Photorealistic portraits - of human or animal - often evoke a dual reaction. First, for the majority of us unable to create something in that style, it's disbelief. Then, once that has passed, we are washed over by a sense of awe, understanding that essentially what we are looking at is a 'creative photograph', that what is looking at us isn't real, but contains all the elements to make it so.
Croatia's Lonac is one of the preeminent practitioners of this style, an artist whose body of work is varied, but with a strong bent towards the photorealism that evokes such aforementioned feelings. Coming from an urban environment in Zagreb, the architecture and values of life around him has deeply informed his philosophy.
Croatia, unlike its not-too-far neighbours in Holland, France or Germany, take a different view to street art. For people there, or at least the vast majority, it remains in the murky territory of graffiti - it's a hinderance, it's ugly and it doesn't belong on their streets.
Although this view is changing, slowly being left behind with the more traditional generations, it's very possible that this has informed Lonac's style. Rather than deeply expressionistic or abstract portraits - he exhibits a style that is technique heavy, and in many cases literal. It seems as if it's a gentle buffer between the more popular forms of street art that prevail elsewhere, and traditional artworks that could well be found in galleries or even on televisions and illustrated books.
Lonac is clearly an artist that jars with the sentiment of a 'graffiti artist' in his home country. Take his name, for example. His name means 'cooking pot' in his mother tongue, and it's a name he's had since a child - one that he was far from comfortable with. Other artists were using names that sounded 'gangsta' and aggressive - those more typically associated with graffiti. His was a kitchen utensil.
Uncomfortable with the implications of giving himself one of these names, appearing to be somewhat fake or a try-hard, Lonac went his own way and chose to embrace the childhood nickname he'd hated so much. It was his earliest statement to himself, that later formed his philosophy of progress being the all-important determining factor in ones persona.
Choosing this name had an unintended effect - it is a link to his past, to his childhood, where he felt joy, excitement and experienced the fun of painting. This feeling can often disappear into adulthood, but Lonac emphasises that his work must first and foremost be fun. Following this path, he often chooses to paint in a more naturalistic and even surrealistic manner - showing animals in an urban environment.
Through the surreal, the animal, the human and the profoundly imaginative pieces that build his body of work - creativity is the most prized possession. Lonac picks the right things for the right place, making sure that we see the world through his unique perspective and in the future on our own travels through cities, we can see blank canvases of our own, and let our imagination paint them.
Rejecting total anonymity, his portraits sometimes include himself, his family and his friends, adding intimacy to his already childhood-tinted creations. His works read like a biography of sorts, a dream-diary where he lays out his thoughts and feelings and tries to make sense of them. Some, as fantastical as they are, seem natural and close, whereas the others that appear more personal, might be further detached and removed. Still, near or far, their proximity is palpable, their power unquestionable.
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