The mountain, as a sort of invitation to change one’s mental code, urges the individual to rise above the everyday routine, meet challenges face to face, and test one’s stamina and strength to address one’s own weaknesses. The mountain wakes us up to introspection and helps us perceive the force of nature against our own minuteness in it, however important a factor we may be in the functioning of the world. The conquering of the virgin nature and its fearsome mountain peaks brings on moments of need to face ourselves. It is the question of iron will leading, hopefully, to spiritual peace.
The mountain is the leitmotif in Ana Ratković’s series of paintings begun in 2013 and continuing until the time of this exhibition. The changes in her style over time can be perceived in the smaller formats on display, signifying a personal change evident in the choice of colours, composition, motif reduction but also in the changing primary notion of man’s role in the world.
The earliest works correlate the visual and the literary, interpreting nature in simple, quite reduced forms, founding the experience on unrealistic, strongly contrasting colours. The panoramic views of nature are characterised by surreal atmosphere punctuated with identifiable elements such as trees and mountains. In contrast, people play a minor role. Human figures are reduced to mere silhouettes.
In the recent output displayed in this exhibition, the focus is no longer on the motif, but rather on the evolution of the picture, where pictorial content is more important than the theme. Ana Ratković used a digital model of the landscape, retaining only the basic outer form of the mountain and minimising it to a content-less shape. The rivers and mountains with rhythmically arranged rows of trees are in the recent works reduced to a cartographic presentation. Playing with matt and glistening textures, expressive colour contrasts, varying directions, streaming and movement of lines, the painter negates the materiality of the mountain choosing instead to construct a flat, optical game of structured contours. Lines of differing thickness and contrasting colours, all going in the same direction, lend dynamics to the trembling surface, with the ends of the lines indicating the outer silhouette of the mountain. In some works, dynamism is achieved not only by the supremacy of colours but also by densely crammed lines moving in different directions. The complex line-dominated background made up of matt and shiny areas of surface is accentuated by the horizontal element resembling fish bone or by a mere line, the effect amounting to a greater depth of layers and suggesting movement in the main image, the mountain, built up with lines streaming upwards.
The motif that reappears in the entire series is the mountain, through which universal principles that apply to all human beings are investigated. The abstracted motif and the changes within a strictly given form reflect the painter’s personal change over time. Sticking to the original theme, the changes are announced through a variety of elements of expression – ranging from panoramic figuration to linear op-art.
Ana Ratković renounces the material aspect of the mountain, reducing it to a shell. Linear structures assume the feeling of mere illusion. Her negation of nature becomes a critique of man and his parasitic impact on nature threatened by continued unscrupulous exploitation of natural resources to the point of no return. The paintings showing the relief signify also a return to the essence of the mountain experience – peace, introspection and spirituality. In the words of the painter, ‘The mountain symbolises the meeting of nature, the supernatural, and man. I believe that no man can remain indifferent when faced with nature against which he is small and helpless.’
Sonja Švec Španjol, from the foreword to the exhibition Mountains, Zagreb, 2016