LONAC AFTER A YEAR BREAK FROM PAINTING MURALS: IT FEELS LIKE THE FIRST DAY BACK IN THE GYM

May 16, 2022

Foto: Lonac & Petra Milovac
After this year's edition of xSTatic street art festival hosted artists Jarus and Lonac to paint the concrete towers of Spaladium Arena, we had the opportunity to talk to Lonac, the Zagreb-based visual artist. Colourful artwork done by Lonac and Jarus brought some joy to the previously sad and grey concrete façade on the east side of unfinished Spaladium Arena. Lonac told us all about the process of painting Spaladium Arena, about the questions he explores through his work, and what his impression of the street art scene in Split was.

The young Zagreb-based artist Lonac did his last mural in Aalborg, Denmark. In a very surrealist way, the mural depicts a girl dealing with insomnia and psychological stress as a consequence of a series of earthquakes in Northern part of Croatia. If the mural was to be multiplied, a certain myse-en-abyme would be created, showing how the girl is actually helping herself out and dealing with her own fears all alone. The works of Lonac, that are already recognisable to a wider audience, are woven into the background they’re designed on, overcoming the opposition of background versus artwork, thus bringing the surrounding to life. We were wondering if this kind of surrealism was always a style Lonac was using in his art. – As a kid I was always attracted by detailed illustrations with surrealist elements, and even though narrative painting is less appreciated in high arts in the 21st century and is always pushed to the domain of illustration, for me it has always been equal to any modern expression. The longer I’ve been in the world of “creative energy flow”, the more I start to enjoy the works that are completely opposite to my sensibility, but I still remain faithful to my childlike love towards narration – explains Lonac.

He commented on the recurring motive of cut composition, which would create an endless sequence if multiplied from any side. – My latest work highlights surreal elements because of the mentioned myse-en-abyme concept, even though it’s not completely correct to call it that since the composition is central and it is repeating itself inside the painting, and shrinking too. My idea was something like Šatra slang but in visual language, where I can cut one paining or motive in half and mix the order. This way I create an artwork with completely different meaning, and by connecting it to the initial design I get an endless sequence from both sides. Apart from street art, Lonac likes to express himself through different media: painting on canvas and drawing. We asked Lonac what are the differences in the approach to these different media and does he prefer one over the other? – It’s hard to say I prefer one over the other or that I enjoy one media more than the other. When I get enough of painting walls, I lock myself up in my atelier where I paint and draw. I’m not the type of person who can constantly do the same thing because I get bored easily, so I try to find the balance between the media I find myself most comfortable working in. My aim is to use these creative processes as a path to new realisations that get me hyped up to keep on working more and more – explains Lonac. – Lately I’ve been photographing and filming the process of my own work, and I’ve noticed some of the details I haven’t been aware of before. I see some elements that need to be reduced to make the whole realisation much easier, and another thing: I noticed I make silly face expressions while I paint… or maybe it's my usual face expression nobody never told me about.

We spoke with Lonac about the mural he painted on the walls of Spaladium Arena. When we first think of motives of humans with pots on their heads, plenty of things come to mind, such as “broken pots” (in Croatian: polupani lončići, a phrase used when hide-and-seek is played), “we’re all in the same pot” (in Croatian: svi smo u istom loncu, a phrase with the meaning “we’re all in the same position”), and after all, Lonac (in English: Pot) is the author’s alias. What kind of message lays beneath his pot-headed people? – Last year I accidentally came up with the idea of “broken pots” when I was doing a sketch in front of Lauba in Zagreb. When we played hide-and-seek as kids, we would shout “broken pots” if someone would cheat or disobey the rules. In the last couple of years that phrase turned into something different, especially on the Internet. My work related to this subject is trying to illustrate the world of grown-ups through the eyes of a child. That is the world of groups/tribes with a specific culture of calling one out instead of questioning your own self. I could write a couple of pages about this subject, but I think I illustrate the point better in my paintings. I believe some might understand my paintings as me trying to preach to others, but since my alias is Lonac, I hope it’s obvious enough I don’t feel like I’m immune to this type of criticism. Maybe that should be a starting point for all of us – says Lonac about the motives of pots who made him recognizable to wider audiences, too.

This was the first time for Lonac to work in Split. We asked him how he felt about having the opportunity to paint the concrete beauty a.k.a. Spaladium Arena and what was his impression of the street art scene in Split. – Now that I’m back in Zagreb and I’ve recovered from bura (Croatia's strongest wind), I can say I really enjoyed Split. The wall of the Spaladium Arena is the biggest one I’ve painted so far, and I’m happy to have my mural on a background like that one. My early wall paintings were mostly done on run down facades of really old or unfinished buildings, and that type of aesthetic is the one I like the most – commented Lonac. – As far as the street art scene in Split goes, I cannot say too much since I didn’t have the opportunity to see all the artwork the scene is made of. What I know is that a lot of famous artists from all over Croatia and from all over the world have painted in Split. Also, there are a lot of walls painted by football fans. Every big city known for a certain type of sport has a lot of fan-made graffiti. What Split needs more of is free-themed artwork and different styles that would enrich the street art scene even more and contribute to the visual identity to one of the best-known tourist cities in Croatia – said Lonac about the street art scene in Split. We were curious how Lonac started his collaboration with xSTatic festival. On his Instagram, the artist wrote he painted his last mural after a one-year gap. We asked him how it felt to participate in a street art festival after such a long break. – I’ve been in contact with Pero, the festival organiser, for some time now. There were previous invitations to paint some other walls, but I’m glad we managed to organise everything this year. We often talk about the artists we appreciate and support, as well as about those who we’d like to see painting in Croatia, so I think I complicated Pero’s life for the next year, bringing him 100 new names – says Lonac with cheeky laughter. – The process of painting a mural can be quite physically and mentally challenging, especially when the weather conditions are slowing down the whole process. When I’m in shape, I can get over any trouble and difficulty quite easily, but after a one-year break, it feels like first day at the gym after putting on weight – he explains figuratively.

The previous interviews Lonac gave have revealed his not overly positive attitude towards the art education he gained during his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. We asked him what his message would be to all those who are considering professional art education but feel demotivated by difficult entrance exams.
– A huge part of my dissatisfaction with education and generally with the way tge Academy works comes from my expectations as a freshman. Maybe if it were some other times or some international academy, I might have gotten what I expected. Every freshman has their own vision about the world of art, about the mentor-student relationship, about how to become successful and about the idea of success in general. Even the world of art has its own tribes, its own chauvinist little groups and politics that are poisoning the child in every creative person. These are the main reasons why many quit doing art professionally, especially in our country where one doesn’t have a developed and fair art market. Another problem here is that “the success” of others is something people criticise instead of taking it as inspiration – explains Lonac the discrepancy between his own expectation and realistic state of values in the art community. – Due to negative experiences, I would talk about this with too much negativity in previous interviews, without understanding the main thing: the fact that I never gave up despite everything. The only thing I can say to younger artists, as well as to older enthusiasts, is how unimportant the diploma actually is. As much as I spoke negatively about the university (for a reason!), I did finish it and I’m proud about that, but in the last 10 years of my work nobody ever asked do I have a diploma. Not in one single project.

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