Jasminka Babić

Exhibition catalogue preface

Untitled (Archive ST3), School Gallery, School of Fine Arts, Split, Croatia / March 19 – April 20, 2015


Redefinition of space is one of the main determinants in the work of a Split-based artist Viktor Popović. He approaches this subject in two ways – by intervening on a formal level and by working with the context of an exhibition venue. When reacting to the structural characteristics of space, he usually transforms it using simple installations based on the tradition of Minimal art. The other work mode, as is the case with the new project Untitled (Archive ST3), includes broader understanding of space. The artist shifts his interest from formal characteristics to the spatial context, giving it a completely new understanding.

As a subject of his new work Popović has chosen the problem of urban spaces in Split that were created during 1970s and 1980s. Together with Diocletian’s Palace, they play an important role in the present-day city identity. Master Plan for the new Split area, so-called Split 3, was developed in the late 1960s and represents an important example of a well designed city planning in Croatia. Popović’s own experience of growing up in that exact environment has grown from the formative excitement of childhood exploration to more analytical work, to an archival research. Although this initial impulse is of personal nature, the artist does not accentuate it in the final work. However, this process is important because it shows the transference of personal experience into a universally understood language, through the experience of a visual artist’s understanding of the surrounding space, its characteristics and particularities. From the found archive material, Popović uses black-and-white photographs of the project Split 3 model. By choosing the photographs of the model and not of the architecture, the artist emphasizes uniqueness and importance of the concept of the planned project which was unfortunately only partially executed. The model, as a spatial materialization of an idea, clearly shows the creative element that Popović wishes to transpose into an exhibition context. He creates an ambiance of a sort, by covering the walls of the gallery with a digital print of a photograph depicting the destroyed model of a competition’s first prize project for Split 3 dating from 1968/69. He applies another works to this newly-formed base – objects that further explore the basic motif. Digital prints of archival photographs are used again as a base, but this time they show only one part of the original project – present-day Ruđer Bošković Street. On the photographs, he creates isometric drawings of geometric figures by using graphite sticks originally used for pencils. By choosing graphite, which is primarily a drawing material, he conceptually links the object to the creative process of both - architectural and artistic projects. The newly-created object is a hybrid of photography, drawing and relief. Whether we know the background story or not, this artwork clearly communicates Popović’s main idea of a creative process, regardless of the media through which it was materialized.

The fact that this project is presented at the School of Fine Arts adds another dimension to this exhibition. The school building is situated on the border of a present-day university campus, near the area that was included in the Split 3 project. However, its close neighbourhood testifies to the problems of later city development and basically ignored qualities of previous urban planning. In this context, Popović’s work acquires a warning tone that points towards some forgotten qualities and the importance of our own awareness of our surroundings.