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Andre Malraux, French member of surrealism in literature and art theoretician, launched in 1947 a large project involving the creation of the archives of his imaginary museum. Although this museum without walls was a collection of a huge number of photographs Malraux had selected for the collection, the concept is based on the specific rhetoric of representation that transgresses the physical dimensions of artistic artefact and focuses instead on the mental and emotional nucleus of personal memory. He ascertains that all art works we encounter and build a relationship with leave in us an inerasable trace, with unique personal repercussions in the mind of every individual, In Ana Ratković’s paintings presented here such a translation is at work too.

The young artist was evidently eager to embrace the emblematic work of one of the greatest 19th century Japanese woodcut masters, Hiroshige, his output falling on fertile ground of the already strongly developed sensibility for Japanese culture that inspired the artist’s operative ideas and concepts relevant in her own work. ‘Hiroshige is to be thanked for the transposition of my essential experience of the whole culture and civilisation into simple works […]’ Simplicity, reduction and aphoristic qualities make up the formal and also the narrative framework of both artists’ pictorial process, each working from their own perspective and time-place factors.

Ana Ratković’s works stand in special relation to the works of Hiroshige, with the latter’s woodcuts clearly providing inspiration for the arrangement of interacting elements, where the arrangement is based on a series of dynamic features. The three large canvases display a simple composition dominated by human figures situated in fragments of nature. The figures are not real subjects but more like signs in space. Their stories are not delineated, not personal; they are to be read as a universal dialogue between the individual and nature, the personal and general, exterior and interior, solitude vs. the collective.

The artist develops composition following faithfully in Hiroshige’s footsteps, but by reducing the number of elements she succeeds in achieving an even purer, more open, surprisingly potent space that welcomes interpretation. The subdued colours accentuate, to an extent, the typical flatness of woodcuts. Her canvases are painted in acrylic and oil, with her usual method of alternating brushstrokes with smudges of paint pressed into the canvas with paper.

In addition to direct formal and technical practises of Japanese woodcuts that Ratković implements in her works, their appropriation and further evolution is evident in her other works too. The composition, the treatment of lines and contours, the choice of colours and the atmosphere veiling the man vs. nature relationship, are to be found in another group of works displayed in this exhibition. Small-size drawings obey the givens of the medium, necessarily modifying the approach. Still, despite the characteristics that they share with the large paintings, these pictorial aphorisms show a certain distancing from the actual object and even transcend the Japanese note, moving more towards Western ontology.

To sum up, the relationship between the content in the works of the two painters marks, in sub-context, the artist’s stance towards an entire culture. Answering the question on how Hiroshige’s aesthetic, philosophy and view of the world in Hiroshige’s art (adopted and developed by herself) can be viewed from the perspective of the Western man as his social and cultural antipode, Ana Ratković recounts, ‘The issues here are universal, applicable to every man in any culture and society. Perhaps by emphasising the relation between man and nature, and between man and his inner being, lies the answer to important life questions. Perhaps. Let there be a possibility of that. I am trying to open this possibility

Martina Bratić, foreword to the exhibition Dedication to Hiroshige, Zagreb, 2013