Across the 277 pages of this monograph Brguljan has encapsulated a turbulent chronicle of this small town in the Bay of Kotor and the dramatic navigation undertaken by its seafarers across the seas and oceans of the world as captured on the paintings kept in the collection of the parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Prčanj.
The Croatian Heritage Foundation hosted the Zagreb presentation of Željko Brguljan’s bilingual monograph Na granici mora i neba / Zbirka maritimnog slikarstva iz župne crkve Rođenja Blažene Djevice Marije u Prčanju (At the Border of Sea and Sky / The Collection of Marine Painting from the Parish Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Prčanj) on the 22nd of October.
Joining the author to discuss the book were CHF director Marin Knezović MSc, the book’s reviewers academician Tonko Maroević and Ivana Mance DSc and its editor Grozdana Cvitan. The monograph was published this year by publishing company NIP Gospa od Škrpjela. Across the 277 pages of this monograph Brguljan has encapsulated a turbulent chronicle of this small town in the Bay of Kotor and the dramatic navigation undertaken by its seafarers across the seas and oceans of the world as captured on the paintings kept in the collection of the parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Prčanj.
Croatian Heritage Foundation director Marin Knezović MSc offered an intriguing opening to his part of the presentation, noting that he was not altogether in agreement with what the book’s title (At the Border of Sea and Sky) inferred.
“This is not a work that should be placed at any particular border or within borders. These votive paintings, depicting ships in critical moments in storms, meld the sea, masts, the hulls of ships, clouds, the Virgin Mary and saints in a whirlwind in which it is not easy to distinguish where the expression of nature’s fury, the fragile human artefacts standing in defiance and the intervention of transcendental powers begin and end. Thus too in the Boka region cultures, peoples and customs are intermingled to such an extent that it is at times hard to file them into tidy academic pigeonholes. I shudder at the though of the insane fetters of classification. Art is a polychrome expression of joy even when, as is the case here, it depicts moments of deadly peril. (…) It is a joy to leaf through Željko Brguljan’s book, a pleasure to rejoice in the sentimental reminiscences of the past, but it can only be of use to us if it becomes a part of our present and future culture. The culture of Boka kotorska should survive as a part of our culture. What we stand to lose if we reject it is, in my opinion, the chief topic of this book,” Knezović said.
Academician Tonko Maroević spoke of how the writer, Brguljan, has already proven himself as the author of a complete monograph on the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Prčanj, and as a researcher and interpreter of the most significant oeuvre in depicting ships, not only in terms of Boka kotorska – that of Bazija Ivanković. “Parts of old chronicles or newspaper articles are offered as exciting reading, but above all as testimony of an era that – thanks to the appropriate, scrupulous and conscientious elaboration in Brguljan’s text – allows us to take an almost romantic journey through a time long past and evinces a chaste empathy with those lost in storms,” Maroević concluded.
In her presentation Mance pointed out that Brguljan based his research on a vast range of historical sources and literature, such that this volume will be truly beneficial in research conducted by all those active in maritime navigation and the cultural heritage of the people of Prčanj and Boka kotorska as a whole. “For the first time ever,” Mance notes, “we have a complete treatment of the collection of maritime painting in the parish church in Prčanj, which has been valorised as authentic historical material and as art. The book offers a number of first ever publications of documents from the maritime history of Prčanj, and the correspondence of Don Niko Luković with workshops and artists. The paintings of ships, all forty from the Prčanj parish collection, offer a fascinating glimpse into the maritime history of Prčanj. Approaching these paintings both as works of art and historical documents, Brguljan brings the Prčanj collection into the broader context of the history of Boka kotorska and Prčanj maritime navigation known to us, successfully linking the paintings with data from other historical sources and the existing literature.”
Grozdana Cvitan, the editor of the monograph, spoke of Brguljan’s exceptional personality, his perseverance, his methodical approach and his dedication to achieving his objective. Everything he has achieved, she noted, was to the benefit of his native community and of building its legacy into Croatia’s Adriatic heritage.
“It would be tragic if this book was to become a commemoration to an exceptional collection of cultural, historic and material value. Above all we are called upon to preserve it for its votive character,” Brguljan said. The author expressed his particular gratitude to the publisher, the editor, designer, photographer, translator, the project associates, Don Srećko Majić and the promotion host.
Boka kotorska native Željko Brguljan graduated in 1989 at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Zagreb, where he now lives and works. His interest in painting began during his time at university and he has staged twenty solo exhibitions. He is a member of the Croatian Association of Artists and of the US National Collage Society. His artistic bent has continually driven him to new challenges and he is the author of exhibitions including The Bokelj Navy and its Captains (Bokeljska mornarica i njeni kapetani, 2006), Boka Kotorska in Croatian Painting (Boka kotorska u hrvatskom slikarstvu, 1998), From the History of Boka Kotorska – The Cravat Among the Bokelj People (Dalla storia delle Bocche di Cattaro – La cravatta tra i Bocchesi, 2009), several books and numerous articles.
Besides as a member of the Bokelj Navy 809 Fraternity, he has also contributed to the activity of the Bokelj community in Zagreb as an author and co-author of a number of exhibitions and publishing projects.
His literary oeuvre includes Crkva Rođenja Blažene Djevice Marije u Prčnju (The Church of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Prčanj, 2008), Melita Bošnjak (an art monograph, 2010) and Pomorstvo Boke kotorske na slikama Bazija Ivankovića (Maritime Navigation in Boka Kotorska in the Paintings of Bazija Ivankovič, 2011). Also noteworthy is Brguljan’s valuable literary contribution in shedding light on the tragic fate of Croatian emigrant poet Viktor Vida, a native Bokelj who passed away in Argentina in 1960. In the recently promoted online edition of the Croatian Emigrant and Minority Communities Lexicon, available for perusal on the CHF portal, Brguljan penned the entry on the Croatians of Montenegro.
Working as a secondary school teacher he has also achieved an exceptional oeuvre in the collage technique. His work has been featured at exhibitions, achieved success at art competitions in the United States of America and, finally, in 2014, was featured in Željko Brguljan, a monograph penned by art critic Nikola Albaneže, published by the Croatian Association of Artists and promoted in Kotor and Zagreb.
Brguljan will be presenting his own work in the collage technique at the Secondary School of Road Traffic Sciences on Kennedyjev trg in Zagreb at 1:30 PM on the 26th of October.
Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek