Rozana Vojvoda. Solid Blue Line, text for the exhibition Sea of People

The Mediterranean setting, the space in which the artist grew up, has been present in works of Tina Gverović to date only in adumbrations, mostly at the level of motif and without any emphatic local determination. The specific, meditative and contemplative charge in some of her works can but does not have to have connections with growing up by the sea and the consequent inwardness with the long, slow rhythms of nature. In this exhibition, however, the artist creates her tribute to the Mediterranean, pondering upon its real and historical definition as cradle of ancient civilisations, proving ground for political and territorial pretensions, and focusing on its utopian dimension, taking it as a place of aspirations, a dreamed-of haven. There is no factor of any kind of spatial particularity, though, and the idea of the Mediterranean that stems from her works is interwoven with the complex ideas of coastline, movements and migrations, interfusions that she problematises in different media – in the print, the painting, the installation, video and audio works as well as in the form of the short story.

Tina Gverović is interested not in presenting and capitalising on what has already been done but in involving the exhibition space into an active interrelationship with the works. Indeed, the actual reading of some of the works is dependent on a complex relationship with the exhibition as a whole, which in its flow represents a journeying, a discovery process, the creation of a series of associations that will perhaps have a completely different valence when the next room is entered. This, I think, is less about emphasising the processuality of creation, more about denying the concept of the completion of any work, and promoting the possibility of establishing different angles of vision. Thus in the installation Raft (2016), on a huge wooden construction that simulates a raft, Tina exhibits or arranges pictures from several of her old series At First Glance (2006), At Second Glance (2007) and Choose Your Time (2008), completely changing the communication with the observer in the manner of the set-up. Paintings made with transparent applications, uncommonly light backgrounds and still less common motifs – with icebergs and research ships, for example, have set out into the space, become part of a larger whole, and the exoticism of the spaces of distant regions has been heightened even more by the context of the raft. As the artist herself says, “the idea of different types of movement, of water, migrations, materials” is implicit to all the works on show. At the same time she creates complex networks of relationships at all levels, including at the simplest, that of motif; the raft in one of the paintings has its three-dimensional match in space; the painted, romantic, raging waves have their opposite in a video work dealing with a wave tank for scientific experiments on the character of waves and in a kindred audio work with the resonant sound of the waves. “Found and retold” short stories that are projected on the large wall areas in a shattered font that gives the impression of being a watery reflection of real letters[1] are to do with migrations, the power of the sea, real and imaginary movement, and create mental images to which the other works can become a natural frame.   Some connections, naturally, are more literal than others, and the story in which the question “What makes a country: earth, people or culture?” is posed is rather directly connected to the work Inventory (2016), an installation that calls to mind the migrations of people over the Mediterranean routes in search of a better life that are taking place at this very moment of history, before our eyes. Juxtaposing the tactility of material and the blue of clothing that has associations with both sky and sea, spaces practically reserved for the universal human fantasy of endlessness and freedom, the artist with minimalistic means forms an archetypal image of the coast or as she calls it herself of a “place of arrival and departure”. Implicitly too she takes issue with the idea of border, which apart from its territorial aspect as a much wider context, the antagonism between beginning and ending, there in the relation among the works that inherit levels of meaning from each other ranging through the space. The work Inventory can also be read completely disconnected from the social moment, as part of the solid blue line that goes along the whole upper floor of the Dubrovnik Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. From a frieze of prints with blue grounds that crosses over the window and door apertures of the first room (Limb, 2016), via the already mentioned installation with the blue clothing, the “line” continues on the blue painted wall surfaces of the last room, there to provide a ground to the paintings. The simplification and multiplication of figures, like those presented in the prints in sequences of five different movements (first painted, and then converted into a digital medium), and also in small-scale images with depictions of swimmers who, as the artist herself says, “are in the medium rather stiff than fluid” are a clear signal that at the focus of interest of the author is not the classical painterly approach, but a kind of defragmentation, decomposition for the point of research, but also for the interlinking and interfusing of the different media. Negation of the borders between the individual prints and the dividing membrane of the space also initiates a collapse of the generally accepted categories of observation, understanding of the human figures shown only as visual aids, signposts for the appropriation of the complex network of free relationships that we are provided by the exhibition.   Keeping very far from a literal and picture-postcard interpretation of the Mediterranean setting, Tina Gverović works on the shaping of abstract concepts of movements and migrations, of nullifying the borders between real and imaginative journeys, perhaps most suggestively expressed in one of the short tales in which a person is asked whether he has arrived by train or photograph.[2] Through the visual stimuli, the sounds and the stories, all of them of equivalent weight, in the movement in correlation with the space, the changeable and supple structure of the exhibition is created.

[1] The font was created for an artwork by Sara Staton, and Tina Gerović is using it in the exhibition by courtesy of Sara Staton and Nicole Jacek.

[2] Taken from the John Berger and Jean Mohr book, A Seventh Man, Verso, 2010 (first ed. 1975).