is broken. The word homeland is written in seventy different languages because so many nations live in that city.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “Who has commisioned The Clogs (Klompen)?”

Ivica Matijević: “The Clogs is an interesting project. Ten or fifteen year ago the Clogs were commissioned by The Clogs Friends Association from Vluyn (Die Vluyner Klompenfreunde). Once a year there is a tradition of dancing in the clogs on the square where this work is located. About 300 to 400 couples belong to that Association. Looking for inspiration I have asked what they are doing and what happens when they dance in the clogs. My wife who comes from that city, has said: “The floor is shaking.” So I have created clogs for men and women on an oblique surface to accentuate that dramatic movement. Creating the Clogs I had to learn about tradition and culture of the people from this region. It was interesting to Germans that someone who was not born here, could understand their tradition preserved for hundresd of years. Beside the clogs on the same surface it is written the text of a song on Plattdeutsche Sprache (Lower German Dialect).”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “One of your paintings has been selected for the art collection of the German Federal Parliament in Berlin. What is that painting and who has made selection for that prestigious collection?”

Ivica Matijević: “Every year, they seek written documents from 1000 of artists from all around Germany. The artists receive a invitation and 1000 of artists sent their catalogs. Original artworks are demanded from 100 of artists, and the artworks from circa10 artists will be purchased. I am lucky that I have been among those ten. We artists can not be recommend by ourselves to the Art Commission. The names of artists are suggested by museums, galleries, art historians or curators who arrange the exhibitions. My painting with the name The Way ( Der Weg, 2002, oil on canvas, 180 x 120 cm) was selected in year 2008.”

Sacred Art

Ivica Matijević is also known in Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina by his sacred works, placed at several different churches. For Our Lady Church in Duisburg and for St. Quirinus in Neukirchen-Vluyn he has made the Way Of The Cross. At the St.Quirinus Church he also has created an altarpiece and a monumental image of the Resurrection. This year he has bee engaged for the first time in an evangelical church in Morse to create Tree Of Life. It is impressive circular shaped artwork. The diameter is two and half meters but now it is in a producing process.

Matijević’ first experience with fine art was in his childhood through the Nazarene Christian art.

Ivica Matijević: “At our churches the sacred paintings inspirire us to think and contemplate about thema that features in a work.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “When did you begin to create sacred art?”
Ivica Matijević: “Very early and also I pinted it at the Academy in Sarajevo. The Academy was founded in the early seventies. The professors were young and modern and there was no special direction or style. We had freedom and we could experiment quite a lot. Although it was a communist country, there was no socialist realism as in the countries of Eastern Bloc. Having artistic freedom is often more difficult than to have a specific task. We had professors who knew how to give us instructions and to each of us to give advice for the next step, but not to follow their way but to stay on our own way.

For the first time I made a sacred painting when I was in seventh semester of Academy. The professor came and said: “Ivica, what is that? It looks good.” The professors were liberal and open. There were no problems. I am very happy and grateful to former professors who have taught us about discipline, persistence, and a beautiful cultivated artistic sensitivity.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “Have you got any requirements, in terms of style or way of representing the theme for Church commisioned artwork?”

Ivica Matijević: “As an artist I have absolute freedom because there is no canon in the Catholic Church like, for example, in the Orthodox Church. If we artists receive orders from the Catholic Church, we have freedom to interpret and to make a picture as we see the theme. Of course, sacred architecture is very demanding and one of the tasks or challenges for an artist is to designe a work that will fit into that space, not in the sense of being subordinated to it, but to enoble it. By entering one of the peace of art into the church, it gains a completely new function and role that is, perhaps much biger than the image itself. I have done a hundred of works for various churches, here and in Bosnia. When they talk about me as an artist who makes also some sacred art, they often say about my non sacred objects that I do, that they have also something of that sacred significance and greatness.

Working for the sacred spaces like churches is always a pleasure for me. I do not have to change myself, especially my attitude and my style in order to make a sacred image. That is recognisable on this commisioned artwork, Tree of Life. I think it’s impossible to learn how to make sacred art, it somone brings with himself, he has it within himself or not. We artists sometimes need such great topics to make special works. We still have great respect for sacred space. Churches have always been the biggest and the generous patrons of fine art.”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “You have made one art installation for the Our Lady Church in Duisburg. If you could please say more about that installation?”

Ivica Matijević: “It’s art installation The Resurrection. This installation was created as a joint project with me and members of the ecclesiastical community. They brought some objects and we have done this project at my studio in three to four days. Among other things in that installation there is a mirror. Resurrection is a yearning; we wonder what will happen later on. The mirror is a symbol of a reality and our physical presence. In Resurrection it is about that; at first look at yourself in the mirror, maybe you are already the oucome of some resurrection. Before you start looking in the future, first recognize the moment in which you live and how you live, recognize yourself.”

Open Your Eyes And Watch It!

Ivica Matijevic (Photo: jasna Lovruncevic)

Ivica Matijevic (Photo: jasna Lovruncevic)

Talking about today’s tendency of seeking explanation from artists about their art, Ivica Matijević considering that in visual art the people use the sight more than other senses, supports idea to experience the visual art watching it.

Ivica Matijević: “We use mostly the sight (in visual art), all the other senses we use only 10 percent and in spite of that, many people look for instructions, some text or something written about the artwork. It is interesting, if a large picture is set in a museum or gallery, the most of visitors read the text beside it; title, year of creation and technique as though they could better recognize a picture or experience it. In visual art it goes about that to allow yourself, to use your eyes, inteligence and feelings to recognize a picture, to wander into the picture and to experience it, but not to try to decipher it theoretically or in whatever way. What does this artwork mean? Open your eyes and watch it!”

Jasna Lovrincevic: “Today when art can hardly surprise us with something absolutely new, how difficult is to be original, to find own way?”

Ivica Matijević: “The fact is that we live at a time when there are no special artistic tendencies, no some particular styles. If there is no strong style in 2019, for today’s artists it is fortune or misfortune. Most of them, who are unable to find their own style are guided by fashion and trends. Those who have their own style, without worryng about what is going on, wherever the wind blows, whatever happens, they continue their way. Here, in Germany, they say “Heutige Stillosigkeit ist unsere Stil in Kunst” (Today’s lack of style is our style). To have no style and to have absolute freedom, for many artists mean permanent wandering and seeking, but not for me! There has been no time when I have not known what to do, where and how to work. I have my own style in art, I’m recognizable. It is that what is main intention in art. We recognise it as a compliment when someone says, “You have your own brand!” That is a big compliment.”

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