Out of all the cycles that have been appearing in the opus of Branko Bobić, now already within his forty-year-long career, the cycle possibly the least attractive in terms of motif and contents, carries potentially most important visual messages.
Bobić's case is not an isolated one, because we are going to come upon similar rules in the works of other painters. Yet, one must be cautious here: it is not a formula that could be automatically applied on all situations nor is its paradigmatical feature of such nature that it excludes the case or an opposite tendency. However, a fine example of the old rule is imposed that truth is positioned in the depth of the matter and not on its surface, that the essence of painting is stored in the density of the contents and not in its fluid picture and that the problems of detection are more of intuitive than visual nature.
Bobić's potency of encompassing the cycle is persuasive, the style coherent and the value equable. Accepting the Varaždin panoramas with their nostalgic notes and the dreary landscapes along the river or, on the other hand, the symbolic pictures of the last steam-engines, there is no doubt that the cycle whose central feature is “the unattractive” motif of the wall, with only a few interesting contents or details of posters, barrels, tin goods and planks, is the most exciting one by its immanent and internal visual values.
Bobić, except for some exceptions, is not a zealous depicter or outspoken documenter; his landscapes featuring the Drava river actually describe the type of landscape rather than the actual state of affairs. His trains are more an imaginarium of a museum nostalgic than a record of reconstructional character, while roofs, streets and squares of the city carry just the melancholy of some already imaginary, Stančić-like Varaždin. The aspects of walls, on the other hand, are even more deprived of the imperative of objectivity. These are, of course, walls of the façades and fences of his city but they are not carriers of information about the locality: at any rate, Bobić’s motifs could belong to any place without undermining the integrity and genuineness of the aspect. This fact allows, even makes possible for the author’s interpretation to develop exactly along the line of responsibility for the quality of style, the value of the form and authenticity of experience.
The freshness of interpretation, spontaneity of procedure and freedom of composition, on the other hand, offer a possibility for the conclusion that the paintings from this cycle have been made without the ballast that each and every thesis painting inevitably carries. The attachment to the motifs and the contents density are not, naturally, limitation factors per se; misapprehensions occur when the interpretative procedure turns into a captive of the motif and addict to clarity and recognizability.
The only thing in the cycle “Walls” Bobić was bound to adhere to was his instinct, his feeling and visual credo. Long ago, at the beginning of his occupation with the mentioned motif, we noted the author’s interest for the material, for organic structures, even for a certain note of surrealist atmosphere, almost on the trail of that fantasy of the dilapidated wall that Detoni, at the time of the past war, was engaged with on his well-known painting. In Bobić’s case, it was the interest for the atmosphere of melancholy that such scenes carry, for the states marked by corrosion and ephemeralness. On the other hand, the iconography of the dilapidated wall and forgotten, waste matter bears undoubtedly a certain fascination with the object, though not in its functional meaning but in its metaphorical dimension. At that time we failed to notice what nowadays we mention as a constant, i.e. the “musical” component that is present, discretely and almost indirectly, on almost all paintings of the “Wall” cycle. It does not go for a musical association that the structure and form of his paintings would produce but it refers to the presence of the motif of varied contents from the musical life. The associations are not explicit but indirectly presented: the majority of Bobić’s paintings feature walls pasted with posters and other written information or, to be more precise, remnants of graphic information. Like on Rotella’s paintings, we are also over-booked with half-information, fragments, décollage and remnants of old poster messages and what we read is actually the dimmed reflex of the original state. However, even with all the mentioned, we can distinctly read the spirit of an ambience, marked by the patina, the spirit of the city through whose streets and squares there quietly resounds a melody of some past, quiet and more sedate times.
About Branko Bobić
Branko Bobić's painting has recorded splendid rises. When it seems that there is nowhere for him to develop further, he then attains a new creative depth. Absolutely dedicated to painting, Branko Bobić builds his artistic territory by weaving his yarn of refined imagination. Applying his stupendous relentlessness, Bobić built a fascinating world of trains that narrate to us, by their imagery and luxurious painter’s performance, about times gone by. From the very beginning of his painting work, motifs of trains appear as permanent contents of his painting. Living in the nearest vicinity of the trench rampart where trains pass, Bobić found his painter’s preoccupation. This preoccupation lived in him as an unconscious experience of stored pictures, shapes and sounds, all this even before he started painting. He had abundantly listened to and watched the appearance of trains in the distance, the swift coming-on and pulling away accompanied by the well-known sound décor of the whistling of the engine and the monotonous stamping of the iron wheels against the rails. The seductive prose of the metal engine that by its surreal roar rips the silence of the landscape embroidered with the birds’ singing. This unusual time dimension of the engine, the speed of its arrival and departure disturbs with dramatic intensity the customary perception of a person and his earlier manner of understanding time and space.
Branko Bobić’s painting time-machine contains a melancholy tone. He does not paint currently designed trains of today that are moved by electric power. He is interested in “his” trains that are stored in the lumber-room of memory. He is interested in the metal cylinder veterans with their dignified armour that sparkle muted in the early-morning sun. Platforms and street lamps, ramps, signals and rails, all these are requisite codes that would help him find his (otherwise) lost time in the deposits of the past, and the images, irrespective of the faded contour and lost details, become metaphors of some retrieved time. Bobić, assuredly, does not aspire to reconstruction because he himself knows too well that out of the remnants of reminiscences, stored in the formalin of the visual world, only the essential should be revitalized.
The leitmotif of Bobić's paintings is railroad locomotives that, wrapped by a shroud of steam, rush through the landscape and with their flat “snouts” loom from an unknown direction or, on the other hand, turn behind some unlighted region of Imagination. Whether they emerge from bluish veils of the background or from a brownish gamma of the shady perspectives of platforms, whether they have carriages attached and space attributes or disregarded planes of the surrounding, they are primarily the bases the visual elaboration starts from. Let us not forget to mention, Bobić attained his painting workmanship through painstaking elaboration of tonal painting, by fine taming of light and shadow and restrained colourist gamma. Narrative combinations come into existence by deliberate composing of sky-blue layers out of which, in a gradual manner, emerge sturdy three-dimensional shapes of objects positioned within the painting frame into a specific perspective matrix that creates the illusion of depth.
Owing to the facts mentioned above, Bobić’s paintings have reached high artistic standards that he uses to fit in his recognizable iconographic repertoire. It is his systematicness that is amazing. He indulges in the repetition of motifs where he applies meticulous craftsmanship in painting until he has achieved what he had conceived. As if he wished to tell us something about his permanent creational discontent that induces him to perpetual enhancement. Bobić’s creative potential is on the rise which, in the case of many painters can be a great problem coming with the passage of years. His unfailing working enthusiasm tells us that he can see many things before him that he is planning to do. It is up to us to await with great curiosity his new painting discoveries.
The railway stations of Branko Bobić are places of departure, but the painter never abandons them: he remains loyal to their lights and darkness, they are imprisoned by their walls pasted over by senseless posters that corrode the plaster and dark masses of the station architecture are outlined in the counter-light. In the background there is the night sky, dark, olive-like or burning in the sunset fires that the relentless trains keep boring. The painter still lives in the times of the first painted railway station, Monet’s La gare Saint-Lazare (1876): the locomotive on the platform keeps chugging with difficulty and the steam is dramatically outlined in the light fond like a tempestuous cloud before a gale. Everything is dramatically whirled up and the railway station is like the scenery of Shakespeare’s King Lear. What a great number of associations, those from painting and literature! There are few painters who, like Bobić experience, so poetically impressive and restless, the motif of the railway station as a stage space for a play.
With his Drava river motifs and landscapes Bobić actually proves not only his full matureness but also the upgrading of his personal visual poetics into which, along with the enriched “Bobić-like” iconography, there currently dominates a specific, resolute manner of tonal painting, as well as a pronounced métier dynamism and performing perfectionism.
Branko Bobić is indeed one of those exceptional instances that appeared before a number of years (in 1969) on the margin of our painting horizon, though not because one day it could be remarked: “He was once talented but became stifled”, as it often happens. On the contrary, by gradually applying relentless work and undertaking self-education, this then rough talent acquired strong contours of an established painter’s personality. Naturally, the path that Bobić covered was neither rapid nor simple, and it is in no way completed. All those pitfalls that await any one who undertakes this lonely road to painting, in our times of breakneck changes of style, movements, trends, odiousness against art covered up by mellifluous praise, all this is more dangerous for the person without any systematic education, depending on a good or bad instruction from a chance guest who is apt to sum up in two or three words all that this person kept drawing in terrible pain of doubt or, on the other hand, threw out in moments of
alted self-confidence, permanently fighting with insufficient expressive means, mastering them step by step, from picture to picture, often finding himself in a situation that a painting remains unfinished or not completed only a step before the solution, only a step to the rounded up thought.
Landscapes have “discovered” Branko Bobić, they were first noteworthy results of this exceptional talented self-taught painter. Bobić spreads out in them his luxurious inborn feeling of the painting paste, colour and power of expressing the atmosphere of the river sunrises and sunsets. Lyrical in the narration, he succeeded in these visual preoccupations of his to retain the expression of strong painting procedures and the personality of the used scale of tonality.