Interview Hrvoje Dumancic

In 2019, Croatian sculptor Hrvoje Dumancic (1975) celebrated twenty years as an artist. To mark this amazing achievement we spoke to him about his work, his love for horses and his inspirations. Over the last twenty years, Hrvoje has built up a huge diverse portfolio of work, winning awards and hosting solo and collective art expos in Paris and London as well as Austria, Croatia, Italy and America.

 

Alongside to his work as a sculptor, Hrvoje holds workshops at his own studio to help and encourage others on their way to find their talent.

Even after all his successes, Hrvoje still remains a very easily approachable, down to earth person. When we discussed this feature in honor of his anniversary, I half expected the communications to go through a personal assistant. Instead, Hrvoje was very hands on, selecting the photos we are using and giving me 100% input on the text.

 

To top it all, he send me a spoken whatsapp message on how to correctly pronounce his name! “No its Her-foy-yay..”..(don’t worry, I can say it now!) I am more than proud and very honored to feature one of my favorite artists and Paard Verzameld Collective member and sending out a big congratulations on twenty years on top of the game!

At what age did you become interested in art?

HD: ‘I became interested in art as a child when was maybe seven years old. At the same time I became interested in horses. The first drawing I remember doing I did in kindergarten was a horse. At the age of twelve I had a desire to attend drawing classes, and something interesting happened — when I was about to get enrolled my mother and I went to the wrong floor of the school and I saw people modelling in clay. I told my mother: “I want to do what they are doing.” I later attended the School of Fine Arts and Design, and after that was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts.’

What makes the horse such an inspirational subject to you?

HD:‘I had never given much thought to why horses are my inspiration. As time passed I started feeling that my connection to them is different to that of the people who have never been in contact with horses. Horses are usually associated with strength, nobleness, speed, elegance. To me a horse has a perfect combination of strength and sensibility, something humans should aspire to as well. As a boy I spent more time in the stables at the horse-riding club with the horses than with my peers. I can honestly say that at the time I learned a lot from them. Horses are social beings just like humans are, they are herd animals but at the same time they are individuals.’

I remember when I was about ten years old, being on a horse I felt as if we were merging into one; his legs becoming mine, his height mine, his strength and playfulness mine, his sensibility mine. When I would get off the horse I would go back to being that little boy. I guess that is the reason I used to run to the race tracks every day, that amazing feeling while being on a horse’s back. Horses are very intuitive when it comes to sensing people, and they change their behavior according to the person’s character. They sense if you fear them, if your intentions are good or bad.’

How did you develop yourself over the years?

HD: ‘Ever since studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb I have been very persistent in creating horses. At one point I was even being criticized for it, which made me somewhat insecure after graduation. By chance (although I don’t believe there is such a thing as chance) I applied to exhibit at the famous salon “Art cheval” in Saumur (France), where my sculpture “Aramis” won first prize in the sculpture category. From that moment on things were just happening. Exhibitions in France, England and America followed, my sculptures were acknowledged by international juries. In the beginning I was focused on the horse as an animal that marked history and has been interpreted many times in various branches of art — I simply drew horses, sculpted them.

As time passed and my life experience grew, I began using the horse image to tell stories that have moved me and which I question, the way I look at life itself. I also started working on my PhD degree with the subject of a horse sculpture related to childhood memories — a sculpture representing a rocking horse. I am investigating how a work of art influences our forgotten and repressed childhood emotions.

I observed the rocking horse through the anthropological symbol of collective memory and looked into how much horses are implanted into our collective memory. People often ask me if I haven’t gotten tired of making only horses, and my answer is always “No.”


The ideas I still wish to make real I have enough for two lifetimes, but one always needs that perfect moment to create a good sculpture and that is sometimes beyond my control. I always follow my instinct and find the ideal moment to create. In between those moments I make designer objects for my brand “Horseland”, organize sculpting workshops and do commission work.’

What is your favorite memory involving horses?

HD: ‘There are many, since I have spent almost my entire life surrounded by horses. I could talk about memories involving horses for days. Maybe most memories are my childhood ones, when I grew and developed to become who I am today. Many horses have marked my life,

I would though emphasize my horse Aramis with whom I literally grew up, who was utterly his own and untamable. I bought him after he was being starved because he would not let anyone ride him, he was at the time broken by humans. I took it as a challenge to heal him and after gaining his confidence he made me feel like we were two teenagers. We were not the best at competitions, he would stop and knock over the obstacles. Still, it was the best time ever with him. I will always remember him. To him I dedicated the award-winning sculpture at “Artcheval”.

Completely different from him is my current mare Etoile, who I purchased after Aramis had unfortunately died of colic. Etoile is a true lady; gentle, fragile and beautiful both on the outside and the inside. I bought her in Germany, I crossed over 3000 kilometers twice,

I chose her because it turned out that she actually chose me. I bought her without even mounting her. We just hit it off.’

What are your sources of inspiration, people you admire?

HD: ‘I find inspiration in everything that surrounds me, I observe and absorb both the good and the bad. From that I create my own image of the world which I then turn into a sculpture. I always strive to transform the bad into good, like an alchemist. I find inspiration in people as well as in horses; ordinary people whose simplicity and positivity have a deep impact on me as well as those bold and brave visionaries.

The age we are living in is also an inspiration, the age which is often in conflict with my own personal system of beliefs. I am unable to travel to another time or dimension and change this materialistic trend and consumerist society, fast paced life and alienation — all that is making me be myself and live my life the way I feel.’

Interview July 2019 | Joyce Ter Horst 

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