Assistant Curators: Antonija Mihovilović and Božo Kesić

In four units and over 90 artworks Univerzum Trebotić exhibition maps the sum of Matko Trebotić's (Milna, 1935) five decades-long career and work. It does so through presentation of several artistic disciplines, starting with traditional and non-traditional painting techniques and sculptures, public space and site-specific installations and film and photography documentation of his mise-en-scène projects and stage curtains. The exhibition is built around the most recent series of paintings made from 2009 to present day that embody Trebotić's personal cosmogony through the use of key themes, motifs, symbols, technical solutions and experience he has utilised and developed during his career. The differentiation of exhibition units is based on the reinterpretation of Trebotić's specific understanding of reality and human existence, divided into the impression of the Mediterranean as an enclosed universe, the feeling of destiny defined by soil and territory, the affirmation of cultural heritage and construction of one’s own cultural identity within paradigm of global civilisation and the sanctity of life. In terms of visual content, exhibition units overlap and complement each other. Three exhibition units are presented on the ground floor and the fourth one begins with a sculpture in front of the Museum, developing through the atrium and the lobby, and ending on the first floor, within the display of Old Masters Collection.


The cycle begins with a certain kind of Big Bang – five small format, dark paintings made from 1960 to 1968 that depict landscape reduced to compact matter by burning material, strategy typical of art informel. In 2009, after five decades of intensive artistic work and articulation of trademark visual vocabulary, Trebotić made a complete turn towards the light. His yet unrealised ambition of making a completely white painting resulted in increasingly reduced colour registre, especially regarding warm, earth tone colours. The colours of the latter paintings were gradually reduced to a contrast between white and the cool tone of blue-purple spectre. In order to paint this cycle, Trebotić developed a secret formula that leaves an effect of permanent freshness of the compositions painted on canvas and paper. They are realised in rows of layers that, along with richly accumulated matter and dense grid of pen and colour drawings, shine through to the surface and pulse vividly in all of its segments. Trebotić's recognisable visual lexis comprises medieval churches’ ground-plans, Glagolitic alphabet, crosses, outlines of islands and cypresses that are interpreted as a multitude of signs spread across canvas, driven, concealed and rediscovered by vehement strokes of a paintbrush in a metaphore of their historical, future and cosmic unpredictability and beauty.


Matko Trebotić's worldview was formed as a result of an intensive interaction with local and international cultural production. The experience of working within international context during the golden ages of Düsseldorf visual scene in the seventies resulted in Trebotić's realisation that creating one’s own cultural code and self-knowledge are prerequisites of international relevance and success. This, starting with a collaboration and friendship with Joseph Beuys, would be a determinant factor of entire Trebotić's oeuvre up to his latest painting cycle. Therefore, particular part of this exhibition presents artworks directly referring to the historical cultural heritage, as well as its relation to contemporary culture phenomena and, more importantly, its socio-political context. The series of monumental stage curtains intended for the national theatres in Dubrovnik, Split, Šibenik and Rijeka, as well as Homage to the Cities painting cycle are indicative in regards to heritage references. No less significant is Trebotić's continuous participation in the Adria Art Anale, manifestation that has nurtured Split artistic scene's inclination towards critical-constructive clash with current cultural-political position. In this segment of oeuvre Matko Trebotić gave himself the greatest freedom of creation and, thus, employed up to date printing techniques as a base for the subsequent painterly interventions. This exhibition unit also reveals Trebotić's fascination with theatre by presenting photography documentation of his numerous mise-en-scene designs intended for the national theatres in Split and Zagreb, the film about the making of stage curtain for the Croatian National Theatre in Dubrovnik and the painting On the Trail of Bluebeared that was converted to the theatre poster.


During his career, Matko Trebotić has developed a recognisable personal style, a specific visual art matrix with which he contributed to the integration of historical and indigenous cultural topoi of his Dalmatian homeland into a modern artistic vocabulary. From this formula - whose prominent and recognisable elements include small churches with bellcotes, brown soil, steep hill slopes with cypresses, the graphicism of original alphabets and the blueness of the sea - Trebotić developed an entire series of derivatives ranging from the monumental colouristic explosions of festive curtains for the national theatres, to the installations reduced to cross forms made of stones arrayed following the traditional “dry“ building technique. Trebotić's concept is in its essence created following a rational artistic procedure dedicated to the programme of (self)determining his own culturological specific quality within the context of global importance and relationships of the Düsseldorf art scene where Trebotić, at the end of 1970s and the beginning of 1980s, started to work and exhibit extensively. It is precisely in this period, at the end of domination of the two comparative narratives -modernism and avant-garde - that the post-modernist spiritual space was created, which would, alongside its programme guidelines, affirm individuality, exoticism and the inclusion of historic cultural heritage. Trebotić's variant of combining the experience of a geographically defined culturological code with the aesthetics that at the same time relied on the principles of modernist painting and the neo-avant-garde artistic procedures, fulfilled completely the conceptual and creative ambitions of its époque.


Matko Trebotić's installations have developed spontaneously and parallel to the rest of his oeuvre, and, besides having sculptural and ambiental qualities, they are marked with strong colours which are important in detection and understanding of their meaning. These often spectacular compositions are intended both for interiors and exteriors, and express Trebotić's proverbial vitalism in overcoming not only conceptual and technical, but also production aspects imposed by contemporary art paradigm. In his installations and mise en scenes, Trebotić introduces his trademark visual vocabulary into the third dimension, thus emphasising its votive, even ritual aspects. One can easily recognise it in the immanent spirituality of the Red Vertical, the magic of golden cross, positioned along stone-made jar in shape of the medieval church and filled with olive oil, installation in tribute to J. Beuys and P. Lüchau, and comprehension of the importance of family continuity in the installation The last Death in the Old Hospital made especially for this occasion. By lunging into the space outside of a painting, or even further, beyond institution and into public space, installations reinforce existential dimension of Trebotić's work and his responses to the universal question about the meaning of life and creativity. His awareness of the ultimate sanctity of life, generally apparent in the traces made by artists that have surpassed transience and death, Trebotić expresses in the categories of beauty, continuity and authenticity.

The exhibition was organised with the support of the Split-Dalmatia County and the City of Split.
Acknowledgments: Daniel Vukov, G.O.BETA