by Anđelko Mihanović
Ex nihilo is a painterly cycle that Vice Tomasović was working on for the past several years. He exhibited it in museums and galleries in Zagreb, Pula, Dubrovnik, Varazdin, Koprivnica, Omis and City of Krk. Since this may be the series of artworks that made the most impact in art scene in Croatia, among artists, curators and art historians, an opportunity appeared for contextualization of the cycle in the frame not only of his artistic, but also professional life, since we are talking about the period in which Tomasovic was appointed to the position of the president of Croatian Association of Visual Artists and the manager of the association’s exhibition program, primarily at the gallery Salon Galic and at the exhibition venue in the basements of Diocletian’s palace in Split. As the president, he opened the association to the great number of members and the association made a great turn and many steps forward. In addition, the Almissa Open Art Festival, that is directed by Tomasovic, continued growing into a renown national brand, with international guests and possible international appetites. Therefore, we are dealing with an artist with noted managerial and organizational, but also curatorial skills: recently in collaboration with Julia Tomasovic he realized a curatorial project for the multimedial exhibition Post-literacy in Gallery AZ in Omis (26.10.2017. - 09.11.2017.). With regards to his art, he is a multi-medial artist in the literal sense of the expression: he paints, sculpts, creates videos, installations and performance art.
The cycle Ex nihilo is one of the project on which, as it is stated above, he has worked several years, and that has been studied by art historians, curators and artists such as Lana Beovic, Igor Grzetic, Mladen Lučić, and Morana Matkovic. Besides these, this publication comprises also an interview that the artist gave to Ivan Dorotic for Vizkultura, where he talked not only about this painterly cycle but also about the period in his professional life which coincides with the artworks. Finally, it is important to mention that Ex nihilo, besides the exhibitions that are accompanied by essays used in this publication, was displayed under the title “Horror vacui-Ex nihilo“ within the program of the Gallery Karas in the Gallery Prsten (188.8.131.52.2016.) and under the title “Every Living Thing“ in the organization of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists of Istra (17.6.-4.7.2016.) in galleries Luka and Mul in Pula. These exhibitions were not accompanied by additional essays. To conclude, as the reader may see in the following texts, Ex nihilo is not only a pictorial, artistic project, but also an intellectual quest focused on the universal questions, very important in the context of the relationship of science, industry and genetic engineering today.
"Fifteen billion years ago there was nothing. How is it possible that the entire universe was created out of nothing and that it exists in this state."1
To talk about Vice Tomasović as a young artist today would mean to attach an ill-suited etiquette that does not belong to his artistic habitus or to the artworks from the cycle Ex nihilo. Although the title may suggest otherwise, these artworks were not created per se out of nothing, but are the result of a long-lasting and thorough intellectual, spiritual and artistic process, that belongs to the maturity rarely attributed to young artists. Therefore this series, exhibited ﬁrstly in 2014 in the City Museum in Omis, has its stylistic and conceptual roots in artist’s previous projects, predominantly in Herbal Origin Theory from 2013 (Gallery Praktika, Split) or even in Bestiary from 2008 (Gallery Onaion, Omis). One can see, thusly, that it is a complex concept that was developed and matured slowly, and that inspired diﬀerent and even contrary studies by art historians and curators.
Formally speaking, artworks are clear: large canvases of big dimensions,2 some monochromatic, some polychrome, ﬁlled with characters from painter’s imagination on a coherent and linear way. They leave opposing impressions on the viewer when looked from afar, resembling mosaics, or looked from the vicinity, with their multiple planes that present diﬀerent narratives the author deals with. The canvases are transparently structured and without serious diﬃculties it is possible to discern diﬀerent sections to be read as speciﬁc painterly narratives. These little scenes are very successful because the artist ﬁts them skillfully into these unnoticeable frames, as well as into the general framework of the entire painting. Characters that constitute them may seem from afar like a plain repetition of a single motif, however, with a slightly more thorough look one can conclude that these “phantasmagoric worlds“3, as deﬁned by Morana Matkovic, are full of unique mixtures of human-like and animal-and-plant-like bodies. As the author himself emphasizes, there are more than one thousand characters in every painting.4 With regards to this, Lana Beovic writes about the “dispersion of life“ and the “explosion of ﬁgures“.5 An art historian trained on the styles and pictorial signatures of classical and medieval workshops where one could recognize a particular artist or a particular school by lookng closely at the eyes, teeth, ears, noses ﬁngers or ﬁnger nails, might expect that it would be possible to discover in the same way and even more easily the personal signature of one contemporary artist such as Tomasovic, but he skillfully varies the solutions for the anthropomorphic bodies of his characters. This says a lot about his thoroughness and his ethical approach to the act of painting: not only does he spend month or two on a painting, but not rarely he comes back to it over a longer period of time, as a result of the reﬂecting upon universal questions, in their connection to painting. These reﬂections, in the cultural but also religious and spiritual context that Tomasovic belongs to, are perhaps one of the main characteristics of him as an artist, but also as a man. His artistic solutions do not, on the other hand, ﬁnd their irrefragable roots in the tradition of Croatian painting, maybe only fragmentarily in Croatian Naive Art.
When Tomasovic talks about the questions he deals with in his artworks, he mentions often the terms like biotechnology, bioethics, transhumanism or posthumanism. That is the framework in which the artist thinks as a researcher. However, when he talks about his painting he states that it is a “zen process“ and that in those situations he “does not think too much“ about theoretical issues he discusses pictorially.6 The author works 6 “These characters are made without any particular thinking or planning. Actually, the whole process is an experiment, because one never knows how the painting will look in the end,“ Maja Hrgović, Vice Tomasović: Nisi afirmiran sve dok nisi afirmiran u Zagrebu, taken post-conceptually, without a plan, he creates a character and than thinks about the reasons he made it in a particular way. Nonetheless, it is diﬃcult to dispute the fact that Tomasovic as his conceptual starting point takes mythology and in his paintings he realizes “all the living beings, outside time“. Somewhat paradoxically, on the other side, he emphasizes that he deals with reality, not ﬁction.7 A visitor of the exhibition may ask then what historical period should be represented by these paintings: is it a vision of prehistory or a possible future scenario? Ex nihilo questions the oﬃcial paradigm of the origin of the world, and according to Tomasovic, it deals with “post-mythological models of the origin... Those plant-like animals called Homoherbe represent a theoretical model of the living being that could have existed in the past, and from which contemporary plants and animals evolved, and in the end, humans.“8 In this process, as he emphasizes, he turns to science, medicine, biology, psychology, and tries to avoid potential poetics and amateurism. He tries to materialize the model that opens moral and ethical questions. Curator Drazenka Jalsic Ernecic in her preface to the exhibition in Koprivnica wrote precisely that “the author connects these questions, especially the question of the origin from primarily with the idea of the artistic creation,“ while Petar Grimani in the ﬁrst works from this cycle saw paintings “as starting points for clariﬁcation of one’s own relationship towards both the outside and inner worlds.“9
Since the artist shares Christian Catholic worldviews he understands the problem Ex nihilo as a Christian principle. This painterly cycle is not the ﬁrst series by Tomasovic in which one can trace spiritual and religious references: I would mention the performance piece Penance, that the artist performed in 2015 during the 14th Days of Performance in Varazdin, and that he repeated one week after in Pula. Also the performance-installation piece entitled Shrine from the same year is important in this context: the performance consisted of the artist kneeling down in front of an ATM machine in the center of the city of Omis and folding hands as if he was to pray.
To come back to the original topic, although other art historians so far have tried to establish connections between Ex nihilo and works from famous artists from previous periods, the author himself negates any conscious reference to other peoples’ works; he is an individual, an alchemist who is trying to ﬁnd his own answer of the “hidden past and biology.“10 On the other hand, in an interview he gave to Jutarnji list he mentioned something contrary: “ I ﬁnd Romanesque illuminations and sculpture interesting because of horror vacui. Today science teaches us that ina n ‘empty’ space particles are constantly created and constantly disappear. The empty space, as such, does not exist.“11 As I stated above, he negates possible references to other artists, although an art historian may contextualize Ex nihilo as descendants of surrealism, e.g. of Ives Tanguy and his shapes in The Sun in Its Jewel Case (Le soleil dans son écrin),12 or the ones in the painting There, Motion Has Not Yet Ceased (Là ne ﬁnit pas encore le mouvement).13 What is more, Mladen Lučić in his preface to the exhibition Every Living Thing in Pula writes about “new Mannerism realized by Tomasovic as a discursive answer to realisms in Croatian art and to Croatian contemporary art in general.“14 Moreover, another formal caracteristic of Ex nihilo are colors. They serve to the artist not as an emotional trigger, but as an instrument used in experimenting with volumes and space. The artist is aware of the fact that the audience does not look art today in the same way as previous audiences ﬁfty years ago, so he accentuates the eﬀect of visual overload and paints until it almost becomes too much. This understanding of art and painting the artist sums up in his somewhat parodic alter-ego called Insipiens. Therefore his characters are not evil and should not be scary, although at ﬁrst glance may be at least considered as ugly. Tomasovic was always interested in unusual characters, and he has been working on them and exhibiting them for years in his bestiarii. What is more, one could consider Ex nihilo as bestiarii as well.
Finally, we can conclude that Ex nihilo, but also art of Tomasovic in general, does not ﬁt stylistically in Croatian contemporary art scene. In my opinion, he should be distinguished not necessarily because of the topics he deals with (although he is solitary here too), but because of the morphology of his characters, because of the particular choice of colors he does, because of horror vacui, his eclecticism in multi-mediality, but also theoretical answers he provides to accompany his art. Although Ex nihilo is not his ﬁrst big cycle, it marked and framed a very long and important episode of Tomasovic’s artistic and professional life and may prove to be a milestone in his trajectory.
Ex nihilo nihil ﬁt
1 Vice Tomasović, taken from https://www.jutarnji. hr/kultura/art/vice-tomasovic-suvremenu-umjetnost-treba-disperzirati-na-otoke-i-u-sela/4621073
2 Starting from 150 x 110cm or 170 x 110cm, but also 120 x 208cm and 200 x 270cm
3 Morana Matkovic, preface to Tomasovic’s exhibition in Lauba, 11.3.-23.4.2015.
4 Ivan Dorotic, Duhovni imaginarij i titual poglavice, 23.3.2015., taken from https://vizkultura.hr/duhoviti-imaginarij-i-titula-poglavice/
5 http://www.culturenet.hr/ default.aspx?id=69244
6 “These characters are made without any particular thinking or planning. Actually, the whole process is an experiment, because one never knows how the painting will look in the end,“ Maja Hrgović, Vice Tomasović: Nisi afirmiran sve dok nisi afirmiran u Zagrebu, taken
7 From the interview with the artist, 5.5.2017.
9 http://www.culturenet.hr/ default.aspx?id=62121
10 From the interview with the artist, 5.5.2017.
12 Flint, Lucy. Yves Tanguy. The Sun in Its Jewel Case ( Le soleil dans son écrin ) preuzeto s https:// www.guggenheim.org/artwork/4034
13 Davidson, Susan, There, Motion Has Not Yet Ceased (Là ne finit pas encore le mouvement) preuzeto s https:// www.guggenheim.org/artwork/14607
14 “Paintings and objects presented at this exhibition are an important refreshment on Croatian art scene, that has been in recent years oversaturated by paintings of so called new figurations or new hyper-realisms.“ Mladen Lučić, Sve živo
EX NIHILO 3 (Prima Materia), 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 170 x 220 cm
SURREAL WORLDS OF PHANTASMAGORIC CHARACTERS
by Renata Busatto
Vice Tomasović, an academytrained painter from Omis, is the author of a painterly cycle entitled Ex nihilo. This series, presented at many exhibitions, e.g. at the homonymous show in 2015 in Lauba or at the 32nd Youth Salon, is characterized like many artworks in his opus by phantasmagoric and psychodelic worlds with a strong inﬂuence of surrealism, that the artist uses to answer the enigma of the creation of the world and life, and the accompanying questions of the past and future. The very title of the series evokes the beginning of the world and the cosmogonic interpretation of it. In this context it is interesting to note that every painting of the cycle may be interpreted individually, but also as taking part in the larger narrative. Although we do not ﬁnd the original element that led to the creation of the world, as suggested by La recontre des elements of Kurt Seligmann, or the abstract protozoes of Bruce Riley, when we look at Tomasovic’s paintings, we look at the ocean’s depths full of invertebrates and vertebrates. Complemented by chaotic events these living organisms are deprived of strict boundaries among each other. This oceanic imagery depicting the ﬁrst proliferation is presented as an open and very dynamic, almost cyclical composition. From the smallest to the biggest creatures on the canvases, there is on hierarchy. All the characters are taking part in a harmonious relationship. Also the colors have the same function. From dimmed grey and pastel shades to rich nuances of red, the colors are used to portray the both ﬂatness and the depth of an ocean. If we look more closely we can see the imaginary creatures depicted in humorous way: e.g. the characters that have the fangs do not look threatening at all, such as those of Clive Barker, for example. Therefore, these miniature creatures trapped in chaotic events in the depths of the ﬁrst ocean are depicted in one moment of time in a particular space without any obvious answer to the mystery of the beginning of life. The rich olors and shapes ask the observer to dive into this phantasmagoric world that may seem familiar to us, however, at the same time stays an unsolved puzzle that calls for reﬂection and questioning of the bigger questions of one’s past and future.
EX NIHILO 1, 2014.
acrylic on board (detail)
EVERY LIVING THING
by Mladen Lučić
Exactly one year ago, Vice Tomasović, young artist from Split, walled himself up in the concrete bunker of the former Admiralty in Pula. He progressively walled up with bricks the entrance shaft from the inside out, one brick at a time, until the entrance became completely closed and he himself stayed trapped in the interior of the cold and somewhat apocalyptic ediﬁce. This piece, entitled Penance, the artist performed in the context of the 14th Days of Performance Varazdin, manifestation that was repeated then in Pula in collaboration with Museum of Contemporary Art of Istra. That was the ﬁrst encounter of our city and this artist, who came back with his recent works, predominantly paintings, exhibited now at a solo show entitled Sve zivo (Every living thing). At the ﬁrst glance it seems that there are no tight connections between the performance and this painterly cycle, but we will get back to that.
His paintings and objects represent a refreshment on Croatian artistic scene, that has been in the past few years saturated with painting of the so called new ﬁguration or new hyper-realisms. Tomasovic oﬀers an alternative that is seemingly seemingly surrealist, however, it is my opinion that here we can talk more about a new Mannerism realized as a discursive answer to the aforementioned realisms and to Croatian art scene in general. Historically speaking, Mannerism was a reaction to the ﬁgural and spatial objectivity of the Renaissance, its coherence and order that led the art then to perfectionism.
Mannerism introduces a certain unrest and dissolution of Renaissance’s harmony, it introduces perspectival extensions and reductions, an escape from linear perspective, frontal lighting, simetry and golden ratio, and partially it strives for the come-back of the Medieval horror vacui. Together with the playful, accentuated colorism, this fear of the empty space is one of the characteristics of the paintings of Tomasovic, full of miniature animals with antropomorphic features. His paintings resemble the fantastic world of Hyeronimus Bosch, the imagery of phantasmagoric symbiosis of ﬁgural shapes of Arcimboldo, they resemble horror vacui we can ﬁnd in El Greco or Tintoretto, while his ornaments, sort of artist’s modus vivendi, get him further of the aforementioned masters of Mannerism in the direction of the Renaissance painting of Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. Mannerist inﬂuence has been visible in the art of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Ives Tanguy in the last century, so it is not unusual to ﬁnd indications of this style in contemporary art. However, to look surrealism in Tomasovic’s art it is important to grasp his whole imagery, with its minutely painted fantasy creatures of herbal and animal origins, that have some human features. With their movements, interweaving and magically symbolic positioning they evoke surrealist painting. They open a miraculous, imaginative and lucid world that we discover in details of authors’ compositions that are obviously nor representing reality as such, but suggest indirectly a possible past or future of the world.
Today, when genetic engineering is taking over natural biological functions of people, controlling our oﬀspring and dictates our nutrition, we cannot be sure of anything. If we believe in this kind of science, we do not know what mutations led to the emergence of Homo sapiens, and we do not know in which direction multinational corporation (that control the processes of genetic engeneering) will end the story of human species. We are getting closer and closer to to world of Alien, and we do not even know at this point if we originate from it. However, despite this pessimistic context, paintings and objects of Tomasovic communicate good vibes and act as if they jumped out of the Wunderkammer of a sweet-tempered alchemist. Their compositions are mysterious in the iconography the artist uses, but their atmosphere in general is cheerful and lighthearted. This atmosphere is realized not rarely with humorous portraits and caricatures of his real and imaginary characters, and their symbiosis. Even if we look at the Romanesque bestiarii, that the artist takes for his reference they do not look so scary today as they looked to a medieval Christian who was to look at the depictions of hell inside and take it as a reminder to lead an honest and humble life as prescribed by the Bible. Today, when we look at these groups at the entrances and pillars in the cathedrals we can see funny images that would very diﬃcultly be able to warn us of the atrocities of hell and serve as corrective in our daily lives. The most important aspect here is therefore the context and time from which we are looking at something and this is something that the artist is trying to state, he namely enables us to interpret his artworks freely without constraints of his personal cultural or artistic worldviews. Let us go back to the beginning and the aforementioned performance.
There the artist also refers to the past and does this sort of hommage to the supposed witches and their punishing. The women that were accused of being witches were not only burnt alive but also walled up in Medieval houses and castles. Here the artist pays respect to innocent victims of ideological manipulations and condemns repressive regimes, he also touches upon the magical and mystical sphere again. By connecting the bricks in the wall with clay, the basic material on earth (used supposedly also by God in creation of the man) he talks about puriﬁcation and penance to suggest that penance is necessary to avoid the future full of phantasmagoric mutants, such as those moving on his canvases.
EX NIHILO 4 (Us), 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 150 x 110 cm
EX NIHILO (NIHIL FIT)
by Draženka Jalšić Ernečić
Vice Tomasović is an artist that uses diﬀerent media, from easel painting to performance art. In this sense he belongs to the circle of young Croatian artists from Split that attach same importance to social activism and to their artistic life, multilingualism and sort of hyperactivity. In this context, provocations, puns, and an active and often hyper-emotional dialogue with the public is more than recommended. This is accompanied with the ability to multitask in the art world in the most general sense. Vice is also a typical representative of this generation inclined to a strong visual experience and aesthetic standards prescribed both by virtual and real worlds.
Regardless if one is a theist or an atheist, believes or not in commons sense, the question of the beginnings of beginnings of life is innate to everybody. Especially to an artist. A painter in front of an empty canvas is almost scared of careless or wrong beginnings. This problem is annulled when one starts shaping the Idea on the white surface of the canvas. Art comes form the Idea, form the mental projection and it seems that it was there before being transposed to the canvas. Tomasovic in the cycle entitled Ex nihilo is coming back to the roots of the traditional painting and is concentrated on the questions of origins, of the space in philosophical, metaphysic and creative sense.
He connects the old subject of the dialectical debate primarily to the idea of artistic creation, although we can contextualize the problem in the framework of theology, philosophy, physics, metaphysics, esotery, science, sociology, logic, psychology… The context is always in question.
Vice Tomasović questions his own inspiration. Regardless of the format, his paintings are intimate monologues that he uses to ask himself what gets him going. There he ﬁnds diﬀerent answers, and in these diﬀerent layers he ﬁnds himself as the demiurge that creates chaotic worlds from the primordial state. As a painter, when he interweaves his creatures on canvas, he emphasizes the importance of philosophical approach to the artistic process. That categorizes him as one of the artists that question the order and harmony of aesthetical principles and that shape the message of an artwork on a mimetic level. Therefore, Tomasovic implements the concept of mimesis as his guideline. This idea of painting without thinking and planning much in its basis owes something to illuminated medieval manuscripts and to prehistoric decorations of Celtic and continental European traditions. Tomasovic is in his paintings trying to answer the question of the beginning of the beginning. Here, in his cosmogony we can see also horror vacui. Therefore, he, like a medieval painter, ﬁlls the canvas with interweaved creatures and develops his imagery that would be a good case study for a Freudian or Jungian analysis. The artist emphasizes the opacity of the multitude of ﬁgures, and the endless repetitions without a discernible beginning or end; he negates the frame of the painting in order to negate the border between the real and imaginary. He expands his compositions endlessly so as to create alternative models of the origin of the world, to create a new reality outside of history where the passage of time is static. Among chaos and order in the universe, Tomasovic is trying to ﬁnd some kind of connection and harmony.
His canvases are developed on the basis of dynamic symmetrical composition that have their pictorial and conceptual frame outside of the canvas itself. This is connected to the concept of horror vacui, and simultaneously recalls medieval ornamental bestiary, ancient Epicurean philosophy and contemporary quantum physics. On metaphysical level, these artworks represent a personam metaphor of the universe derived from an artistic Idea. Human- and animal-like ﬁgures represent a connection of the spiritual and material spheres, and in their complexity and preciseness they reﬂect the author’s perception of the archetypal images and his spiritual state. It is obvious that he is not the ﬁrst to deal with a topic of this kind, e.g. Lucretius in his De Rerum Natura concludes that “Nothing can be made from nothing – once we see that’s so, Already we are on the way to what we want to know”, and Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ uses almost the same words in the beginning of the Act I when he talks to Cordelia. Tomasovic, as stated above, follows the tradition of researching the aforementioned questions and he is focused on the fact that the origin of the world is caused by the existence of something else before. Therefore, his artworks partially are very personal and peculiar, and partially belong to the tradition.
From the personal side, although the author is aware of the causal relationships and is genuinely interested in the nature of his artistic drive, he has no intentions of answering the raised questions by force. He acknowledges the power of the artistic inspiration that can in this context be connected to the creatio ex nihilo, the dogma attached to the energies that move everything. Vice Tomasović believes in the existence of this energy that he (sub) consciously identiﬁes as the artistic Idea that forces him not to neglect his own views of the origins of the world, cosmogony and something that often one can sum up in the collocation ‘meaning of life’.
Rudolf Arnheim (1954; 1974) Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. University of California Press. ISBN 978-052002-613-1
Carl Gustav Jung (1964; 1987) Čovjek i njegovi simboli. Zagreb, Mladost. ISBN 86-05-00080-5
Owen Jones (1856) The Grammar of Ornament. London: Published by Day and Son. Collection: Smithsonian Libraries https://archive. org/details/ grammarornament00Jone
Substance is Eternal This terror, then this darkness of the mind, Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light, Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse, But only Nature’s aspect and her law, Wich teaching us, hath this exordium: Nothing from nothing ever yet was born. — Lucretius (50 BCE) De Rerum Natura
EX NIHILO 4 (Them), 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 150 x 110 cm
EX NIHILO 6, 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 160 x 110 cm
by Igor Grizetić
Phantasmagoric iconography in visions are not rarely materialized by words, paintings, sculptures, photography, ﬁlm, and sometimes by ritual dance or performance. We can see this in the worlds established on the scenes of genesis and apocalypse, their endless alternatives crated in peoples’ hallucinations, witchcraft or dreams. Dante Alighieri, John Milton, Heronymus Bosch, Jan Mandyn or Giuseppe Arcimboldo are only some of the visionaries whose heritage served as the basis for people like Yves Tanguy, Dado Duric, Ernst Fuchs, Giger, Matthew Barney or Ridley Scott. Even lately, in the time of hyper-modernist neorealism, we can see (iconographically) similar content redeﬁned as the new mythology by genetic engineering. All of this leads us to a very diﬀerent Phantasm, that according to Lacanian psychoanalysis represents a knot where desire and her imaginary object are connected, and where we can ﬁnd to truths: a content that can be described by words, and something that is not possible to describe on conscious level. Therefore, phantasm in the pictorial sense can be deﬁned as a screen that separates the viewer from his reality. This screen i a formo f misunderstanding, because the image, in the general meaning of the word, is unable to visualize the reality (following the Gombrich’s observations). Quite contrary, observer and the world around him are separated by a visual construction.
This barrier is in Tomasovic’s artworks conﬁrmed by the canvas. His visions do not represent the world as we see it but they frame it with phantasm. But what kind of phantasm is it? Tomasovic creates landscapes deprived of any concrete space, but ﬁlled with series of hybrid
entities physically intertwined, thusly indicating the obvious horror vacui. Tomasovic bases his painterly style on the manerist traditions and on the modernist representatives of diabolic and fantastic painting, like Giger for instance. Horror vacui, as a basic principle of Peripatetic physics, motivated many artists to try to face the emptiness of canvas. Tomasovic on the other hand ﬁlls his canvases from one corner to the other with a rain of human-like creatures, the intertwined variations connected with modiﬁed examples of ﬂora and fauna. This carefully created pantheon, accentuated by hyper-realist style, could be an image of an unknown genesis. However, if we invert the story, these paintings may warn about possible future scenarios, caused by experiments in the ﬁeld of genetic engineering. On the other hand, maybe creatures such as these have already inhabited Pannotia, Rodinia and Pangea, and have survived until today as fossil archetypes, as inherited, innate tendencies of human mind to crate myths. Tomasovic creates these myths by producing these colorful monumental (especially canvases Ex nihilo I and II) compositions that seem to be constantly in motion. Some are monochromatic (Us and them), close to Giger’s bio-mechanical universe (Ex nihilo III) also because of the density of depicted bodies and their threatening facial expressions.
If we step away from the part of phantasm that can be described by words, as it was stated in the paragraph above, we come to the part that we do not see, but somehow we do get to experience it. That refers to the patterns of energies, that form in the example of Tomasovic’s cosmogony and apocalypse in a peculiar imaginary order.
EX NIHILO 5 (Kozmogony), 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 150 x 110 cm
OUT OF NOTHING
by Morana Matković
Fear of the empty space was a characteristic of Romanic painting that resulted in ﬁlling the canvases, book pages or walls with antologies of herbal ornaments or animals, and where any possibility for three-dimensionality was constrained to the overlapping of surfaces. The surface of any of the aforementioned media needed to be ﬁlled completely in order to exclude the space as a traditional, linear background. Therefore, it was important to choose the right topic for the task. And how does it all look in contemporary painting? Vice Tomasović, for example, produces a peculiar visual world. More precisely, the painting that gave the title to the whole cycle and exhibitions, Ex nihilo I/Out of Nothing I is ﬁlled with thousands of ﬁs, sea creatures, octopuses, snails, turtles, insects, and ﬁnally, all and every kind of weird human-like creatures minutely and patiently drawn with acrylic paint. These ﬁgures are placed on a branchy plant-like drawing in the background. This humorous imagery of tiny creatures refers to the eternal cyclical processes in nature, and cosmogonic connotations are emphasized by the title ‘Out of Nothing’. The viewer drowns in these paintings and it is indispensable to see them in person. While creating a coherent visual vocabulary, the artist states that these phantasmagoric scenes are real narratives belonging to world’s history and future. In these mystical messages, with all the quantity of real and invented characters, plants and animal-like ﬁgures in the suffocating atmosphere, the observer is obliged to read their meanings independently, and to create the connections between the mythologies on the canvases. Ex nihilo II
repeats this explosion of life trapped in the shoal of ﬁsh that the painter uses to direct our attention to the center of the canvas, to the sort of dance of these unusual shapes that celebrate the creation of life. The artist connects the medieval horror vacui with his surrealist visions, and also to his version of Croatian Naive Art that he realized in 2013. With this peculiar mixture of surrealism, symbolism and elements of Romanesque painting, Tomasovic created a new visual language of some new mythology.
EX NIHILO 8, 2016.
acrylic on canvas, 160 x 110 cm
by Lana Beović
Introducing the opus of Vice Tomasović seems like a phantasmagoric biology lesson from parallel universe. His cosmogony has no beginning or end (as is suggested by the title itself), and the viewers are confronted by an explosion of creatures that encumber the optic nerves and that suck the viewer in the sea of bodies and details of the canvas itself.
If we compare this series of artworks with the paintings of The real history of the world where the author poses the question of alternative life where animals and plants would trade places (resulting in human-like creatures called Homo Herbe) we can see that he has been continuously dealing with the subject of the origins and developments of life. In Ex nihilo he deals with animallike versions of a potential alternative evolution, and in the last artwork he made, he takes another step ‘forward’ in this evolutional passage, and presents human-like ﬁgures.
The main characteristic of Ex nihilo III is, like in the previous paintings, dispersion of life on undetermined monochromatic backgrounds. There the explosion of characters, that seem to spread from a compressed core and achieve dynamic compositions by their diagonal positioning, results in a vibrant horror vacui of impressive dimensions. Obviously, one must view these acrylics in person to understand their size and also, to see that Ex nihilo III for instance can be reorganized. The two canvases, namely, function as a whole regardless of the way in which you set them together. These artworks, therefore, have the possibility to be composed in diﬀerent ways. This very artwork is characterized by the lack of coloring that is present in other paintings by the artist.
Although it does “encumber the optic nerve“ it does communicate a sense of harmony as well. Besides the aforementioned medieval fear of the empty space, other (sub)conscious inﬂuences can be found in Tomasovic’s paintings, such as Hieronymus Bosch, but also organic suggestions of Ordan Petlevski (even more present in Tomasovic’s artworks) or sci-ﬁ moments of H.R. Giger. These artworks disclose something new every time a person is looking at them. Also, there are references to surrealism, like those to blank spaces of Yves Tanguy or to unusual characters of Max Ernst.
Since his characters evolve with every new piece the artist creates, we can only follow his course and see in what ways this alchemist will intrigue us with his alternative worlds.