What is art?

It takes a clear and positive mind to look at the beauty and to turn on the empathy switch within. Only then will we understand the beauty that surrounds us and receive the answer to the question: „What is art?“

 Paintings are windows to the world that everyone should experience. These days, most of us are just too lazy to open up the shutters and to really see; to open up the windows to really scent the world; to step out of our square houses that we consider our physical and emotional shields. Tomislav Ostrman has taken the responsibility or is on a mission to present in front of the general public his view of the world, his obsession, an urge to employ with art, thus revealing a strong sense of sensitivity and non-indifference towards the world we live in. He does it freely, in an entertaining way, but above all in a human way and therefore efficiently. Ostrman’s paintings have been drenched in an abundance of positive energy with which they fill the very exhibition space, they reflect sincere emotions and establish a close contact with the viewer, taking him on a fairy-tale like adventure, a magical world of innocent, almost child-like narration. Based on social and sociological elements, primarily on the human relationship as the central element in artistic work, Ostrman’s painting has a task to encourage the public into active perception and partaking.

Therefore, the aesthetics of his art is relational; it becomes a relevant element in human relationships, it ignores its own subjectivity, and the social mission is its essence. Looking for answers to his art in the theory of Nicolas Bourriaud, he finds the purpose and the aim of art in engagement. According to Bourriaud, the new artistic work, among other things, is an expression of an aspiration towards creating alternative paths, removing obstacles and finding access to consumers. It provides a fertile background for social experiments, thus ensuring a space inside which there will be cohesion, creativity and non-uniformity, and works which abide by this theory belong to the UTOPIA of the near future. However, since exceptions prove the rule, Ostrman transforms that future into the present with his self-created utopia. Just like Th More, he creates an ideal state inside his painting – the Kingdom of Sailors and Whistles. This ideal society lives within a space defined by the Mediterranean atmosphere. It is full of stylised and typified characters treated with intense, pure colours and the speech of basic geometric shapes. A passionate aspiration towards narration makes Ostrman reach for visual shapes much like comics or a sort of an illustrated children’s story. A simplified drawing, positioned in certain undeterminable spatial relations, is used to interpret the topic, which had crystallised in his rich imagination as an idea for a story in painting. The main protagonist of that “sweet utopia” is a sailor called Whistle, Ostrman’s homo ludens who lives a carefree life in his ideal world, while ships take him on long voyages, from which he always returns to his safe haven, where awaits his faithful Flute Žveglica, guiding him like a lighthouse.

As a symbol of a liberated spirit, a man with a pure heart, of a powerful emotion and intuitiveness, who lives his life in entertainment, Whistle is a character whose name also denotes one of the ways of nonverbal communication (whistling), which Ostrman deals with in his art. Therefore, the name for his companion was also taken from music terminology; Žveglica is an old Croatian aerophone instrument. The intertwining of auditive and visual, of picture and sound, as the essential characteristics of Orphism, which visualised sound in concentric circles aligned into visual sound waves, has found its variety with Ostrman, often also presented with multicoloured circles. The circle as one of the basic geometric elements builds this story of art as a sign, a symbol of perfection and divine emanation, as materialised sound. When combining it with other geometric shapes, most often the triangle or the horizontal striped raster, which he uses to paint the bodies of his protagonists, he also applies it so as to treat the entire space of a painting with it. Moreover, he becomes its format as well. Inside this perfect shape all scenes separate into a new cycle, as the view through the round windows on a ship, looking towards the coast of Ostrman’s utopia, the land of eternal happiness, but also a world with rules, hierarchy and high moral values. The definition of the term, or the name, whistle – the whistler, reveals a person (a worker) who reports illegal actions of the members of his society, or a collective. Whistling is often a test of one’s moral values, those values which Tomislav Ostrman, perhaps even subconsciously, tries to allude to through his work. Even though in his new cycle he keeps to the field of easel painting, Ostrman’s visual expression is characterised by intermediality, montage, different material structures, from relief to pure two-dimensional painting, he actually expresses himself with a “classical painting”, an installation, a relief, a sculpture, and even a performance.

His work is a combination of the trivial and the artistic, of finding new forms and contents, bringing out transcendental characteristics and placing artistic elements into new contexts. His pieces are the result of a clearly crystallised idea, an imagined ideal world where play as a determining human category creates other systems of value. His artistic game possesses sociality and interaction for its movers, it reveals how an artist can take part in the time inside which he exists in a way that he does not comment only on what is ironic or ambiguous, but connects, includes and interprets explicitly and honestly. Ostrman’s paintings are therefore non-conventional and imaginative, creatively playful, unburdened with a need to follow Avant-garde movements. They belong to the mentioned perspective of the “near future”, which Bourriaud also writes about, reserved for artistic personalities, today called the nomads, and tomorrow the carriers of the social mission. However, art has always been one of the protagonists of a relational attitude, exposed to communion, moreover, predetermined for a communicational relationship, for dialogue and socialising. When that ceases to be, art becomes its own purpose and loses its primal role or only just proves that the time has come for change, self-saturation and a need to, in accordance with the epoch, change its own role. Therefore, it will become not only a social frame of the reception of art but also its meaning and aim. Ostrman’s painting has created such a tactile vision of some other reality, where in a clever symbiosis live the profane and the sacral, the common and the artistic, both art and its consumer.

Sanda Stanaćev Bajzek