Skulptures
Pictures
Drawings
Profile
Vita
Exhibitions
Contact
  Approach to the sculptures and paintings by Mladen Šimunović - SIME

When a sculptor like Mladen Šimunović devotes himself to nudes, horses and eagles as his sole themes of modeling and -at the present time- uses traditional techniques like clay, plaster, wood and cast bronze in which art interlocks with the exploration of the most diverse ideas and media and multiple forms of expression, one could infer that he doesn’t care about today‘s trends and precepts and looks only into his inner experience and passion.  But by no means is he less courageous than a legion of „more” contemporary artists. 
Neither it can be viewed as a compulsion for maintaining and 
preserving the „tradition‘, since this kind of stance would 
inevitably lead to a resolute and (more adamant) artistic ideology. 
Šimunović lives with the „old“ themes, he strives to interpret his 
own viewing and his own ability in dealing with the formative and forming regularities in sculpture as well as in painting his very 
own way.

Whether it is about a (male or female) nude or an animal figure is 
not essential. It’s more important to show again and again that none of the so called eternal themes or genre which persisted in the history of art for a long time is anything but exhausted. Instead each provides again and again endless challenges, inspiration and curiosities to penetrate things anew. Basically the amount of truth should be the objective solution for each manifestation in the natural world and in human nature. From its very beginnings on Mladen Šimunović’s artistic activity as a sculptor was directed to exploring stronger and more solid monolithic structures. His sculpture was and is frequently reduced to compressed bulks of erected verticals or balanced horizontal bulks, as for example when he shapes horses in relief. He does not bereave the form of a description but the latter is being disposed of any detailed elaboration. His artistic creation is characterized by an always proper, highly developed perceptive consciousness. Already in his early work one can recognize his sensitive style, as well as his imaginative understanding of the sculpture form. Very important for 
him is the quality of the material that he uses for his sculptures. 
Does he want brightness and light on the sculpture’s surface, he 
polishes the bronze to the extreme in order to give it a golden 
glance. He elaborates preceding correspondent modeling in clay and plaster paying special attention to the wood’s “behavior” on 
carving, achieving the same sculptural power of persuasion and 
balance of style as attained with the executed bronze sculptures. As the key to a profound understanding of Šimunović‘s carving it is most widely recommended to consider his reflections on rhythm, undulations and vibrations of volume, and about the almost equal share of visual and tactile experience. His reflections trace the plastic figurative history and maintain a close connection to it. 
This has pervaded the evolution of modern carving by a completely new, ingenious variant of the development of an exceptionally singular and coherent process. In other words, the development of his sculpture and painting elapses parallel to the process of cognition and maturation that have led him into a constant dialogue with the achievements of modernity. The anatomical accuracy of the female nudes, as well as of the shape of horses, eagles or the human hand is not in contradiction with a subjective approach. Through it the classicism of the always prevailing and never extinguished 
aesthetical motivations is being attained. The female body of course is inseparable of the total fascination of the term woman and the feminine principle.  The person who is able to draw, sculpt or paint a human body demonstrates that he/she can draw, because the human face and the human body represent the utmost fundament.  At the same time they are the most difficult drawing art form in which knowledge, 
eye, steady hand and skills are reflected.

Šimunović is basically an outstanding draughtsman. His sculptures and nudes emanate from an underlying precise drawing, which serves as an inner structural skeleton. All subsequent modeling emerges from an excellent drawing base. Šimunović also knows how to provide vitality and an extraordinary organic structure to the modeled form.     

In his voluminous formats every single form and each anatomy part extremely are thoroughly worked out, and furnished with a brightness that is harmonically integrated in the unity of the whole, whereas the whole is assembled harmonically by logical and natural parts. At the same time each nude position possesses a qualitative dose of proportional accuracy according to the artist’s perceptive touch. Most of  Šimunović’s nudes – if not all – show a leg as by a step, going forward, whilst  with the step the body experiences a strong bounce forward or backward. The hands are generally high lifted so that the body appears like being stretched and erected to the max, 
emphasizing the slenderness and elegance of the waist. The belly becomes a strong, tautened plain, mostly cubic, detached from the ribs in the inserted, linear edgings. By their convex and organic structure the rounded shapes of the backside and the breasts‘ calottes constitute a counterpoint to the sharp endings which form the borderline of a long bow of the plains of belly and back. It is no coincidence when the artist „steals” the head off of his polished bronze nudes and “cuts into“ their legs and arms on a height above the knee or the elbow. That might sound monstrously but just only to that moment, in which the observation of the nudes sets in, for within those is achieved a Maillolesque purity of mediterranism with an undoubtedly meditative, bodily organic beauty. 

The mentioned dialogue with the achievements of modernity begins precisely with a Stich by Aristide Maillol and is being continued in the doubtless resonances on August Rodin, whose „The Walker“ serves Šimunović as a model when he takes away head and arms from his nudes in order to found the form on the tension and the slickness of the simple shapes of Brancusi and to garnish them with the elements of organic forms after Moor and Archipenko in contrast to the sharp edges as the limits of anatomic determinations. Basically Šimunović seeks the primal archetypical form that orients itself to a harmonic relation with a strong, in its inner core closed volume, that with intention has always monolithic, rounded form.    

The tectonic and symmetrical entities which exist twice in a 
sculptural piece of art range from maximization of physical 
conditions to gradual minimization, displaying an interesting 
creative force in the sense of a more emphasized discretion of 
sculptural existence. Šimunović ’s sculptures are in terms of their form very clear and far away from cheap decorative outlining. Their power is the evocation of the beauty and purity of natural forms from which the artist strives for the creation of calm, simple sculptures, enriched by precise visual and haptic quality as a function of aesthetic gentility. The average sizes of the sculptures are not factored but based on human dimensions, on the length of an arm and the detection field of eye.  The universal theme with its base in the reality of nature is so widely explored and interpreted in the history of sculpturing that giving examples doesn’t seem necessary. If modern and postmodern art inherited anything from their tradition it is precisely this universality of the theme and its base in the reality of nature. The self-contained sculptor Šimunović is aware of that. Moving in such kinds of stipulations does not only take courage but confidence in your own, not exactly little scope of creativity, which as we realize, adds suggestive expression to the style and vision of a sculpture. With the help of this dichotomy, a philosophical, spiritual and intellectual understanding of the cryptically and sometimes arcane term of female nature is enriched by a harmonic union with a passion for female 
physical, material and erotic phenomena. A female nude provides the desire to express perfection many possibilities. Female curves, the breasts and the buttock are, by definition, the most perfect organically-biological organization of natural matter. Art can always recreate the softness of a female act in order to realize a higher level of sensibility and subtlety. For sure, Šimunović  does know that and gain that aim. His nudes never contain any sexual suggestions, let alone sexist ones.  Most of all every woman is a sculptural volume. That is why we can’t talk about a particular woman or even type of woman he works on in his art. The reason for these creations of nudes is the idea of the infinite possibilities of juggling with the variations of a theme, a position and dynamic of movement and – as said before – with the variations of the body’s beauty in the beauty of form or of the form’s beauty through the beauty of the body. 

Šimunović also paid intensive attention to painting and drawing. He works on a dualistic level painting nudes: on one hand he detects in the display of a female body several different constellations for rotating, turning and varying the position of volume, form and color in the becoming of structural variations of compositions. On top of that it is a personal hommage to the secret and mystery of the female. In regards to color the artist paints also two variations of nudes: he painted one part of the nudes in blue tones with white accents transmitting the impression of the voluminous and sensual beauty of female bodies. The other part of the acts he painted in reddish and yellow ocher tones. In the same way that he uses white 
accents in the blue-colored nudes he uses specks of lighter yellow accents in order to give volume and to achieve the three-dimensional plasticity of the work. Thus the anatomy of the body is expressed by a fine glow on the rounded voluminous forms, and creates the cohesiveness of the embodiment. With sure touch the artist paints nudes in a gesture full of verve but without losing control or rationalization. It is obvious: the artist understands how to separate the background from the figure and to layer the plains with rigorous contour. The depiction of the female figure emerges against the background. This leads to a planned division in the colorstic unity. In this way he achieves maximum simplicity, but also an effective illusion of the third spatial dimension that reveals his primary nerve and mission as a sculptor since the painted nudes are suggestive of being sculpturally imagined and executed. In Šimunović’s painting as in his sculpture the body becomes painting or sculpture and, vice versa, paintings and sculptures become bodies infused with always refreshed inspiration.    

In the creation of painted nudes Šimunović proceeds in the same way as in the formation of sculpted nudes: he paints according to a model and also upon the universal pattern that escapes from his imagination, and attains his highest aesthetic level of refinement. In the search and finding of artistic solutions he finds and fundaments the substance of artistic Truth, principally embodied in the requirement of a precise structure, in which beauty reflects itself...   A secretive character appears differently in a female body; nevertheless the answers are always the same, as those of the Sphinx, because the oneness of the mysteriousness will be however secured through deception. All these thesis are valid for the artistic quest since all scientific knowledge of the women‘s external macro and internal micro biological-anatomical structure are trivial in front of the artistic interpretation in her modernity and present time.  If deception is truth, it continues being thus also a puzzle, but one may start from the fact that the truthfulness in an artwork is anchored in subjectivism, vision, illusion and appearance. Therefore female nudes in the painted version, as well as in sculptural nudes, emerge from a scheme absolutely clear,
mimetic, natural and figurative, related to the reality and confirm 
the internalized experience: the artist’s subjective and delusory 
Vision.  

Mag. sci Enes Quien, 
Professor of Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb                

                      
de | hr | en