“He is primarily a figurative painter, whether he is painting an urban scenery, a mythological theme or an allegory, or ships and gallies.”
In the 1990s Zlatan Vrkljan owned the renowned gallery “Arterija (Artery)”, a gallery that at the time functioned as a sort of sanctuary for painters. By the end of the 90s he was selected as the Croatian representative at the Venice biennale with his two installation artworks, or to be more precise with an imaginary museum of painted books.
Since then he rarely holds exhibitions. But, when he does he certainly has something to say. Certain series of paintings take him several years to create.
Each of his paintings is layered, both in a metaphorical and in the literal sense. They are often monochromatic, his most poetic work consists of an intertwined web of nuances of white color, the color of pure silence, applied in a variety of rhythmic brush strokes and in different density. These paintings have been made in a technique of encaustic painting, and their texture is not unlike human skin. They are lacking in the narrative sense, their story stems from within. Further more, the paintings are often untitled, the visitor is given the freedom to create his or her own meaning.
The use of dripping technique, writing and scraping off the painted machines all add to the layered structure of the painting. One of the inspirations for this artist is palimpsest – a manuscript page from a scroll or a book from which the text has been scraped or washed off and which can be used again. But he draws inspiration from everywhere, for example one of his recent paintings was created after he had seen Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy – Blue, White, Red; he isolated himself in his atelier and painted the entire night. Speaks volumes of one side of Zlatan Vrkljan. The other side of him is best Illustrated by last year’s “Self-portrait”, holding a cigarette: figurative, expressive, fierce, with a tinge of resignation. There is humor and auto irony nonetheless.
Contemporary religious art is sometimes an insurmountable problem to an artist. However, Zlatan Vrkljan created one of the most beautiful religious themes in recent art – the stained glass and the Way of the Cross in the church of St Joseph, characterized by strong dramatic expression, portraiture and distorted, emaciated figures (one can immediately tell he was a student of Ljubo Ivancic). His work also includes drawings, graphic art, construction… there is nothing a true artist cannot do.