Seasonally adjusted essay 2004

“Cloud mountains, and fatamorgana cities”
Thomas Carlyle (1818)

In 2002 Marijana Tadic arrived at an ingenious method of architectural and modernist inclination in her sculptural practice, using forms originally based on simple interpretations of fruit and produce of the sea. These forms reflected her connection with nature and interest in the “slow food” movement. Gradually the shapes became more complex, evolving to resemble high-rise towers, pods and vessels, sometimes slightly twisted asymmetrically.

Working from detailed drawings and calculations, she rough-cuts tiles, articulated to the millimetre, to create each piece. These are fitted in sequence over a skeleton of welded steel rods and laser-cut stainless steel plates. She combines the smooth steel with the crusty, chipped-back and bleached, bone-white exoskeleton of ceramic, intricately engraved at times with delicate wave patterns and words. In some pieces a core form of alternating smaller tiles, smooth white fibreglass or coloured glass is revealed.

This alternation of positive and negative space, and within these crevices a partially hidden core, creates a kind of three-dimensional optical art, like Bridget Riley’s striped paintings, which simulates the “shimmer” of mirage. Tadic refers to the notion of “fata morgana” to explain her visual inspiration, the stressed sailor’s vision in mist or the horizontal apparition of water in extreme dry heat on the horizon. Her method is inspired by the geological processes of sedimentation and erosion at Hallett Cove, the Blue Mountains or the Great Ocean Road and the Dalmatian coast in her native Croatia.

As Greg Mackie, now CEO of the state government’s arts funding body, ArtsSA, said at the opening of the exhibition of this series, New Constructions: “The play of light is … an important aspect to her work: the way light is transmitted and reflected, the way it plays on contrasting textures and materials, the shadows cast by regular and irregular forms.”

The new series, Seasonally Adjusted, continues to refer to the processes of erosion and sedimentation as well as the changing light as the sun moves lower or higher in the sky. She has moved on from the previous all-white series by incorporating slightly varying aqua-coloured tiles in alternating sequences to add further dimensions to the work. Her new constructions can be interpreted as a metaphor for landscape or cultural and historical processes, but the most recent works, such as Season 1-4, have embraced sensual, even sexual, feminine characteristics.

She also used to weave body armour out of steel chain and welded nails, and in a separate series in this exhibition, including Seasonal hearts, has constructed similar armour from discs of steel, reminiscent of recycled coin decorations used in the folk costumes of Croatia.

Like one of her favourite architects, Renzo Piano, Tadic uses the working process as part of her design aesthetic. In a typically postmodern analysis, she sometimes carves indentations and slices into the segments to expose the steel framework or plates, or hearts or insets of iridescent coloured glass, when appropriate illuminated by LEDs placed in the sculpture’s base or core. In work such as Make a wish II she highlights the untainted beauty of the stainless steel skeleton as an object in itself, while in Slipped away she leaves the object half-steel, half-transformed into ceramic. All her sculptures can also be viewed as maquettes for large public artworks that can incorporate a further element, water, or as models for buildings.

Tadic’s art has become a fusion of hi-tech and industrial process and personal, aesthetic poetics, drawing on influences such as the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the land artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi and Hossein Valamanesh, a local practitioner of Iranian origin who excels in minimalist arte povera. Her instincts are connected with the sophisticated modernism of Europe, the intricate folk-art and deep history of her former homeland and its landscape, and the modern vitality and nostalgia for the land she finds in the comparatively youthful and urban country, Australia.

© Adam Dutkiewicz 2004