Horses (pre-1983)

Varaždin - Old City, Horses, 1982

The Wild Horse, 1981
painted wood, 290 x 80 x 76 cm

Horse's Head, 1981
painted wood 77 x 27 x 25 cm

The Blue Horse, 1980
painted wood, 65 x 85 x 35 cm


Scythian nomadic shepherds and "cruel hunting customs" practitioners used to sacrifice their horses. Mohammed and Christ, too, even the Buddha, were said to have been seen on horseback... And Pegasus sprang from the blood of Medusa(Like on the metopes of the Doric temple at Selinunt), while Achilles sacrificed four black horses at Patroclus' funeral pyre. Horses everywhere: just seen, and mounted! Books about horses, too: unbroken horses, semi-wild, and tamed; horses ridden by horsemen and horses grazing freely; royal bay horses, breathless in hunt and elegantly rigid on parade... "If we remember the equestrian sculptures in our modem art, we realize that horses have served only as seating supports and means of transportation for important national figures: princes, kings, viceroys and their emperors, all of them serving the public cause. Horses have carried heroic figures: Tomislav, Nikola, Marko, Milos, Zlopogleda, the Captain of the Alka team. Ever since Franges, through Mestrovic, Augustincic and Krsinic, to Sikirica, our black and white horses have always been presented majestically, with a gleam in their eyes, like actors under spotlights, with a frozen gesture and movement, tense tendons and swelling veins. Breathless and in the foam of an exalted task." (M. Pejakovic, Preface for Ante Jakic's exhibition at the Forum Gallery, Zagreb. 1977)

A Little Horse for Irene, 1980
painted wood 63 x 80 x 50 cm

Horses in art: a horde of thirsty and angry, wild and tame animals, which are to be found as civilizational signs among the wild animals in Sassanid art and in the calm engravings on Bosnian tombstones. For Gasparic, horses in an upright position or raised on hind legs, with stooping heads or in a sudden semi-turn, were not just a matter of life logic but also of the potentialities of a given language of expression. Gasparic's horse is, of course, no relation to the Babmerg Rider or to Constantine's riders, and it has nothing to do with Gattamelata's black horse or Pilsudski's bayard. And it has least to do with Kraljevic Marko's horse or that belonging to Ann Hyatt-Huntington and her theatrical struggle, in which there is no struggle and no plastic feeling but merely a fruitless effort over ahorse, a sculpturally and expressively meagre cavalcade.

Gasparic's form is a dual expression: one vital and vitalistic (occasionally naturalistic), deriving from direct observation, and another deriving from the stylizational will. One is vital and unruly, the other stylized like a statement on a banner. In other words, we have here not only the expression of the form but also Ihat of the surface. The first expression proceeds "from inside out", while the other relies on the structural and physical properties of the sculpture. Gasparic refuses to recognize the naturalism of pure states or the convulsiveness of movement that can be precisely presented on the basis of the formal knowledge of anatomical forms. He strikes a middle course: between naturalism and expression he has found a free space for what a critic calls "beauty" and what we prefer to regard as the virtue of unity of stylization and expression. He is not monumental even when his dimensions exceed natural size. He is always true to life. Stylized or otherwise.

 A settlement within a paradox or the possibility of the Impossible

The civilization of the horse in Gasparic's work has simultaneously the character of a sign and of vitality, of vitalism and of stylization. Hence his wild force and strong will: his muscles and clear structural relationships. Hence the movement of forms and playfulness - horses that sense danger and those that graze peacefully, with bent and extended spines and with deep trough-like bodies, hairy and smooth... Hence the impression of life in movement without regard for a single centre of gravity. But the rough and crude naturalistic hide does not conceal a concentration of tense muscles and swelling bulges. Gasparic rejects the expression of form serving to achieve a naturalistic and anatomical intensification.

His horse does not belong to the species of cruel and wild animals that burst with energy: this horse watches his step carefully. It falls within the general scheme of "figural expressionism", but with an "open formal structure". Gasparic has therefore been rightly described as a sculptor of "raw force" but possessing a "refined sense of movement" and "insisting on the plastic beauty of the material" (D. Kadijevic, "Igra" (A Game), Nin, 9 March 1986.).

The Blue Rider, 1980 (detail)

The Blue Rider, 1980
painted wood, 112 x 150 x 70 cm 

With the "open formal structure", he departs essentially from the Mariniesque ideal of wholeness and condensed and saturated epidermicity, as well as from the condensation of tense volumes in the direction of mythological topicality and absolute faithfulness to the universality of the myth. This straddling position between expression (or vitality) on the one hand and construction on the other can be regarded as a sign of Gasparic's indecision, and in life it would certainly have negative connotations. But in sculputre it is something different: a physical value and measure of self-will. There is no doubt that this "hesitation" expands the potential and scope of sculpture. This is in fact a germ of confidence in sculpture and its power. For nobody saw a new path, or new living space, in the crevices of the antagonism between order and expression. Nobody seemed to think that what is contrary ;in logic can be reconciled in the life of forms, that a form could settle there and find its plastic persuasiveness and certainty in this rift. Dialectically, the H lea of adoption of one or the other course, stylization or expression, was so strong that it a priori ruled out even the thought of a merger (or reconciliation of the opposites). The question that Gasparic attacked was: how to reconcile the rictus of vitalism and the structural value of the form? How to fuse together the movement of life and the stylized mane? Can (must) an antagonistic duality or antithesis produce a synthesis? Must this implacability necessarily lead to a quarrel, or might it not, perhaps, give rise to harmony in which a new poetics of the form and a new wholeness of forms will be based? Can two horizons become one?

Outside of logic, the answer is of course affirmative. Gasparic felt this and established a structural principle that introduced order and sensuality at the same time and that we shall call - despite different possible readings - vital or instinctive. The difference in character between structure and vitality does not, of course, imply any substantive contradiction but rather suggests a disharmony outside the form itself. For clearly the restlessness of vitalism and the stylized mane can be reconciled in a form, and things that do not function in logic may very well function in a work of art.

The Little Horse for Mark, 1981
painted wood, 113 x 98 x 35 cm

The Wild Blue Horse, 1982
painted wood, 74 x 85 x 58 cm

In fact, this whole discussion revolves around the old question of the integrity and uniqueness of the work of art (which has its particular dimensions and echoes in sculpture). We prefer not to raise the issue of, say, "Cubism" (which some have found in Gasparic's work) or to regard the form only as "aesthetic information about the structure".

Objections have been made to Gasparic's sculpture precisely on the score of reconciliation of the structural and the vitalistic element by those who failed to see in this crevice a space of potentiality, seeing it only as a space of contradiction (Speaking without undue modesty, it was by tracing these principled objections that I was able to see a great deal - a new possibility of the form). Their attention was focussed on principles, not on sculpture. The advocates of integrity and epidermicity in interpretation were unable to recognize the virtue of illogicality and they simply branded this blend as contradictory and irreconcilable, regarding it as a weak spot in Gasparic's sculpture.

A Horse of the Apocalypse, 1982
painted wood, 150 x 129 x 62 cm

It is debatable (and an issue that is outside the scope of this text) whether the properties of forms are always so constant and mutually exclusive. Even outside the "mystery" of numbers, the question of "irreconcilability" of the opposites remains quite suspect, just as the sharp separation of the mechanic and vitalistic concepts of the world is also suspect. As Bense put it, neither Gallileo' s 1586 proof nor Dante's description of the Inferno in the Divine Comedy  contradicts anything in Archimedes' statics or Euclidian geometry; on the contrary, they document the "links between the mechanic and the aesthetic concept of the world".

The Little Horse of the Sun-Cart, 1980
painted wood 61 x 66 x 33 cm

If we agree that the difference between order (structure of the system) and vitality represents no artistic contradiction, we must recognize that it suggests, rather, a disharmony "outside" the form itself and carries certain other connotations in psychology. In sculpture, it is a new possibility and a new structuration of form on bases that are mutually inimical and in principle irreconcilable.Objections regarding the integrity of the form or its wholeness (vitalistic or constructivistic) can be made from the principled point of view, but such objections are totally irrelevant from the practising sculptor's viewpoint. Of course, J. Arp with a detail or two from Paul Trubetzkoy is totally unthinkable. This would be both a logical and a formal contradiction. But forms do not live on logic alone, and the depth of the paradox may yield also the greatest benefits.

It is not for us to contemplate the chicken-and-egg question and to decide which is more important - the smooth membrane of the egg or the confused and panicky expression of the chicken. And anyway, the chicken presupposes the egg, and the other way round, and there is no discrepancy in the ontology (except for the proverbial and philosophically grotesque but ontological question of priority) or genealogy.

I am deeply convinced that Gasparic's principle of manifestation of the form and its plastic potential is artistically legitimate and relevant. In this living space within a paradox we must look if not for the renewal of sculpture (which may sound too presumptuous) then at least for its new initial impetus and (plastically) vital impulse. I would even go so far (conscious of the dangers of empty sound of words) to call Gasparic a revolutionary sculptor, not in the sense of a rhetorical figure that implies progress, but in the sense of confidence in sculpture and its new possibilities and extensions within the already mentioned impossibility. Indeed, only an artist unburdened by convention and custom, a man of synthesis and infancy of the spirit, can so consistently and calmly take two quite different properties and use them as constructional syntax for his own carefully constructed language of forms. It is a language that violates custom and logic to create a new world and open a new horizon, extending the space of manifestation for sculpture.

Horse's Head, 1983
glass 29 x 15 x 7 cm

Conscious of the contradiction as the living space for new expressive possibilities, Gasparic uses language almost physically and soberly. And the "open structure of the form" is a sure sign of his individuality. His reasoning goes like this: what is the use of a form which, enveloped in the fog of sentiments or some affective and rhetorical objectives, forgets its true nature as a form and structure in the name of, say, a statement of pain or expression? What is the use of language, in other words, which pays no attention to syntax and grammar and which has been made to serve other objectives (for instance, narrative and emphatic alarms) - a language that lives on form but is not form itself.

The Horse of Hvar, 1983
painted wood 103 x 70 x 28 cm

That is why Gasparic's intention has not been to create an emblematically still or constructivist cold form, even less a Sassanidic wild form, though he does stress the vitality of the form and its elementary force. The movement of the form never masks its anatomy, nor does structure diminish its vital powers. He arranges triangular and rhomboidal forms, endows them with the functions of thematic places and fixes their places in the hierarchy of (structural and thematic) dependencies.

The White Rider, 1981
painted wood, 100 x 110 x 170 cm

This is the reason why Gasparic's horse, together with the vitalism of the body, has a completely non-organic and "non-functional" mane, which some people have ascribed to a "misunderstanding" (a typical label for things that are not clear, which saves us the trouble of looking for new modalities of form) and declared it the artist's heel of Achilles. But it is in this "misunderstanding" that Gasparic's form has settled, seeking the plastic, thematic, formal and morphological unity.


 One might assume that the artist was not aware of the consequences of his confidence in sculpture, and it is hard to assess his debt to Kairos, god of the auspicious moment. But for an inventive mind, even a small incident might lead to a new reading of form, new plastic action, and new formal potentialities. We should only remind ourselves of the accident with Wassily Kandinsky's painting hanging upside down which opened up new vistas for the art of painting. Such incidents have a significance that goes beyond that of amusing anecdotes (Or we can take the example of a painting by Baselitz).


Ecce Homo, 1979
malleable copper 


Besides, Gasparic must have felt that expression - in its "blindness" and Michieliesque feverish rhetoric in the spasm of narration - might actually "go against" form. He saw the dangers of the "senselessness" of form, and he was aware of the moral and existential weight that its disintegration undoubtedly possessed. But he shunned disintegration and the decomposing texture, cultivating a balance between stylization and expression, signification and raw life...

The Little Horse of Hvar in the Window, 1984
painted wood 55 x 37 x 17 cm 

This was the true justification of the risk of "contradiction", but with a responsibility that was suited to the form. He did not, like the teacher, look for decomposing flesh, nor did he point at Job's children, Lazarus' scars or St. Rock's leprous knees on the asphalt of the new, newly figurative, in this country Biafran, reality. Gasparic knew the value of language and the meaning of expression, and he was aware that sculpture does not consist in the correct spelling and correct use of formal syntax for their own sake and without an aim. However, he respected form as much for its aims as for its own sake. That is why his language has always remained alive, but also carefully cultivated. He disarmed all rhetoric that was not in the function of form with his care for the structure, showing a keen sense for the language and its syntax and moving from insight to life and from life to insight again.

A Horse of the Apocalypse and A Little Horse for Irene
in a courtyard in the Old City of Varaždin, 1983 

Michieli, of course, is a spasm of pain; he is a gaping and crazed dog, as Giacometti metaphorically described himself "one morning". In his web-like sign of disintegrated form and the spasm of existence, Michieli achieves a kind of Informel identification of the world and consciousness. For this reason, in explaining Gasparic's form, it is not very useful - except initially - to invoke Michieli, nor are there any real reasons to insist on the mutual relationship of the two artists. Gasparic's forms know their structural values: emptiness and fullness. The principle of expression of a body with naturalistic and vitalistic characteristics resides in the balance between emotion and the narrative element, while Michieli's spasm is a spasm without a remainder, fully given to the uniqueness of the real existential truth. Striving to reach Michelangelo's ideal of integrity , Michieli's sculpture would break its legs before coming half way to its destination; Gasparic's horse would, I believe, only lose its mane.

The Ballet Dancer Later, 1982
painted wood, 165 x 43 x 41 cm 

Knowing that the psychological suggestion of a form is not expressible only by means of an affect, Gasparic has tried to find the depth of form in a clear and pure medium. His motto seems to be: it is better to make a clear structure of a sculpture than to create a mystery without sculpture. Hence his insistence on the simple line of the idea of sculpture as form and of form as a theme (or plastic task).

The Portrait of Male Ballet Dancer, 1980
painted stone, 36 x 21 x 25 cm 

Rejecting both the "ugly law of the form", embodied in Croatian art in the syndrome of Michieli and the Biafra Group, and the cold manifestation of form, Gasparic has consistently pursued the form that neglects neither the structure nor vitalism, nor, for that matter, emotionalism or the spiritual interest. He uses a very precise language to enunciate the formal interests of the work of art and to intuit its inner values and suggestions. He rejects the spice of convulsive confession which pays no attention to syntax and complementation and which, relying on emotionalism, neglects the grammar of forms. Gasparic has found for himself the equilibrium of correct speech outside Leibnitz's monadology or the Protagorean mysticism of numbers.

Without abandoning the principles of clear structure and recognizing the value of an analytical procedure, he remains conscious of both the parts and the whole, but he does not prompt us to raise the question of mere mechanical addition or sheer elemental thirst. For Gasparic's form possesses a dimension of depth between these two extremes and his sculpture can be the sign and the value offered by vitalism. He has freed the space between stylization and expression, and there is no danger of "mechanical addition", because the share of the mechanical element is consciously included in the calculation. The relations between the surfaces, rhythms, fractures, and the whole range of formal and constructional devices are the fruit of a new sculptural methodology standing between analysis and synthesis.

The question of construction (post-1983) - the clean face of the form

 Owing to their strict structuralization, Gasparic's recent works cannot be reduced to a series of programmatic, technological or operational values that would contrast with the emanation of vitalism and with emotions generally. And anyway, the sterility of confrontation of the vision and rationalism has already been proved, and this confrontation is the product of a romantic concept of value. Thus, also, the separation of the "vitalistic" and "constructivist" traits is not the most promising way of dealing with the problem of forms. It is only academically useful, but it is not productive, let alone valid.

Little Angel, 1984
painted wood, 36 x 30 x 28 cm 

The question is whether Gasparic has (abruptly) abandoned one area of interest and chosen another - namely, the set of procedures that Baye labels "operative realism" - without an imaginative and structural effort that a sculptor invests into the building of what he regards as worth building. Can his insistence on the purity and clarity of structure be due to mere formal reductionism? The force of the clash has subsided, and conciliatory bonds now bind the forms. There are no fractures any more. The sagging depressions calmly receive the protuberances, the bulges enter the cavities. Everything is calm, firm and clean, like the angels' washed and clean stone faces (The Angel, 1984).

Of course, this is not a matter of some formal "inevitability" of reductionism, as many advocates of the uninterrupted line would like to see it, but the refined and new, washed face of the form. It is the "reduction of the living form to its plastic essence", which, in less gifted sculptors, not infrequently results in a "sterile reduction of forms". Gasparic has had "enough strength to bypass this trap with ease".

White Angel, 1985
painted wood, 63 x 33 x 28 cm 

Bypass: a verb that essentially directs the plastic growth of this work outside the logic of reductionism and towards a new concept and new potentiality of form. The germs of this concept were to be found already in the earlier form, and they announced this plastic culture of sculpture free from the false Rococo anxiety and from the coldness of the dead norm of the naked structure. 

It is hard within this "construct!vist morphology", which might also be discussed in terms of the "woodworking techniques" and "assembly skills", to deny the suggestion of the form, no matter how far it was subject to its rational and structural code. Moreover, its purity is its fullness, and the descriptive differences within the varied and rich forms are legitimate starting points for suggestions and behaviours of each form individually... But the effects (and affects) of formal beauty in this sculpture cannot conceal the question of its content and meaning. Without attaching the importance of a fetish to the medium (as is the case, for instance, in electronic music), Gasparic knows that order does not rule out emotion; rather, it may guide and deepen it. Therefore, the claim that Gasparic "feels the form as form and not as description", though it may sound platitudinous, expresses a real truth; still, we should not jump to conclusions about Gasparic's gnosticism, as he does not resort to cold structuring according to the mechanical motorics of the will, because he knows that cold structuring just as the blindness of emotion is directed against the form itself. In the first case the artist loses vitality, and in the second he neglects the form.

The Autumn Sonata, 1983
painted wood, 230 x 200 x 85 cm

Prior to 1983, Gasparic observed the "anatomical structure of the figure"; since then "there has not been so much anatomy, but there have been other regularities". If one accepts this unclear designation as a line of intuition, one concludes that Gasparic's obligations to the form are more distinctly present now. The explanation of the tendency to calmer forms is not to be sought, as we have already noted, in reductionism but in the intensification and emphasis of one characteristic of his work. In other words, he suddenly rather than gradually stressed the character and virtue of the form, installing it as the new plastic authority. The consequences posed themselves as alternatives: convulsion or calmness, devouring vitalism or a rational concept of form. Opting for the clarity of from, he chose one aesthetic characteristic and, as regards this point of his interest, parted ways with his teacher.

In the logic of unbounded association, some critics have even found "cubism" in his work u. Accepting such labels literally (and not as private associations), we can indeed quote Picasso's "Mandolin", Archipenko's architectonics, Vantogerloo's objects, and Louise Nevelson's methodological patience, though constructivism is not the exclusive privilege of either minimalism or the contemporary (geometric) structuralism. I do not see why a Renaissance artist, say, Castagno, or for instance Vermeer, should be less constructivist than, for example, Rodchenko.

Of course, Gasparic's system of order is not of the cold kind that we find in structural neutralism, say, in Joel Shapiro, or in Richard Artschwager's clean confessionals, pulpits and books. What we have here is what H. Read, speaking about Vermeer's art, called "calm serenity". And though such comparisons may be out of place, our aim is not to hide behind names, even less impute value correlations, but simply to follow a line of thinking

 Different, yet same

 Continuing our discussion of Gasparic's forms, we feel inclined to say about him what Sartre once said about Giacometti, namely, that for him "it is not sculptures but sculpture that matters". We note his preoccupation with a comparatively small number of themes (similarly to what we find in H. Moore, S. Vulas, K. Radovani, and some other sculptors) and signs of a moderate craze for just one topic (although the nature of each particular form can, of course, be discerned). Wild or tame, Hvarski or Ivanov, all of these are birth certificates that do not cheat. These cadastral papers and title deeds are not indications of the form but of its specificity, though they should not be taken at face value because the reasons of choice of particular themes are not quite clear. In other words, associations do not have topological or structural values, although titles of sculptures are not arbitrary - they suggest motivations and have a definite mimetic and associative impulse.

This rich scale of nuances in Gasparic's sculptural methodology and new analyticalness makes possible - to be somewhat blunt about it - the productivity of the series. But the illusion of the "same" or similar is indeed only an illusion. The fertile uncertainty and liveliness of imagination gives birth to the "serial" principle rather than to the happiness of one-time discovery. Artists whose language and themes are "restricted" set little store by certainty. Their variations of the "similar" or "same" are questions of imagination or imaginative power. "Perhaps the depth of the mind consists in continually thinking the same thought," said a wise man.

A small number of themes does not mean certainty and confidence in what has once been found. On the contrary, everything seems to be within reach, yet at the same time far -within grasp and elusive. From the viewpoint of motivation and curiosity, it is certainly easier to direct one's attention to a new thematic and formal problem each time than to look for clear and visible signs of specific individuality of a form in what is otherwise related and similar. The prejudice about the narrow thematic register as a measure of certainty is false and is due to intellectual laziness and acceptance of ready-made ideas. That is why Gasparic does not enjoy secure certainty, even though his horses or ballet dancers may appear like identical twins, with gesture and movement being the only element of their plastic individuality and formal "self-will". His concentration on a relatively small number of themes has its roots in his loyalty to one theme and his ability to imagine similarities.

A brief history, or towards a family portrait - a group portrait with Gasparic

After a short spell of thematic dictates in the immediate postwar period, the Croatian and Yugoslav painting and sculpture began a more peaceful and artistically more relevant phase. Still, the issue of "abstract" vs. "figurative" was still not one of style but of attitude, and it concerned the most elementary rights of creative freedom. The question was posed in particularly stark terms in this country, and it helps to explain many of our (still prevailing) militant habits, the chief one being that definitive answers are sought to "indigenous" either-or questions, resulting in campaigns against "modernisms" at one time and ancestral "traditionalisms" at another.

The Bull, 1981
painted wood, 155 x 120 x 63 cm 

The followers of the naturalist tradition, either in the form of monumental realism (Augustincic) or intimism (Krsinic), can still be held largely responsible for that part of the contemporary Croatian sculpture which relies on the Korcula or more broadly Mediterranean tradition of marble-cutters and on the realistic canons of the master sculptor from Klanjec. A new plastic sensibility (as the third way) found its expression in the works of those who realized that the mere destruction of myths, whether their names were tradition or Mestrovic, led nowhere, but also that one could not remain forever in their company.

We reject the basic schematism of sculptural phenomena in the postwar Croatian sculpture (figurative, associative, organic, etc.), because classifications seem unnatural, making dead norms out of the phenomena they tackle, and will simply note that individual artists have gone through several stylistic and morphological phases: from figurative to organic, and from mimetic to abstract (for instance, Dzamonja or Bakic). Sudden changes and breaks in general or individual aesthetics rule out the genealogical approach and deny the compact picture of a unified whole. The undoubtedly most essential question concerns the originality of a given form and its involvement in the "concrete individual demonstration of thought". The decisive question is not, for instance, how far or near Gasparic stands in relation to the tradition, but whether the gravity centre of the plastic problem is to be found in the form itself or outside it. The question of his "own vitality" (H. Moore) is a crucial question, as "dangers for the form come from within rather than without".


The Masque, 1981
painted wood, 58 x 30 x 38 cm 

Bringing this brief discussion of principles to bear on the specific problem of a particular sculptor and his art, we must note that, for Gasparic, the question of choice never stood outside his own intellectual interests and motivations. To speak about "traditionalism" on the basis of some formal manifestations (for instance, figurative elements) is in his case out of place, though such classifications are still offered in dealing with young artists and their most recent works. "Progressive" and "conservative" artists are duly pigeonholed, always more or less to the detriment of those who show a more or less visible link with the experience of the past. But as the attitude to tradition, or figuration, is now changing and as it seems to be returning in the victor's garb in both painting and sculpture (where its visual and civilizational essence is more clearly revealed), this unnatural tension is somewhat relaxed. If Gasparic, therefore, represents "continuity" with some of the features of his figural style, we must also note that the structure of his language is the purest confirmation of the plastic autonomy  of the form that does not forget its dialogical relation with past experience and gives contemporary significance to the deep layers of inherited themes. In his uncertain "traditionalism" he respects traditions, but his self-will is strong enough to include also the atavistic, archetypal and anthropological components, or those that in contemporary sculpture can be called "archeological" or "exotic".


In Front of the Mirror, 1985
painted wood, 202 x 38 x 40 cm 

Obviously, departure from tradition presupposes a certain amount of dependence on it and inevitably implies the recognition of its values. The sculptor is necessarily a Janus-like figure.

Gasparic's figuration should not, of course, be discussed in terms of an orthodox adherence to the naturalistic canons of the master-sculptor from Klanjec or the intimism of the sculptural poet from Korcula. His concept of figuration is broader than that and cannot be defined so easily. That is why the discussion of figuration with allusions to the original sin of Mestrovic or Augustincic is futile. (And anyway, tradition may as well mean invoking Mestrovic as Duchamp, the Bauhaus, or prehistory.) How, otherwise, could one determine the individuality and figural autonomy of Radovani, S. Vujicic or I, Sabolic?

Self-Portrait II, 1981
painted wood, 127 x 40 x 57 cm 

The roots

Seeking to alleviate the deafness of the "avant-garde Esperanto", Josip Depolo has recognized in Gasparic' s work the "fences, wooden fagades, whitewashed tree-trunks, roadside memorial signs, ships on the Drava River" and that tree that "determined his attitude to the form", as well as the "powerful influence of the Varazdin Baroque, wooden doors in the painting and sculpture of Ranger and his schol". The author did not, of course, intend to be taken literally, and we for our part are inclined to find these bonds primarily in the psychology of this milieu and its historical atavism. They can certainly be taken as the starting and initial values in Gasparic's sculptural progress, influencing with their grammar and syntax also the very nature of the forms. This dictate of the native forces may easily lead to particular stylistic inclinations or predilection for particular materials (wood), and I am by no means averse to such invocations of the immediate and wider native environments, which may not be directly recognizable but which continue to re-create psychological and emotive relationships with the inherited values that are undoubtedly rooted in the artist's hypothetical historical or at least ethnic consciousness. Such rootedness is not a matter of formal coincidences but rahter of relatedness in the very nature and ' suggestion of forms.

The Sun Horse II, 1985
painted wood, 300 x 225 x 90 cm 

Without underestimating (or overestimating) the importance of the native environment, the proper assessment of the importance and role of this "heritage" is certainly more important than the question of the relationship and influence of Michieli or the Scythian bestiary. For the apotheosis of his sources, among which Depolo notes the "Varazdin and Medimurje elements", finds its initial values in the open field of associations or in the native material or spiritual culture. But an excessive concern for this link brings in its wake the danger of misrepresentation, of assigning to this opus the characteristic which it does not possess, and of fixing it firmly in the imagined or real sequence of the Baroque tradition. But the autonomy  of Gasparic's form and concern for its plastic values demonstrate that these forms are not the fruit of a folkloristic horror or an imitation of charming Baroque angels, whose declamatory expression is made more convincing by the peeling gilding and the worm-eaten surface of the wood.

Of course, all of this is literature. Useful, of course. Because it puts into perspective and nicely complements our complex relationship with this opus. But to impose upon Gasparic the task of keeping some imagined continuity (traditional or figurative, Baroque or regional) means not to understand his form and its plastic individual existence. His form does not receive justification from its relationship with Michieli or Marini (who, in his mythical and extratemporal emanation of form, is only a distant model) but from the originality and individuality of Gasparic's art.

Between tradition and modernity


In this country, we have so sharpened the issue of "old" and "new" that any shift in this respect appears as a cataclysm rather than the appearance of a new atoll on the spiritual map. Birth is regarded as less, not more. Our habits are such that we accept things only as arguments for the (already existent) arguments and as supports for our already defined states. In short, we are prepared to brand what is different as hostile, thus setting up fierce opponents against one another and foreclosing the possibility of any talk.

In this continuing history in which myths have largely overshadowed facts and words chased away ideas, in which speaking has replaced thinking, all historical issues are reduced to a somewhat moralistic question of the continuity of one element - possibly painted in glowing national colours. Anything that cannot be enveloped in the flag of such allegiance is dismissed as degenerate or simply "transitorily fashionable".

The Horse's Head, 1985
painted wood, 38 x 27 x 13 cm 

Gasparic's form resides - speaking informally - between the "wild" and the "moderate" artists, those who remain faithful to the legacy of the past and those who lead the assault on tradition (disregarding its values and its living emanation). It is no wonder, therefore, that Gasparic - on the basis of an oversimplified reading of his work (naturalism, figuration, etc.) - has been regarded both as an ally and an enemy. And the quality of a kind of realism that might have been seen as a virtue was at one time threatened equally by Bakic's "luminokinetism" and Angeli Radovani's "anthropomorphism". But Gasparic was too conscious of the value of form to offer any declamatory or rhetorical arguments for one or the other tendency.

On the other hand, there is an apposite and meaningful comparison, and metaphor, of his relationship with possibly the most successful equestrian sculpture in Croatia -Franges-Mihanovic's "Tomislav". The suggestive link cannot be denied, though the insightful and effective comparison is made on the figurative and thematic level, stressing just one aspect that is necessarily present when an artist opts for this motif, irrespective of whether he realizes it in the minimal (Gasparic) or maximal (Franges-Mihanovic) form.

Though these horses do not come from the same stable and different criteria are applied to measure the strength of one and the other, their relatedness at the figurative and thematic levels must be recognized. But this recognition focuses on the general similarities, not on the important differences. It recognizes Gasparic's non-affective and moderate deviation from tradition, stressing his depth and the horizon of the "past" and "present".

The Big Portal, 1984 (detail) 

"Each work of art contains in itself all other arts as part of its strength, but it unites them only using its own means," says Rilke writing about Rodin. The same could be said about Gasparic's form, without intending to make undue claims and unjustified comparisons. One axis links him with Franges's horse, but he also possesses an autonomy of plastic narration and shares in the dimensions of freedom initiated by the so-called "transavant-garde" and "new picture" painting,which manifested themselves in sculpture in the variety of exotic faces, use of colourful and varied materials and colours, and the typically pictorial formal arrangements. And if one is to continue to insist on this highly uncertain determination of the modernity of this opus (outside the authentic character and along the line of topicality), then it is enough to invoke the painting instead of the sculpted form. If the brush should replace the chisel and started to work on the canvas with its multi-pronged and expressive (structurally clear) strokes, we would get a "new picture" syndrome pacified here by stylization and signification. The horses would easily turn to Trojan horses, and Kulmer's winged horses, and attain the dimension of freedom that sculpture, understandably, cannot give them.

Thus, Gasparic's work undoubtedly corresponds with the sculpted forms by Franges and Michieli, but also with those made by Pommodore, Immendoif and Cucchi. These artists belong to the clearly modern orientation and are expressly dedicated to aspects of modern sensibility. Gasparic's presence in his time is categorial and substantive: it makes use of language and is language itself. He embraces a great deal, but is in turn embraced by much more. He takes his distant echoes into the depth and breadth and is refreshing in the arena of modernity, showing a distinct reverence for the past and marked self-awareness that places him firmly in his time. He does not erode the historical language but simply reiterates the question of its wholeness, rejecting only its dated and "spent" components.

If one is to continue drawing parallels, Gasparic's trust in his material (wood) points to a whole group of Croatian sculptors (Ruzic, Vulas, Kantoci, etc.), but it must also be said that the relationship derives from the nature of the material, which suggets the nature of the work itself.

The non-polemical use of sculpture

 As people who live in a country in which there are many Columbuses and few Americas, many revolts and few revolutions, where there is a general fondness for "discoveries" ("the greatest recent sculptural discovery in these parts of the world"), we cannot but stop before the plastic eloquence of this sculpted form whose qualities (movement, shape, colour, light) display the full range of the plastic potential of the form.

No matter how much I try to respect different possible views of this artist's opus, I can see no reason for a polemical interpretation of this sculpture, nor do I see it as opposition to the "anti-sculptural practice", though he might have been "on the right side" in this effort. Gasparic should be accepted as an argument of sculpture, not justice, because his whole human and creative personality is contrary to doubt. There is, indeed, no reason to invent a conflict between "sculpture" and "non-sculpture", as these are just two faces of the same faith.

The Little Golden Horse, 1980
gilded bronze, 14 x 19 x 11 cm

Besides, modem Croatian sculpture offers convincing arguments for the revival of sculpted forms and fine examples of confidence in sculpture. It has been developing in several directions, with different typological and stylistic orientations, and it now offers a truly bright picture. There is absolutely no ground for the war of the opposites when the extremes already meet and the opponents acknowledge mutual indebtedness. The use of atypical or non-sculptural materials is now due to both aesthetic and elementary existential reasons; but this is also making a virtue out of necessity, since new materials have helped to expand the range of sensibilities and affinity for new technologies and materials and enriched the capabilities of the language. This is, of course, still not the crucial question for sculpture and its existence in an environment in which defects command greater attention than virtues and lamentations over the fate of sculpture are obligatory, without wondering about the causes of its existential agony.

The Sun Horse III, 1985
painted wood, 240 x 137 x 118 cm

Gasparic's respect for the form and his concern with plastic purity is taken for granted. The question is, anyway, whether a sculptor can treat the form in a cavalier fashion at all. On the other hand, a malicious sneer at what is conventionally called the "trend" can stem only from blindness and an inability and lack of good will to understand a phenomenon and correctly assess its strong and weak points. It is much more comfortable to follow the tradition and revere the martyrs, though this is but the reason to lean against the wailing wall and cry. Thus two superstitions always stand against each other: the power of what is past and the power of what is to come. But time is not a criterion.

The Sun Horse III, 1985 (detail) 

The judgement that does not question the reasons for the work of art is no judgement, because it does not touch the work's truth. The traveller who can only narrate the details of his journey, who he has met on the way and who lent him a shirt or a jacket, cannot hope to make valid judgements, even less offer insights.

What does Gasparic's art actually communicate? It tells us about a dialogue, but that is not all: it also speaks about the potential of the new in the old, and the other way round - not on chronological principles, but in a. plastic reconciliation of the forma] structure and its meaning.

The Sun Horse IV, 1985
painted wood, 115 x 160 x 40 cm

The environment for comparison

 Nothing would be easier than to list arbitrary associations, citing Marini or Michieli, this artist or that, but this way the problem of the individual destiny of an opus does not get solved; rather, it is multiplied, not to say postponed and mystified. Therefore, our own recognition of "living space within a paradox" came as a result of the search for the principles according to which his opus lives: our view was directed beyond the questions of "relatives" or "family portraits" that could only disturb the clear source of this art. I have always felt that the so-called "context" and "environment" is not the right place to look and the frantic search for relatives and parents has always seemed to me a cunning attempt to rely on knowledge and memory rather than to delve deep into the specific formal and motivational impulse from which an artist's work springs. The more relatives one is able to cite, and the wider the family circle, the thinner the critical insight, which lazy condescension then leaves to family care. Like one, like the other.

The Green Ballerina, 1981
painted wood, 140 x 60 x 60 cm

We do not need to cite Michieli, Moore, Marini, or Archipenko to save Gasparic. He does not need references in all directions. He does not need to be judged in terms of his relationships. As Pejakovic notes, why not judge an artist "according to character differences", since "nothing is easier than to make conclusions on the basis of the similarity of those passing through the same time and space". This all the more so as "relating artists by the criterion of standardness tells us nothing about their better parts, about their original contribution to sculpture, which differentiates them and also gives them rank". Nothing needs to be added to this.

If we do, however, follow the artist's individual path and observe certain relations, relatives and relationships, we can easily (and correctly) point out the line of figurative expressionism, which runs in the postwar Yugoslav sculpture from the works of I. Mestrovic, through Radaus, to Michieli, N. Glid, J. Soldatovic, J. Boljka, O. Jevric, or the Biafra Group; if desired, the same line can be traced from Spain to Norway, from Donatello to Rodin, G. Richier, or J. Gonzales. Make your pick. On purely formal grounds, we can make our job easier by describing Gasparic as "Croatian Marini", without the need for any other arguments than those found in the saddles of the cavalcade. Anything can be said, provided one is willing to forget one's duty to the individual existence of an artist's sculpture.

A Woman at the Well, 1980
wood, 137 x 71 x 50 cm

Signs of Gasparic's presence in his time can be found within the already mentioned paradox: his merger of construction and expression, calm serenity and dynamism of form. This resoluteness and openness puts him in line with those artists who relativize the "firm" sculptural properties (installations, "temporary sculpture", objects, "alternate sculpture", etc.) and show total indifference to the museal fate of their works. But all of them have enriched the sculptural language, and I am not at all sure that "one-day sculptures kill culture", just as I am not convinced that "durable sculptures" do not kill culture.

Clearly, by accepting the paradox, Gasparic formed an image of himself as a traveller without a destination (i. e., an experimenter),- but on the way he has imposed his own rules and, restricting the arbitrary freedom, has opted for the structural and constructional approach. He has also found the depth of possible suggestions (mythical and atavistic) too unconstrained, feeling that their vagueness does not make for an easy recogniton of a genuine work of art and for the separation of the aesthetic statement from the anima and from religious and mythological imprecisions.

The Head of a Bull, 1981
painted wood, 68 x 50 x 33 cm

There is no doubt that Gasparic stands apart from other sculptors of his generation, because he is highly original and morphologically interesting. His insistence on the reconciliation of opposites and his living and structural will to reconcile the nature of the form and its medium are without analogues in the contemporary young Croatian sculpture, which prefers to concentrate on the exotic (Libl, Poprzan, Schubert), esoteric (V. D. Trokut), "alternate" (Sokic, Rasic), associative (K. Kovacic), or soberly physical in form and its elementary resistance (Drinkovic)... Gasparic's horse is not like Jakov Brdar's naturalistic horse, Tomislav Todorovic's wild boars, or Boris Zaplatil's bulls. It is a focal point of instinct and reason, outside the apology of rationalism and the frenzy of the blind will of vitalism.

The Portrait of Mars, 1981
painted wood, 64 x 38 x 23 cm

Gasparic's sculpture stands in a positive relation to the form: it has its past and it has its future - its ancestors and its descendants. Its rebellion is not disputable, for it is active and constructive: it is in the function of sculpture.

The Sun Horse I, 1985
painted wood, 300 x 220 x 80 cm


The Portrait of a Ballerina, 1980
painted stone, 34 x 22 x 29 cm


The Little Portal, 1983
painted wood, 52 x 36 x 8 cm