BRANKA'S "MYSTICAL MYTHOLOGY"
Through her mystical visions Branka Brmbota Radakovich has placed herself in this our world beyond "rationalistic speculations" - metaphorically, I would say, to challenge by her elevation of this moment the gravitation of "modernity". Such a position is, undoubtedly, quite an unusual challenge, peculiar to a painter caught off his "guard" against the so called "historical postulates", one whose defence mechanism has failed to warn him about the danger of ephemeralization and marginalization in a world where a trendy orientation is a guaranty of success and affirmation, secured by the all-powerful art galleries corporations. Branka stands alone, unsupported by any fashionable trends or attractive neon lights promotion or protective trendy critical reviews, without large sums of money that are being invested in the famous representatives of the actual art. Her only support is her defiant talent, that dissident talent which enables her to resist the conformism of the old and new avantgarde, which has usurped the right to decide about historical "legitimacy". According to the logic of this division on trend followers and others, confirmed also by the powerful trendy critique, Branka has found herself left out in the open, outside of the protective circle of the "trendy crowd", forced to suffer the isolation and hardships of those who refuse to obey the dictate of "historical moment".
Branka is attentively listening to her "inner voices", which are obviously not in agreement with the so called "historical moment", she paints in a firm belief that her disturbing Boschian visions represent the steps leading to the very center of our dramatic, closing century. She is searching for a place in the sun for her vision, the vision which is her /and our/ human truth. Precisely there, in that point of spontaneity and true mystical elation, Branka is turning away from the Manichaean dualism typical for the post -avantgarde period, refusing to accept the division of our world into just two possibilities: "realism" and "irrealism", refusing to accept radical extremes as the only aspect of art in our time. She sees her chance in disagreement, in opposition to the established conventions and settled trend orientations, without, however, the rigid and unrelenting attitude of an "orthodox" fanatic, who is defending the "only valid" truth with fire and sword. Indeed, Branka is no belligerent dissident, she is merely searching for this place in the sun for her own truth, which defies snobism and exclusivism of the, so called, "actual moment" of contemporary art.
In her reflections Branka has "skipped over" that biblical episode about expulsion from the Garden of Eden, she has avoided the counter with the crafty snake that has sweet-talked Adam into accepting the apple of doubt. She doesn't doubt, she trusts her vision of mystical structure of our world, she believes in the Garden of Eden of human fantasy. In spite of sophistication of her art, she has kept intact her childish belief in a world without dividing line between possible and impossible. To a superficial observer, who has to - due to his lack of creative fantasy - label all ideas in accordance with already existing patterns, who in other words feels disoriented in an unpredictable world, full of mystery and surprises, the mystical component of Branka's work might seem outdated and in an open conflict with "rationalism" of the actual moment, the actuality of which might not necessarily be the actuality of the historical moment. In fact, the lack of concord with the, so called, actual moment, has quite often proved to be a historical chance for the art. After all, isn't it true that the loss of common language and understanding at the time of building biblical Tower of Babylon turned out to be the historical turning point in the history of our humanity? And isn't it true that the post-modern is built on deviations from all conformisms of our time? That is precisely where Branka has her chance.
Branka did not develop into a "surrealist" conformable to that Daliesque formula of "paranoid-critical activity", in fact, she did not follow any formula, she became that what she is by following her "romantic" nature, by refusing "realities",by her submission to the restless fantasy and her unconditional loyalty to her individuality. But this is, anyhow, the only possible starting point for every creative artist. In her case, joining of any trend would mean transplantation without the roots, the loss of possibility to survive beyond her own artistic time. Any form of adaptation would be an unbearable simplification, an open door to formalism, the dangerous loos of personality. Because of her unspeculative nature, she is not the curious explorer who is knocking on doors of many problems, she is passionately occupied with the obsessive vision of a secret, mystical world, wherein she sees herself in a role of biblical Creator, separating the Earth from the Heavens, the firm ground from the waters, deciding about life and death, about the human fate. In an environment of seraphic beauty permeated with the fallen angel's perversness and cynical sagacity, Branka has created her world according to the rules of her own cosmogony significantly divergent from the trendy structures, building strictly and logically the structure of her own, individual world.
Branka's world is built upon the secret, the mystery, the unknown, upon surprise and unpredictability. This is the world in a whirl of its incomprehensibly distant formation, in the moment of tectonic clash, the moment when "heaven and earth are moving", those moments of which we are reminded by the words of the hymn sung at funerals, describing the horrors of the Judgement Day: the globe is destroyed by Boschian fires and in this vision of incineration of our world, within flowers of ice the new life is being born. In these paintings everything is caught in the moments of tectonic formation of the world, the moments that clearly symbolise the moment of birth and formation of our humanity. And whether in this seraphic environment we see the figure of Jesus Christ appearing within the fiery tunnel or whether we see a mountain poetically crystallizing into a female figure or some "illegible" flora and fauna aggressively covering the newborn world, everything in this mystical cycle is subordinated to the signs of our human existence in the cosmographic map of our world. We are existing, at the same time, on both sides of the external Sin, in poetry and reality, in the lowest depths of our humanity within the 7th circle of Dante's Hell and in the highest sphere of his Paradise.
The way I see Branka's world, it is an almost literal (re)interpretation of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, it represents that decisive and secret moment in which the Divine Spirit is hovering over all our darknesses, over our uncertain human fate, it represents that mystical moment of the birth of poetry and of our lyrical exaltation with the world around us. The cooling lava is shaping into mountains, mountain chains and valleys, and its layers are transforming into a rocky cradle of life; the rivers are breaking through toward the unknown seas, turning into the life-bringing arteries, our planet is opening like a juicy shell turning into a stony flower. The first reptile in the history of our planet is sunning itself on a barren rock and the very first genes are being implanted like young, unprotected plants in the homo primigenius. Our old world is still in the state of pre-existence, its dramatic destiny is still unknown. Heavens and earth are still burning and from this glowing magma, from this turbulence of intensive colours, emerges the man like the reptile from the cradle of the sea. Poetry is the purest filtrate of our porous and petrified world.
In this entire dramatic cycle Branka remains consistently faithful to her "initial mythology" and all these forms, in which already in 1962, at the beginning of her artistic career, Dr. Matko PeiÊ has discovered "wonderful powers of her youthful imagination". One should, of course, take this "Book of Genesis" cycle in Branka's opus with a grain of caution, cum grano salis, or figuratively speaking, as poetic transformations of her human reality. All the original forms of our world are summarized in "historic memory" of her paintings. Her paintings are both, the basement and roof of our world, accessible to our darknesses and our light. This is the cradle of life and the coffin of our inhumanity. This is the eternal, Promethean picture of humanity tortured by doubts and uncertainties.
In Branka's exciting drama of (per)mutations of our world, everything is, in a pictorial sense, strictly subordinated to this and such "bizarre" story, from the poetic vision and structuring of the picture, to the formation of coloured encrustation. So, as Dr. Predrag MatvejeviÊ said in 1964, what we see in Branka's paintings is not "methodic reduction", but rather "freedom of the model and its expansion". It is almost as if Branka's paintings contain the sediments of all historic art forms, from Bosch to Dali. As if the "crudeness" of her palette has acquired cartain new sensibility, unknown to the sophisticated Parisian coloration. In this stylistically balanced and thematically rounded off cycle (1993 -1998) there has obviously come to the short circuit in connection with the tradition, to the break with historic phantasmagoric art; Branka begins with the creation of the world, with the pre-formation, with homo primigenius.
This has unavoidably led her away from the fashion and "generational curiosity", away from the trends of the new avantgarde which follows rationalistic postulates of historic pioneers. This, of course, meant loneliness, isolation, separation from the laboratory of the new avantgarde. In this isolation she has created exhibits for some new, presupposed "imaginary museum", her work, created in opposition to the museum art, was at the same time created with ability to attain the museum value. Museum art against museum art, the new art for the new museum!
Regardless of how absurd this formula may seem, how unfounded by previous practice, it is, in fact, more than acceptable within the postulates of post-modern, within its tolerance and scope, its limitless range of pluralism and contempt for limitations of prejudice. The possibilities of this formula can be equally detected in the Daliesque tradition, as in the phantasmagoric art of former and more recent past. To some people the theses postulated in this introduction may seem at odds with the contemporaneity, as well as with the traditional art. But was it not the case with all phenomena marking the break-away from the old and established and the break-through to some new and unexplored areas, those phenomena which presumed the acceptance of an uncertain outcome of the new adventure, the acceptance of a nonconformist and heretic position? Creative fantasy always disregards the consequences of heresy and isolation, of silence and contempt of the guild members. Its path is determined solely by the artist's nature and the originality of artistic vision. And this is exactly what Branka Brmbota Radakovich is proving in this cycle of "mystical mythologies".
Prof. Josip Depolo, Zagreb, 1998