Author of the exhibition
Vesna Bulić Baketić
Essays in the catalogue
Vesna Bulić Baketić
Vesna Bulić Baketić
Author of the photographs
Josip Rajević, Studio 9
An Artist at Meštrović’s: Frano Missia
July 17 – September 9, 2018
The Meštrović Gallery, Split
Landscapes and nude in sculpture
The exhibition An Artist at Meštrović’s: Frano Missia gives an insight into part of the oeuvre of Frano Missia, a painter who also tried his hand at sculpture. His guest appearance in the little space of the Clay Modelling Studio in the Meštrović Gallery is focused on just two segments of the different idioms that Missia touched on during his journey in life and art. With these colourist landscapes, most often of his native region, and his later turn towards the modelling of sensuous women of the kind that he had previously depicted in acrylic paint on his large canvases, the exhibition is a peep, a cracking of the door, into a world full of colourist expression, of known and unknown scenes often informed with human presence. It is an invitation into Frano’s world, which, with all its latent melancholy and thoughts of dissent, has, above all, an ineffable joy in life and unfailing emotions when faced with beauty.
The landscapes shown at the exhibition “An Artist at Meštrović’s” 2018 are mainly productions from the new millennium, created after 2002. His older landscapes painted during the sixties and seventies have a geometrical treatment inclining towards an abstract poetics, founded on American Abstract Expressionism, but the more time passed, the more the scenes departed from abstract forms and ranged towards colourist expression and softer forms. In spite of his skill in drawing and his strong conviction that the drawing was at the base of everything, Frano did not go off into landscape realism. He retained the fairytale mystery of his places, thus provoking the curiosity of the viewer who constantly asks whether this is Frano’s impression or the unreality of some Caribbean twilight.
In spite of the attractiveness of foreign vistas and the ever present need for movement and exploration of the world, the Dalmatian landscapes and the special frames of Split nature are revealed as essential and innate. Showing Dalmatia, Frano combines a depiction of a real landscape with the feeling that is called up in him by the warm Mediterranean air while it flows over the frame of a chosen cove. Although we are in the spheres of the emotional and subjective I feel it reasonable to state that in acrylic he attempts to capture the feeling of the sunbeams, the song of the cicada and the scent of the pine that comes to him while he selects the vista that he will immortalise on the rectangle of canvas. He often decides to enrich his landscape with human presence, whether that of some baigneuse, or several of them, or a mythological creature that sought a moment of relaxation in the landscape of Frano’s childhood. The pines, cypresses and other Dalmatian Mediterranean vegetation are so striking as to set off a powerful colourist palette; controlled, however, and reined in just in time not to get into any Fauvist ardency.
In the new millennium he tried his hand at sculpture; his Willendorf Venuses from the canvases acquired a new dimension in clay. Along the lines of the basic prehistoric human aspirations from the earliest attempts at sculptural expression, Frano also sees his female figures as sensual Venuses of marked female attributes related to fecundity.
Although he admired Henry Moore, Frano’s sculptures of the naked female body did not turn off in the direction of stylisation, but totally relied on an only slightly enlarged realistic image of rich female proportions. In poses of rest, various emotional states or exercise, woman is not just an object or a study of proportions but is filled with the character of the moment.
(V. Bulić Baketić, from the exhibition catalogue).