On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at a reception in his Sydney, Australia, art gallery, the world renowned artist of Croatian heritage Charles Billich unveiled his new masterpiece on canvas titled “Historical Tournament”. This oil on canvas brings us a rich line-up of Croatian Greats throughout history. Using the chessboard as metaphor for Croatian history Billich once again proves his superior skill in trasnsporting a rich and turbulent history into a touching sphere of determined human interest. In fact, Billich shows us a pictorial representation of how a metaphor of chess is used to represent Croatian life for freedom throughout history. Every move in life is important, even when it throws you back and every move requires a painstaking process of thinking and decision making.
Billich’s creative process opened our eyes at the Gallery. The marvelous, intriguingly impressive characters of a man and a woman in the centre of the painting draw us closer and closer to the canvas so that in that which at first sight appear as crowns we find masterfully detailed symbols that talk of a long rich history of a proud, strong and indomindable nation – the Croatian nation – whose destiny always depended on the crucial moves in a chess game. What makes this artistic image a masterpiece is that it is not only an extraordinarily beautiful image full of excellent and recognisable details but also a touching document of politics and history of the Croatian people, its inexhaustible pride and struggle for freedom.
Here is what Charles Billich said on Tuesday about his latest work of art “Historical Tournament”:
“The symbol of Croatia is called in Croatian Šahovnica, a chessboard. I find the chessboard’s numerous metaphorical potentials very inspiring.
My attachment to chess as the supreme game was complete, from the tender age of seven. The education of a child should not be complete without chess competence.
As it tends to dominate one’s life and as it is brutally demanding on one’s time, I had to make a resolution, way back in 1982, that’s 36 years ago, not to go near a chess set again. I won the battle against chessmania.
You may ask questions about my resolution. Why bring chess back into my life through the back door?
First of all this is meant to be one of my painting, that is front door stuff! Chess may be an old pastime, but it has now become an inspiration, a guideline into the confusion of history, a metaphor for intrigue, a platform for human malice, an algorithm for linking the past to the present to the future, a signal for our obsession with historical archiving, a proof of the legitimate presence of the Croatian nation since time immemorial and forever.
Are we going to be here to continue this chess game in the coming century, the next millennium and beyond?
If we want to keep on playing for the Croatian chess team we must make some very creative and smart moves.
As time goes by, I will suggest also a few smart moves to our government in Croatia. There are lot of members of the peon class who have cheated the system and have become chess fingers through crime, misappropriation and brutal commun-tactics.
We must clean the game and possibly change the chessboard. The incompetence of our community leaders, from local mayors to senators is numbing. The ghosts of the partisans are still in control of the bodies of their descendants.
The painting Historical Tournament/Tour is a cryptic cavalcade through time which I have assembled from my time machine, a device that hasn’t yet been perfected properly and is being developed side by side with the Tesla self-driving vehicle.
My time machine stops in the wrong places and skips entire centuries. But that’s the inaccuracy of history I’m afraid. My painting is not an illustrated historical compendium but a few glimpses from the time machine, which mainly travels when it’s dark.
If you find the likes of King Tomislav, Queen Katarina, Ban Jelacic, the Zrinskys, the Uskoki, Our Lady of Sinj, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac and a variety of Croatian historical locations, good luck to your vision’a acuteness.
I hope you don’t miss the branitelje (Homeland war veterans), in the guise of tigers, pumas and hawks.
A confession: I would never have become a champion chess player.
Now I will compete in the game of chess-gene-rated Art for a long time. I’m hooked. I’ve done it before. When I gave up ballet because I couldn’t leap much higher than a meter. But I took my revenge and I started to paint some lofty choreographics and acrobatic dancers and unnaturally contorted ballerinas, performing in impossible stages dotted by stars, meteorites and metaphors.”