Croatian artist Zoran Šimunović's large-format oil paintings create symbolic worlds full of memories and feelings, using a visual language of vivid colours, halfway between abstraction and figuration.
Zoran Šimunović: a life fuelled by art
Zoran Šimunović (1984, Nuštra) is a Croatian artist who lives and works in Osijek, Croatia. As the son of a farmer, he grew up on a large farm, working in the fields with his family. His parents wanted him to become involved in business management, so he enrolled in the Faculty of Agriculture, but he soon realised that this was not the right path for him and left after only one year. His later wife Ivana saw some of his drawings and convinced him to enrol in the Academy of Fine Arts. This momentous decision would change his life forever, introducing him to his passion and love for art. Creating, he says, is his greatest blessing.
Zoran Šimunović entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Široki Brijeg in 2008 and graduated in 2013 in the class of Professor Antun Boris Švaljek. He then obtained a position as curator of the Vukovar City Museum, for which he developed a playful cultural programme aimed at a young audience. At the same time, he set up a studio in the attic of his house in Osijek and devoted his energy and free time to painting, beginning to build his career as an artist.
Working in the museum allows Zoran Šimunović to gain a broader perspective on art. About the existing interrelations between his two roles as an artist and a curator, the artist admits: "My work as a curator of the Vukovar Museum is the most beautiful in the world. I collaborate with many artists, institutions, museums, embassies, and this has helped me a lot. I would like to acknowledge that this work has had an impact on the development of my artistic career." The artist and the museum need each other, and Zoran Šimunović achieves the perfect synthesis of both.
Colour, positivity and visual pleasure
The contemporary painter defines himself as a hedonist: he likes beautiful things and enjoying life, living it with pleasure. He pays particular attention to his image and has a passion for tattoos: his body is for him an extension of the canvas, each tattoo contributes to the formation of a unique work. His lifestyle is reflected in his art: "For me, art is above all play and pleasure."
Zoran Šimunović is an optimistic man: he says he sees 'the world with rose-tinted spectacles' and wants to provoke positive emotions with his paintings, such as joy or serenity, or to summon happy personal memories. Pink is his favourite colour, often present in his paintings. Bright and attractive, yet subtle and harmonious colours are a characteristic feature of the Croatian artist's work.
"When I paint, I only paint positive things, things that make me happy. I am surrounded by optimists, and my paintings reflect this positive energy."
Symbolic and narrative compositions
Zoran Šimunović finds inspiration in the spaces where he lives and creates, as well as in common and ordinary objects: toys, fruits, furniture, plants... all the little things that seem banal but which, for his story and his own identity, are invaluable. By including these objects on the canvas, the artist constructs an imaginary space linked to his experience, memory and dreams: "Some of the things I paint date from my childhood, others are more recent. It does not matter how they are dated. What is, is the emotion they arouse in me. It is sometimes difficult for artists to expose their intimacy and show it to the world, but I have no problem with that.”
Through the familiarity of these everyday objects, the unique and introspective worlds created by the artist become interpretable by observers. The motifs that Zoran Šimunović selects are superimposed on the canvas, suggesting mysterious and symbolic interrelations to be deciphered. They almost seem to float in the composition, concentrating in the centre of the image and allowing the colours to fully occupy the edges of the canvas. The artist's contemporary paintings, halfway between figuration and abstraction, acquire a strong narrative character and tell stories with a little humour and a lot of poetry.
Talent, hard work and determination, the recipe for growing success
With his critically acclaimed works and exhibitions, Zoran Šimunović is now one of the most recognised and sought-after contemporary Croatian artists. He has exhibited in galleries and museums in Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary; his works are in the public collections of four Croatian museums. In 2012, he won the Sony Award with co-director Svetislav Cvetković for the short film "Book". In 2019 he was the only visual artist selected by the prestigious American design magazine Regard Magazine for the feature "Croatia full of life". The artist attributes his success to the motivation and determination that have guided his work and efforts in recent years.
"I think it is necessary to develop your own writing and to be true to yourself, to be incorruptible. This is always recognised." Zoran Šimunović