Nikolic’s provocations don’t initially appear sufficiently wilful to start a revolution. Of course the best art doesn’t mount a coup, rather it takes over our senses with stealth, unravelling the fabric of assumptions we weave that underpin and serve our own visual status quo.
When I first saw Tomislav’s painting in late 2010 I had to let quite a few assumptions go, including those about the where, and at what height the springboard for abstraction was located in Australia. The manner in which the architecture of the painting and the support could extend in Nikolic’s hands beyond the plane and flanks of the stretcher, so that the frame becomes an equally legitimate aspect of the work and should be regarded as such, rather than a neutral point of closure.
Then there are Tomislav’s chromatic juxtapositions and this is where the incitement begins. For Nikolic’s colours are bolshie at the very least in the way that they meet. I’m reminded of that very funny moment in Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams questions the logic of camouflage gear. If you’re going to go into the jungle to fight, then clash! It can be the case that upon first seeing a new work of Tomislav’s there can be so much unruly behaviour both in terms of form and colour that one wonders how each of the aspects will ever get along….but they do….his paintings settle into a chromatic detente and wondrous logic of their own. Their character becomes evident with time and in this sense I have long believed that he is less a painter of colour than one of temperament and psychology.
Seeing Tomislav’s magnificent recent winning Bulgari Art Award painting I must say that I suffered all of these marvelous confusions. But here Tomislav has once again made a work that acknowledges the capacity of painting to shoulder both the weight and the theatre of history, to happily turn its back on its more stultifying aspects and to breathe the most vigorous life into painting and into us.