Sweet Sixteen

The idea for this painting started back in October 2020. I was having my solo exhibition in Bihać, and my friends IT and HH decided to come for the opening. I should also mention that MR and KiKi decided to do speed run from Zagreb to Bihać to come for the Opening. For the record all 4 of them were coming from Croatia and this was prior the second Covid wave, when the media was already spreading fear and crossing the border was not an easy task. Therefore I would like to thank them one more time at this moment for coming.

They both liked Olga and Debra paintings and they were interested in buying them. Olga was already donated to the Foundation “Center Duga Art” and Debra was paid in tears by princess-queen. So over a coffee HH asked me:„ muha, can I commission IT portrait in the way you do? Would you be interested in that? I would like to have it as a gift for her birthday.” That exactly is a pure example of my favorite question. Of course, I said yes. I was already considering starting a new (smaller) series of painting for my next exhibition – Bijin-ga, paintings of the beautiful women, since I had a good response to Olga and Debra. Starting new series with commissioned portrait of my friend was a song to my heart. In the next few months we were super hush, trying to avoid IT suspects anything odd about our behavior. HH was trying to capture a good photo of IT so I could use it for the portrait. He was making all kinds of excuses why he was constantly taking the pictures. He was a spy in his house of love. In the meantime I was trying to make a sketch based on different photos.

I started with Ochie of the Koiseya Teahouse of the Arayashiki in Kobikicho reading a Book by Kitagawa Utamaro. My friend is very educated and literate. She is a bookworm, and that is one aspect that I like about her. Now for the book, I chose Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, to emphasize her work with children but also her longing for one and having one little prince with HH, a beautiful boy, with blond hair, just as the Little prince. For the background motif I used stylized texture from Hokusai´s Manga- a cherry blossom on the branch in a shape of a crane. This is to represent her connection to her late father and Japan. For colors I went with very pastel colors, but instead of mat I went with metallic to have more of silk- like reflections. The painting came out light, with a kind of late spring feeling.

In February my wife and I had Corona and I had to postpone my work for 2 months (and after finishing 3 planned works I took longer break to recover).

The painting was not ready for IT’s birthday, but it was coming altogether good, and we presented her an unfinished painting. Her surprise was more than evident. The painting was a success.
Now, where is HH in all that? HH is in the name of the painting. The lyrics and the story behind Billy Idol´s Sweet Sixteen have stuck with me since my primary school. I loved first 4 Billy´s albums when I was in the first half of my primary school, and I still love them + Happy Holidays, a Christmas songs album by him. Both IT and HH had their share of personal struggle prior meeting each other. They didn´t meet when they were 16 but rather 40+, and they are one of those couples that complement each other, bring out the best in them. HH is creating a space for IT and EH, forever developing Coral Castle for all of them and their family, and their circle of friends. This song now has happy development, without an ending.

Technique: acrylic on canvas

Size: 90 x 70 cm

Year: May 2021

Availability: Commissioned/In Private Collection

Bijin-ga (Paintings of the Beautiful Person)

When you have a friend like Nana Monda, it is hard not to enjoy bijin-ga. Her paintings have been constantly influencing my work. For me she is a truly living master of bijin-ga. Next in line is my friend Nataša Konjević, whose fantastic mixture of magic and portraits never fail to amaze me.

Bijin-ga is commonly translated as Portraits of beautiful women but it should be translated as Portraits of beautiful person, an individual, something that reflects inner beauty, gender is not specified at all. This leaves opening to gender fluidity in my future paintings from this series.

In my bijin-ga I will try to grasp iki – いき feeling, a beautiful sensual situation or a personal charm, where a viewer is a discreet witness to this moment.