The burdens born by the Generation Z today, that is, long-term experiences of alienation, depression and fear have resulted in the artist’s self-imposed isolation and his escape into the sphere of digital media, while the accompanying feelings can be summed up by the generic term of ennui. Translated into English, the French title noun, ennui, describes a feeling of boredom, listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of excitement. The said descriptions become a thematic inspiration for Frančić’s new series.

Mihael Frančić creates a series of eight psychological self-portraits that convey his inner state, which is reflected in depression, lethargy, anxiety and trauma. The experienced trauma suffered through verbal and physical violence has translated into a desire to avoid unnecessary public exposure. This time, however, the artist consciously exposes himself on canvas. The works are based on photographs of the artist’s body and environment taken with a mobile device from different perspectives. The perspective of the captured photographs forms a realistic (and the only possible) view of a person’s body, which remains within its boundaries because the artist creates them within the limits of his own possibilities, that is, his hand position. Intimate photos of the body and the environment are developed as studies in a digital program, and are then transferred onto the canvas with oil and acrylic paints. Studies made in the digital format show the artist’s long-standing commitment to finding inspiration in real life. On the other hand, the desire to leave the safe zone of the virtual world has overwhelmed the self-repressed problems that were cathartically purified by physically working on the painting.

Symbolically, the titles of the works accompany each of the problems the artist faces in daily life. In his works, the artist tells a personal story, and he announces in advance, with carefully selected colours, each of the problems he draws attention to on a particular canvas. The pink background of the work “Without a Voice” merges with the grey and purple coating on the depicted self-portrait and evokes the rawness and nakedness of human flesh, while the same pink colour in the work “Perception” symbolises passivity and excessive emotion. On the other hand, the orange colour embodies the feeling of frustration, and the surfaces painted blue evoke melancholy, longing and sadness. For the artist, the yellow environment is synonymous with happiness, while the green forms suggest the decay that causes final decomposition. The red colour symbolises strong emotions that burn inside the artist, which are manifested as personal dissatisfaction with the quality of moments he has experienced.

The preposition “without” interconnects Frančić’s three smaller works (90 x 60 cm). “Without a Voice”, “Without a Personality” and “Without a Future” consist of almost headless self-portraits of the artist. The weight of words spoken everyday oozes like three purple lines from the imagined mouth on the self-portrait of the headless character in the work “Without a Voice”. The inability of expressing emotions with words in a timely manner leads to frustration embodied by the orange colour in the work “Without a Personality”, in which the artist remains emotionally deprived like an inactive background object in space. The aforementioned limitations result in the fear of possible social oblivion and abandonment. The melancholy blue colour of the work “Without a Future” evokes the sadness and uncertainty of future life in which the artist will grow old alone. The “without” works are focused on the artist’s past actions the results of which will happen in the future. Can the artist change his habits, thoughts and assumptions? What are the current existential problems that the artist examines in the next five works from the series?

The work titled “Hunger” is one of the five larger-format works (150 x 100 cm) that embody the loss of self-control when it comes to eating and drinking. Never fully physically satisfied with food, but actually emotionally hungry, Frančić shapes his body into a “bottomless pit”, as one of the sources of his dissatisfactions. Various problems that have accumulated into layers of mental barriers are vividly depicted in the work “Sedimentation”. The envy and jealousy that the artist feels towards society and individuals metaphorically burst out of the work with green colour. The pink background of “Perception” is accompanied by the lack of emotional depth and a distorted feeling of love. Love and relationships are never black and white in nature, and one human eye depicted in one of the works does not provide deep knowledge. In the work “Relationships”, an individual in eternal competition between the environment and oneself draws conclusions about the importance of one’s own existence in society. Who does eventually prevail in the competition between the individual and the environment? Does success in life depend on the outcome? Do we lose our distinct personality if we become “fully fledged” members of the social community? The work “Deformation” embodies these questions posed by an ambitious individual, environmental pressure, risk-taking and a distorted image of one’s own achievements.

By breaking through our self-imposed boundaries, we step onto the path leading towards exciting and undiscovered experiences. Such a step, however, risks all the personal habits, opinions and assumptions that we currently abide by. Is the artist prepared for such uncertainty? What will happen? Through his works, the artist tries to answer these personal, but also general questions that affect every individual and society at large.

Do you recognise yourself?

Blaženka Miše

Mihael Frančić from the Painting Department, Arts Academy in Split (mentors: Full Prof. Viktor Popović and Ass. Prof. Neli Ružić) and Blaženka Miše from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Split (mentor: Ass. Prof. Dalibor Prančević, PhD) are this year's winners of the national A4 competition, intended for graduate students of art academies and students of art history .