Endre Penovac’s paintings are a dramatic dialogue between the control over a craft and the chaotic energy of watercolour. It’s like a dance between his hand and his mind that take turns leading, posing as crucial connectors to the vitality of watercolour painting.
While some of his paintings are doors, others are windows – they are all portals that transport you into Endre Penovac’s world of colour. The honest presentation of Penovac’s world through his bold colours, fluid ink and expert brushstrokes have become his own trade mark as an artist. His illustrations are nothing short of an alternate existence in response to a dominant narrative of life that surrounds.
Born in Tornjos, Serbia, Penovac completed his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Novi Sad, and now lives in Backa, Topola. An independent artist, he has been exhibiting his work across Europe since almost the last four decades. The themes he revisits in his paintings are inspired from our immediate world. This theme has become his signature style. Speaking of style, he tells us, “Style comes from individuality. In other words, it should reflect your personality. When we have found ourselves our style has been reached.”
The drama in Penovac’s work is not depicted through discreet geometric compositions where horizontals and verticals oppose each other but by simple brushstrokes that fade at the boundaries, bleeding naturally on the paper. This contact between the brush and the paper is a wordless coherency that demonstrates his gift of form as a profound homecoming. His subtle yet stunning pieces of art come easily to him. He explains,“I never choose a subject. They are all around me. I look for an opportunity where the elements of the painting and the technique successfully meet the theme and deliver the message clearly.”
Using materials in a direct and simple way, he keeps his pieces broad and non-objective allowing the viewer to bring in his own interpretation drawn from his experience. The extraordinary effect of Penovac’s paintings is achieved by diluting ink and watercolour pigments with plenty of water and making them spread across paper on their own. As easy as it sounds, the paint can be quite difficult to control.
It tends to render a ghostly and fuzzy quality when it dries which is just perfect for his black cats. With regard to his black cat paintings, he shares, “Here the intensity of black ink is more important than colours. The success of my black cat paintings is about the lucky togetherness of the theme and the technique I apply. Only one brushstroke is able to conjure the tail of the cat on a wet paper.”
It seems that Penovac uses the unpredictability of the medium he works with to his favour. In other mediums where one is responsible for every mark there is probably more control but with watercolour one is engaged in a subtle dialogue with the paint.
Penovac’s paintings are a glimpse of this dialogue where both the artist and his art respond to each other, encouraging an intuitive response, a spontaneity which allows magic to happen on paper. Penovac tells us, “Watercolour is a technique through which I can express my vision of the world most clearly. I refer to the conflicts and the duality of opposites which I can see around me and in myself. I try to show the unity of antagonisms to create harmony in my paintings.”
His wonderful technique continues to capture other organic and dynamic forms. Caught in sublime sceneries and happy faces, the viewer is struck by the simplicity of his paintings. He tells us, “I apply the principle, less is sometimes more. I try and use clean, unmixed colours that look more intense and effective. I put the colour that I want to emphasise onto a grey or contrasting or so called neutral background, so the chosen colour can have a key role in the painting.”
They say that the difference between writing and painting is just good grammar. Looking at Penovac’s perfect paintings we wonder whether he has something in mind when he first brings the brush to the page or whether that develops as he paints, to which he shares, “The painting is always borne in my mind before I begin to paint. My technique renders unexpected results which I then keep gladly.”
The captivating use of colour in his paintings brings us to recognise the inward significance of his subjects. Penovac shares, “The black colour doesn’t have any symbolic meaning for me. The paper is white and the ink black – it has long been invented and given that they look impressive together.”
Looking at his work we recall once more that art is a representation of a personal taste and feel and no one represents this truth more so than watercolourist Endre Penovac!
Text By Kanupriya Pachisia
Photographs Courtesy Endre Penovac