Friday, 13 August 2021

Croatian Poet Hanibal Lucić: Renaissance Genius from Hvar

August 14, 2021 - Meet Croatian poet Hanibal Lucić, one of the most respected poets from the country's renaissance period and a noble man from the island of Hvar. This is his story.

The richness of Croatia's heritage is evident not only in its many breathtaking buildings, statues and sights but also in its literature. Sadly, Croatian literature doesn't attract as much global attention as it should when compared to the global impact and various language translations that names such as Shakespeare enjoy. Not to mention antic Greek poets and writers, Italian authors such as Dante, and the list goes on.

Things are changing for iconic writers from Croatian history, such as 20th-century writer Miroslav Krleža as well as many of the modern, still active writers, thanks to the Croatian Literature site powered by the Croatian Ministry of Culture.

Prose writing doesn't have too many challenges for a professional translator when it comes to shifting the story from its original language to another, but you can be sure poetry is another story. If you read an English translation of ''The Flowers of Evil“ by Charles Baudelaire, instead of the original French version, did you really read Baudelaire or an author who made an adaptation of the poem into English in as much as was possible?

Either way, not much work done by Croatian poets is widely translated and known globally, but the Croatian poets themselves are known, and their former residences venues carrying their names and statues dedicated to them are part of the cultural offer Croatian destinations have to offer to their visitors.

In Hvar town, not too far from Veneranda, where the former church and famous former Hvar weather station lies, you can find a bust of a bearded man facing the Adriatic sea, and his eyes look as if they have that filter of lyricism, that poet-style introspect in observing the world. That should come as no surprise as the portrayed citizen of Hvar is non-other than Croatian poet, Hanibal Lucić, a nobleman from Hvar.

The exact date of his birth in 1485 isn't clear, but his date of death, December 14, 1553, is well recorded. The Croatian poet Hanibal Lucić was a renaissance poet as well as a playwright who authored the first secular Croatian drama titled ''Robinja'' (the slave woman). He served the Hvar Municipality back in the time when it was part of the Venetian Republic as a judge and a lawyer. His writings feature the Croatian Čakavski dialect (which distinctly uses the word ča for ''what''), and he wrote love poetry under the heavy influence of the legendary love poet Francesco Petrarca. Lucić was notoriously self-critical, and he even burned his work. Thankfully, his son saved his work and it was published in 1556, after his death.


Hanibal Lucić bust © Nina Lelas

In 2012, the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) posted an article in memory of Lucić, stating that he was the greatest writer of Croatian Renaissance poetry.

''We can gather from his literary works that he was exceptionally well-acquainted with classical literature, the Croatian Glagolitic and oral tradition, and the contemporary Italian and Croatian writing of his time. In his poetry, Lucić celebrated his love for women and for female beauty. In their aesthetic quality, Lucić’s poems represent a true masterpiece of Croatian renaissance lyric poetry. He describes beauty and love in the tradition of Petrarch, at the same time drawing on the oral tradition of Croatian love poetry,'' wrote NSK.

His poem „Jur ni Jedna na svit vila“ (No Other Nymph Upon This Earth), one of Lucić's most well-known poems, is an obligatory poem to read in the Croatian education system. You can learn more in this English version of a science paper by Tomislav Bodgan.




Portrait of Hanibal Lucić © National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK)

On Hvar, his summer residence still stands, and it's open to tourists to visit as its now the headquarters of the Hvar Museum.

''His summer house, the headquarters of the Hvar Museum, is a well-preserved example of the country houses of the Renaissance period, but with clear Gothic influences. Included in the museum is a reception room dedicated to the memory of Hanibal. The museum is also home to the local branch of the Croatian state archives. The opening hours are as follows: 09:00 -13:00 and 17:00 – 23:00 in summer, 10:00 – 12:00 in winter (by appointment),'' wrote Paul Bradbury for Hvar's dedicated Total Croatia page.

So, when in Hvar, do find time to visit the house but also don't forget to visit his bust and seek one of his pick-up lines that can help your banter with that pretty girl on the beach.

Learn more about Hvar on our TC page.

For more about Croatian history, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Brick Yard: Part Exhibition, Part Party, Complete Post-Lockdown Artistic Showcase

June 29, 2021 - A unique event for the Croatian art scene, Brick yard, a meeting point between an exhibition and a party, features four Croatian artists presenting their work and making a statement that not even coronavirus can stop art.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The event was moved to July 3, due to a bad weather forecast

The coronavirus pandemic and the experience of lockdown were either an inspiration for artists or those circumstances just made it easier for them to focus on their work as everything was closed and isolated. Much like almost everything else, the art and culture sector wasn't immune to the pandemic's heavy blow.

With art events and exhibitions still facing challenges, Jasmina Krajačić, Mario Romoda, Apolonija Lučić, and Zorana Unković, instead of waiting for the support by the culture ministry or for galleries to return to being fully functioning institutions, took their faith in their own hands.


© Jasmina Krajačić

Their initiative for cultural growth, titled Brick Yard, will see these artists present their work in a garden located in Lomnička 1, in a beautiful garden that truly looks like a piece of art itself. Observing art like a plant that, in order to grow, needs to be watered constantly, the collective will showcase their work on July 1 from 5-9 pm.

''The four of us have studios at the same address. It's an old house with quite unusual dimensions and a big garden hiding the view from bypassers. That garden looks like it fell from mars, and it doesn't fit in with the series of new buildings recently built in the neighbourhood, and not a lot of people know about it,'' explained Krajačić, stating that this is the true charm of this project.


© Mario Romoda

All four artists are renowned names in the world of Croatian contemporary art, and it's interesting to observe different takes on the artistic expressions they have. Romoda is into painting, Krajačić's main focus is geometry and design, Lučić navigates toward drawing and illustrations while Unković is skilled in street art. Echo, reflection, self-therapy, comic strips, and geometry are some of the aspects artists pointed out Brick Yard will feature.

''Since the start of the lockdown, we hung out and worked in that space, killing some time in uncertainty, waiting for the outcome of this whole situation, while also creating new work with our creativity and discipline, which we decided to present in the garden,'' continued Krajačić.


© Jasmina Krajačić


 © Mario Romoda


© Zorana Unković 

The event, which lay somewhere between an exhibition and a party, saw the artists invite business associates, gallery workers, art critics, and several friends in the hope of ensuring the support the Croatian art scene desperately needs.

''We invited them for an afternoon in an unconventional environment, without big talks and classic gallery protocols,'' pointed out Krajačić, concluding that this type of event is not typical at all on the Croatian art scene. This unusual, experimental event is just as art should be, and the message that the Brick Yard collective differs in expression and stands united in their message is loud and clear.

''Art cannot be stopped as it feeds every atom which thirsty for creative progress. Without it, we're fragile and empty,'' they concluded from Brick Yard.


© Apolonija Lučić


© Zorana Unković 

Learn more about Croatian Art Galleries in Zagreb, Dalmatia, Istria & Slavonia on our TC page.

For more about art in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Friday, 11 June 2021

Silvio Bilić: Croatia's Classical Guitar State Competition Winner and 4-time Oscar of Knowledge Recipient

June 12, 2021 - Europe is a dream destination for artists and musicians and Croatia is certainly keeping up with the excellent European art scene. Although best known for being a holiday destination, Croatia also boasts world-class academia, professors, artists, and performers, too! TCN meets Silvio Bilić.

Silvio Bilić and the town of Omiš

At the young age of 23, Silvio has already won 34 first prizes for national and international competitions, is a four-time recipient of the Oscar of Knowledge from the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports, and a 4-time state champion of Croatia's Classical Guitar State Competition. Currently a student at the Academy of Arts in Split, under Prof. Maroje Brčić, his path to music excellence all began at the age of 8 in a small town of Omiš in the region of Dalmatia. 

What inspired you to be a guitarist? 

I started playing the guitar at the age of 8 - which was quite late for someone who wishes to pursue classical music - but fortunately, I exhibited good potential even as a beginner. I spent the first four months of my early education competing and I ended up in the top 3 young artists of my generation. I chose the guitar as my instrument because it is one of the most celebrated and known instruments in the region of Dalmatia where it is a common sight to see people sing and play guitar. One day, I saw my cousin playing and handling the guitar so eloquently and after that, I had a strong desire to try so that I could feel the elegance of playing the instrument myself. The first time I played the guitar, I felt an immediate connection to it and that was when I discovered my life goal - to be a professional guitarist and performer. 

What was it like to be a young musician in a small town?

Growing up in a small community actually helped me a lot because since the town is small, the engagement and the involvement of the people in our town towards classical music (arts scene, in general) and the local artists are very focused. Because of this, the talents of their youth are recognized early and are highly encouraged by the community. 

How do the people in Omis perceive arts and support you as a budding artist from their hometown?

The people of Omiš are very supportive especially towards my goal which is to present to the younger and older generation that there is a career and profound satisfaction in pursuing the arts, especially music, and to remove the stigma that arts are just a hobby. Omiš Centre for Culture (Centar za Kulturu Omiš) helps me realize this goal by organizing my honorary concerts in Omiš and helps in promoting it as well. They make posters and also arrange collaborations with local drama artists, painters, and photographers. In Omiš,  there are two stunning performance venues which are my favourites (although we have a lot in Omiš) - The Church of Holy Spirit and The Church of St. Peter.

What were your early years of music studies in Omiš like? 

After enrolling at Osnovna Glazbena Škola Lovro pl. Matačić Omiš when I was 8 years old, I discovered that with the guidance of great mentors, I could pursue music professionally and make a great career out of it. My first-ever professor was Neno Munitić who introduced me to guitar and the endless opportunities in the world of art. The first piece I learned and performed was from an etude from a classical composer Fernando Sor. For my first competition, I played this same piece with an addition of an original piece by Prof. Neno which was called December Morning, and coincidentally enough (I took it as a sign that I was on the right path) - I was born in December! Throughout my early music education, I did a lot of chamber music to understand music from a deeper and wider perspective. As years go by, with solo and chamber music training, I've grown as a more defined musician and by the age of 10, I travelled to Italy for my very first competition and won first prize. From then on, I have performed and competed all over Croatia and Europe but I've never forgotten my hometown. At least once every summer, I make sure to organise a concert in Omiš. In 2017, I passed the entrance exam and audition for the Academy of Music in Split, Croatia, and I have been studying under the tutelage of Prof. Maroje Brčic since then.

Series of National and International Competitions

Since my first international competition at the age of 11 in Italy, I have been given the opportunity to travel to Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia. The most memorable one I have ever done was the International Competition for Young Guitarists "Andres Segovia" in 2014 in Germany with 50 competitors under my category who were all working with outstanding and well-known guitar professors and world-renowned music schools such as The Julliard Music School, USA and The Royal Academy of Music, UK. After the performance, I was standing on the stage with 49 other competitors as the jury announces the winners starting from the last place to first place. After what seemed to be an eternity, my name has not been called and my heart began to pound tremendously because I did not expect that I would qualify for the top prizes since I came from a small country, school, and community. Surprisingly, I ended up winning 4th prize! My career in music competition started to take off after this. 

Ever since 2008 to the present date, I have consistently been winning the first prize every year! So far I have won 22 first places in the solo performance category and 12 first places in the chamber music category. In 2017, I won 1st place in the National Guitar Competition (HDGPP) followed by 2019, after defending the title of national champion once more. In 2021, I again won the title of state guitar champion competition (HDGPP), 1st prize, in the senior category. In 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2021, I was awarded the "Oscar of Knowledge" by the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports for excellent results in the national competition as a soloist and as a member of the chamber ensembles. 

Since I began learning the guitar, I have been competing a lot (which I love), but by the beginning of 2016, I had to take a different approach in music after I collapsed in Prague and was diagnosed with arrhythmia which I was completely oblivious to. The doctor reckoned that it worsened due to extreme stress and I have had to live with a pacemaker since this incident. From then on, I shifted my "competition approach" to music towards a more relaxed and enjoyable "concert approach". I began attending various masterclasses with world-famous pedagogues and guitarists and performed as a guitar accompanist in many book promotions and recitations. I also have had opportunities to collaborate with famous drama artists Robert Kurbaš, Ksenija Prohaska, and Otokar Levaj.

Winning Eurostrings competition in Montenegro and 2020 Europe tour

In 2020, I was selected among the top 17 young guitarists in Europe in the Eurostrings program under the auspices of the EU creative program, and was awarded a concert tour in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom and a personal web domain. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour was postponed. I instead provided concerts to London Guitar Festival and Mottola Guitar Festival in Italy, masterclasses for Twents Guitar Festival in the Netherlands and a concert, TV promotion, and masterclass in Nikšić Guitar Festival in Montenegro. I had my biggest concert in Uppsala, Sweden, where the tickets sold out! I remember being thrilled to see a large projection of my upcoming concert outside a building and to give press conferences about my performances in Europe - I even had a personal guard to accompany me throughout my concert for the national television in Sweden! I also collaborated with maestro/conductor Christian Karlsen and Grammy-nominated Royal Academy of Stockholm professor, Mats Bergstrom. Together with students from the University of Malmö, I had the honor to premiere a piece by composer Sergio Assad entitled The Walls. It is a 5-movement piece for solo guitar and guitar orchestra which depicts historical barriers to migration and cultural assimilation in the world in each of its movement: from 1st to 5th movement - The Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, The Berlin Wall, Middle Eastern Wall and finally, No More Walls. 

Arts in Omiš

In Omiš, we have one of the most famous and traditional festivals in Croatia. It is called "Festival Dalmatinskih Klapa" or Festival of Dalmatian A'ccapella Music. Since its founding in 1966 by a group of enthusiasts from the city who aim to preserve this Croatian traditional singing-style "klapa", over 200 groups, famous musicologists, and composers from across Croatia have performed and attended the festival. The festival was even added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. in 2013.

There is also an abundance of excellent musicians, artists, and mentors in my hometown. For example, we have Lovre Marusić who was born in Omiš and began his music career here before continuing his further studies in prestigious schools such as the PI Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow, Russia, Academy of Music in Zagreb, Croatia, and currently at the Hochschule für Musik “Franz Liszt” in Weimar, Germany for postgraduate studies. He has also won several first prizes from international competitions such as the reputable IMF Internationa Piano Competition in Paris (2018) and International Piano Competition "New Stars" in Manchester (2016), to name a few. Lovre Marušić is also very connected to the young artists of Omiš with a lot of them viewing him as an inspiration in their pursuit of the arts. 


Photo credit: Zvonimir Kujundžić

Arts in Croatia

Croatia has a very natural affinity in art because the country itself is beautiful - starting from the glorious southern city of Dubrovnik towards the capital city of Zagreb, the country boasts raw culture and beauty everywhere and that is why it is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. In Croatia, any contribution to arts is highly celebrated, and even in small towns like Omiš where arts and its promotion to the community have substantially grown and the support to the local young artists is significant. Since Croatia is small, its artists and musicians are rarely seen in international competitions but once they do, they deliver outstanding performances and consistent excellence in their craft. A lot of Croatian musicians and artists easily qualify to bigger conservatories, schools, and academies all over the world. Croatia is also popular not just to Erasmus exchange students but also to students from all over Europe who come to Croatia to seek established professor that is now teaching and living here.

For more about made in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

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