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Toto -Tomislav Jović / Tomislav Jovic, Slike / Paintings
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Tomislav Jovic - TotoThis year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the appearance of naive art on the territory of Serbia – this was in 1993 when Janko Brasic, Serbia’s oldest primitive painter , exhibited his first works. For a long time Brasic stand alone, but by the late 1950s and 60s there were a number of peasant painters, notably Budimir Rajkovic, Miroslav Marinkovic and Tomislav Jovic. On may 25. 1960 when painter and art critic Pavle Vasic opened the Permanent Exhibition Gallery, he assigned an important place to Tomislav Jovic, a painter from the village of Rabrovo near Pozarevac.

His works : Storm (1956) AND Wedding Procession (1957) were shown at the first exhibition and become the basis of its collection.

Art critics who have studied developments in primitive art in Serbia singled out Jovic as a talented artist “who combines his interest in theme with a feeling for the pictorial value of a motif, freedom of technique, a synthetic concept of things”

Oto Bihalji Merin ranks him among the finest primitive painters of Yugoslavia, and he is also included in the book Naive Painters of Serbia.

At that time Joovic painted scenes of country life, also subject taken from gypsy life, portrayed with a romantic sense of space. During his youth he often encountered Gypsies, but what always brought him back to this theme was in fact their nomadic spirit, their restelness and desire for freedom, the same aspirations that the artist himself felt. Driven by a desire for travel, for encounters with people and new experience, and in the 1963 he turned up in Paris. Yet Paris, “ city of light and painters” did not hold him long, and he moved up to Germany. Until this spring when he reappears as abruptly as he had left, little was known of the painter Tomislav Jovic. He returned bringing the works that were “ pictures of his life, achievements, failures and suffering.”

The new environment and his experiences there did not interrupt his painting but in a sense provoked further reflection, provided him with new subject, increased his nostalgia for home, this producing paintings distinguished by their authenticity and expressive, with reminiscences of his childhood and life at home, though often with suggestion of fear, skepticism and mystery.

It is difficult to trace his developments in his painting. It lacks stylistic unity in the usual sense of the word. Some of is paintings were colorist, lyrical experiences of nature or anecdote, while others are intimate, socially colored confessions, religious or historical compositions.

Regardless of their variety, these are works of the same energy and sensibility. The judgment made by Oto Bihalji Merin at the beginning of his work is even more valid today “ Tomislav Jovic paints anecdotic scenes with precision, a skill he acquired as a sign painter. People and animals are placed in a lyrical or dramatic setting of nature for the purpose of expressing the inherent rhythms of mood”. The landscapes he painted from 1970 to 1992 represents a synthesis of memories and the discovery of new scenery. Dominant are form and poetry, the beauty of the surroundings and the sub duet palette of German romanticism. In dark green landscapes with lush vegetation and cool, limpid water he introduced figures of hunters,shepherds, fisherman…. Creating a personal world in which narration always conveys some deeper significance. His hard life of wandering and uncertainty has enhanced innate capacity for expression. His inspiration form nature has been transposed to the spiritual, his landscapes reflects restrleness.For him they are an escape from constraint, a yearning for the faraway. Yet all this is imbued with a sense of solitude, melancholy,nostalgia. Of special interest among the paintings of Tomislav Jovic are his prison paintings.

The paintings from this phase reflect a period in the artist life which in many ways was the most painful, dramatic and cruel. The paintings therefore have exceptional force and drama. The painter did them in a special emotional state , expressing his painful experience of being deprived of freedom.

The social contest of this works by no means detracts from the artist component. On the contrary, there is no longer any trace of uncertainty. Deeply experienced, they are given as an extract, concise and vigorous. Compositions that are admirable in their simplicity, both realistic and fearfully unreal, these paintings portray man in all his misery. From a large number of paintings on this theme, a few have been selected to illustrate harsh, dismal prison experiences which the artist depicts convincingly with chosen details. Using color and composition, Jovic focuses on the main theme in the centre of painting. Yet, he does not neglect details, seemingly present by chance but actually serving to create the general atmosphere and the feeling of the collapse of man morality( Last game of chess, Studio 213, House of justice, Shared tears ). In the first painting two old man calmly play there last game of chess, apparently unaware that there feat are in water where leeches float about with wedding pictures and photos of their children, nor that beyond jail bars life flourishes. In a world of compulsion and brutality, all is relative; even ordinary objects acquire significance. Their chessmen are toothbrushes, aspirin bottles, salt cellarets, toilet paper…a clock with hands made of eating utensils marking time. They live for letter that arrive infrequently, with fading memories, pictures of virgin Mary resembling a mother or sister, dreams of freedom. All this is given in natural tones.

In order to emphasize the inhumanity of reality and his protest, Jovic occasionally uses the grotesque. He paints himself in a cave admits a stormy sea, his arms outstretched through the bars towards a bird has flown down like a gift from heaven to become his only friend and brighten his prison cell. The company of this bird helps him endure harsh reality and loneliness. On the shelf above him lie a Bible and Koran, a candle, on the wall hangs the Virgin Mary, behind him a toilet bowl and … rats. In the door hatch, bread. Precisely, down to the very last detail, he combines the unreal, fantastic, naive, real, symbolic.

In Walk in the Churchyard he paints a square yard where the impression of grotesque helplessness is enhanced by the cold gray sky. We can almost hear the snow crunching beneath the heavy footsteps of prisoners, moving like mechanical clock figures, scattered, each absorbed in his own personal tragedy, while a sculpturesque Catholic priest holding a cross, ironically appears more threatening then offering forgiveness and consolation.

In the paintings: God have Mercy on Us Sinners, House of Justice, An apple of Each, he depicts the drama of those whose fates have so cruelly brought them together, good and evil, denying them their identity, reducing them to a prison number.

Composition is built with a certain linearism, which adds to the atmosphere of severity. Drama and suppressed passion are archived by means of black and white contrast and a rosy Baroque light.

Analyzing Jovics paintings from this period, we can conclude with a clear conscience that they are a paradigmatic example of a commitment that contradicts the usual patters in naive art in this country. In his work Jovic also cultivates drawing. For him a sketch may be either a study for a painting or a separate artistic discipline. In either case his drawings reveal the artists skill in expressing his theme. His lines flow easily, and by means of shading he archives plasticity of the figure.

Most of his sketches were done in prison. Drawn pencil on small pieces of paper, they generally interpret the trauma of prisoner. But one should point out that besides the paintings and sketches done in prison, Jovic also continued to create a whole series of lyrical, cheerful pictures, lacking naturalism, whereby he returned emotionally to life and his homeland.

As a young painter, romantic and idealistic, he initially sees and paints the disturbing beauty of nomadic life, the joys that life offers, expressing this in a series of pictures of his birthplace and gypsy life unit finally in a foreign land he comes to understand the obverse side of the coin, the tragedy of a nomadic life as experienced by the gastarbaiter abroad. Between these two types of nomadic life, Jovic spent most of his life, maturing as a man and as a painter. Within this framework he has place his entire artistic opus.

Koviljka Smiljkovic


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