Oil On Board
450 x 350

Despite his name, Milan Mrkusich is New Zealand born - to Dalmation parents in Dargaville. In 1927 he moved with his family to Auckland. From 1942 Mrkusich was apprenticed to a graphic designer where he learned lettering and pictorial arts, attending night classes at Seddon Technical College with the aim of becoming a commercial artist. It was during this apprenticeship that Mrkusich became disillusioned about the career in store for him. Reading the magazine Arts and Architecture he became fascinated with critical writing about painting and music and resolved to become an artist. Not a landscape artist of the type fostered during those years at Elam or the Auckland Society of Arts but an abstract painter. Mrkusich was much more interested in the European Modernism of Mondrian, Kandinsky and the Russian Constructivists than in the fashionable quest for a truly New Zealand art ( i.e. non-British ) based on the landscape. In this he was to be far more encouraged by young Auckland architects than by other painters. In 1949 with two architects, Des Mullin and Steve Jelicich, he set up the shop Brenner Associates where modern art, ceramics and furniture were sold to people who wanted to live among contemporary objects. Mrkusich had been painting abstract works since 1946. Few of these paintings sold but like McCahon he did manage to find a group of people adventurous enough in their taste to support his efforts. By 1958 he was ready to take the risk of trying to make a living as a full time painter. Despite considerable initial hardship and discouragement Mrkusich is now regarded as one of New Zealand's foremost painters. The paintings he made in 1955 are studies in the abstract use of advancing and receding colour though still tied either to landscape or human form. In the case of Head the artist has juxtaposed many bright colours to make an abstract pattern which is of far more importance than the fact of its physical derivation. The colour is applied in shaped blocks and in this is perhaps influenced by the artist's simultaneous involvement in the design and production of mosaic murals made from coloured glass blocks called tesserae. In fact few people would realise that the painting was of a head, unless told. Gift of the artist to Harry Seresin of Wellington....

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