Natives of Kijevo now living in Zagreb and Canada were delighted to come in great numbers to the Antunović exhibition and to socialise at the Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters. The Dalmatinska Zagora region was in everybody’s heart that evening, less mysterious and epic in is beauty and the strength of the talents that grew out of it.

Following his childhood in the village of Kijevo and his schooling in Zagreb and Virovitica Ante Antunović-Lešić moved to Canada in 1958, where he still lives and works. Painting and music have been central to his life and this exhibition at the CHF bears witness to the love he feels for his native region.
Duh Dinare (The Spirit of Dinara) is the first homeland exhibition by Antunović and features sixty-three of the artist’s paintings of scenes from his native land and Canada, landscapes and portraits, animals and still lifes in realistic style and fresh colours. As a painter everyone agrees that Antunović has demonstrated great skill, especially considering that he is an amateur, self-taught, artist.
CHF director Marin Knezović, art historian Irena Bekić and author and president of the Kijevo Heritage Club Stipan Matoš were on hand to welcome the many who gathered for the opening.
“Dear guest and friends of the arts, a part of our regular activity is to organise exhibitions of the art of Croatians living abroad. We nevertheless rarely have the opportunity to exhibit artwork that so directly and openly speaks of one of the essential characteristics of the emigrant experience – the simultaneous collision and coexistence of various cultures in the souls and minds of emigrants. Through an explosion of colours Ante Antunović translates his cultural experience and in doing so speaks not only of himself, but also very much about the people who share a similar fate. We thank him for doing so. It is with this in mind that I declare the exhibition open,” said CHF director Marin Knezović.
Also speaking at the opening, art historian Irena Bekić noted that, “In observing the works on exhibit we can agree with contemporary anthropologists when they conclude that the world today is a global territory. Administrative borders become irrelevant. One achieves a better view of the world if one observes the movements of its inhabitants. By way of extensive technologies, distances are shortened and are easily overcome. Our own living rooms have become a place of displaced and relocated spaces, the juxtaposition of distant and nearby events. Time and space have no solid boundaries, and in this flexible world we are floating heroes in search for stable footing. The paintings by Antunović-Lešić emerge from this situation. They are an expression of the need to find and make fast out own safe place – the home. This is why in his paintings we find mothers, a grandmother with thick eyeglasses, a tree, cat, a family gathering in the front yard of a house, a vineyard, the Dinaric Alps… His oeuvre is interesting, diverse in its expression, demonstrating great ability in painting and skill in drawing. The author finds inspiration in our modernist painters, naïve artists and in photographic realism. What is certain, irrespective of the expression the artist opts for from painting to painting, is a gift for recognising the significance of the quotidian. He is an ethnographic painter, who employs vivid colours and motifs that are seemingly without meaning – a courtyard, a gathered family, children occupied with unimportant activities, fragments of houses and the like – to transfer a message of the joy of living.”
The exhibition opening also featured the excellent performances of songs and dances by the members of the Kijevo Heritage Club of Zagreb.
Natives of Kijevo now living in Zagreb and Canada were delighted to come in great numbers to the Antunović exhibition and to socialise at the Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters. The Dalmatinska Zagora region was in everybody’s heart that evening, less mysterious and epic in is beauty and the strength of the talents that grew out of it. With the sounds of the “elderly” kolo (round dance), songs native to the region, the colourful folk costumes of the Vrlika region, cured ham, local doughnuts and vine, Croatia – emigrant and homeland – were closer than ever before.

Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos by: Ljerka Galic