Painter Mile Nekić is exhibiting thirty paintings in the acrylic technique on sixty-by-sixty centimetre canvases, created last year and sharing the common theme of the Slavonia region in the northeast of Croatia. The exhibition is organised by the museum and the Croatian Heritage Foundation.
The exhibition was also shown in February of this year at the Slavko Kopač fine art gallery in Vinkovci, and last year at the Waldinger municipal gallery in Osijek. This is the second time in nine years that Nekić has exhibited at the Mimara Museum. To date Nekić has staged two solo exhibitions in Australia, in 1988 and 1989 in Sydney, and twenty solo showings in the homeland. He has also participated in thirteen group exhibitions in Zagreb, Osijek and Vinkovci from 1994 to 2011. Mimara Museum director Tugomir Lukšić and CHF director Marin Knezović addressed the gathered art enthusiasts at the exhibition opening.
In his address Croatian Heritage Foundation director Knezović noted that, “The relationship towards heritage, bonds with traditions, are a significant characteristic of every form of artistic expression. Too often, unfortunately, heritage is not reinterpreted, not translated in new circumstances; rather traditional forms are only coldly and precisely copied. Mile Nekić avoids these pitfalls. His point of reference is the heritage of the milieu in which he grew up, but Nekić seeks the fundamental in traditional forms, the timeless, and the original forms that stand behind it all. These forms from which everything emerges – the circle, the triangle, the rectangle – remind us of traffic signs. In this painter’s work they determine the path from the traditional to the contemporary, but it is not only street crossings and art that require signs. There are few human lives that serve as a sign, as a signpost to a community. Mile Nekić certainly falls within this small circle.”
Art historian Igor Loinjak was on hand to speak of the artist’s work and the paintings on exhibit. A reticent artist and a returnee from Australia, painter Mile Nekić thanked the gathered for coming to the opening. Veterans’ affairs Minister Predrag Matić was on hand to open the exhibition of his fellow Homeland War veteran. On hand to perform a musical interlude accompanied by piano was opera soloist Damir Fatović of the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek.
Art historian Loinjak observed that, “A tendency towards reduction and minimalism in visual elements is characteristic of Nekić. This minimalism of the visual, however, emerges from a fullness of psychological experience. The scenes are often bereft of human figures, but even when one is present it is more of a silhouette, an apparition existing to serve the composition of the painting. Nekić’s Slavonia does not posses geometric perspective – the depiction of the real world is entirely unimportant. The strictly flat elaboration of the visual elements is reminiscent of a child’s drawings. This flatness, however, is only yet another way of reducing the visual in favour of the pensive.”
Mile Nekić was born in the village of Tompojevci near the town of Vukovar in 1947. He left Croatia and move to Australia in 1969s where he joined politically active Croatians working towards independence for Croatia. In 1979 he was arrested and sentenced to fifteen years of prison. During his prison sentence he completed the East Sydney Technical College Art Academy. He was released from prison in 1988 and returned to the homeland in 1991 to join the ranks of the National Guard Corps in Osijek. He is a member of the Homeland War Volunteer Defenders Association, the Croatian Society of Political Prisoners and is a recipient of the Homeland War Memorial Medal, the Homeland Gratitude Memorial Medal, the Operation Flash Medal, the Order of the Croatian Interlace, Order of the Croatian Trefoil and the Order of Stjepan Radić. He is a member of the Osijek chapter of the Croatian Association of Artists.
Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek