Review by Iva Koerbler, 2016
Many native Croatian and European authors, artists and poets often remarked that the atmosphere, light and colour of the Mediterranean left a lasting impression on their (emotional) memory. The spirit of the Mediterranean is linked to its distinctive architecture and flora, to the unique fall of sunlight across its landscape and cities; from the bright white noon sun, to the deep, melancholic shadows of the late afternoon.
Branka Ridicki spent her childhood among Zadar's historic architecture, and the majority of her life travelling across Europe, Africa and Asia; especially Egypt, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where she resided for many years. The influence of her travels continues to echo throughout her paintings, forever impressed upon by fragments of ancient and historical architecture. Regardless of discrete variations in the treatment of motifs in her paintings, the viewer cannot fail to notice how each fragment of a city, square, space and urban trace reveal not only a study of archaeology and history of art, but also, to a greater extent, the cultural and emotional milieu in which the artist grew up, which she later rediscovered in the context of a multicultural topos.
Her paintings depict a city which is neither a metropolis nor megalopolis, rather one in which time and space are still experienced on a small scale, from the toll of the bell from the lone church on the square, to discovering lanes and homes by foot. It is a town built to fulfill human needs, unburdened by chaos and today's technological cvilisation. To Branka Ridicki's opus, one can apply the musings of Radovan Ivančević on the works of another artist, Anita Kontrec, who similarly dedicates her interest to the origins of the Mediterranean civilisation: “This is poetic and creative exploration of the theme of cities, one that is deeply rooted by artistic intuition in the same urban experience that cultured mankind has known for milennia, expressing it as clearly in the verbal language of scientific analyses as in the visual language of art.”
Although we recognize in Branka Ridicki's paintings the proportions and measures of the plans and squares of Cairo and ancient cities such as Zadar, they simultaneously signify the large spaces of the artist's nomadic spirit through the synthesis of architectural typologies specific to the Mediterranean house. From India and Egypt, to Dalmatia and Istria, her paintings record various streets, squares, passages, houses, palaces, churches, and the configuration of land and river landscapes, while the sea and sky are symbolized by the colour blue. Darja Radović-Mahečić notes the significance of the blue colour in Branka Ridicki's paintings, describing it as “the blue vault of imagination that symbolizes a journey.” Branka's paintings are reduced and measured in the vertical and aerial view, without much narrative, with dosed expressiveness, but nonetheless tangible. In the free fields of the painting, without horror vacui, she draws traces similar to those in “The Mediterranean” of Matko Trebotić, and “Istrian Houses” of Zora Matić and Vanja Tumpić, but this further extends to the origin of our (Croatian) modern art. She writes down words and lyrics, often repeating the words “silence”, “day” and “secret”, and those reflect the contemplative moments of the magic of the Mediterranean in her paintings, connecting her art with that of our (Croatian) inter-war art of the South. Moreover, in the occasional frames of her towns, we can hear and recognize the echo of the colours, substance and atmosphere of Gecan's “Orebić” (1935), Tartaglia's “View from Vis on Biševo” (1936) and even Šimunović's “Cypresses” (1936). It is not a direct morphological genesis, but an incorporation of the same visual code which is understood by all Dalmatian artists, artists of the South, and of the Mediterranean.