“There are very different people living here, rich and poor, young and old… You go to Kašić’s park near Kvatrić and you see all those people at one place. Everything is mixed up, you know?”
On an unusually warm January morning we headed to the home of Luka Petrinjak, a Zagreb sculptor and jewellery designer, located right across the street from Zlatna Školjka restaurant in Martićeva street. Luka spent his childhood and early adolescence elsewhere, first in Ravnice neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city, from where he travelled every day to the Applied Art and Design School, where he graduated in 1994 at the Metal Design Department. After that he lived in Belgium for years, attending the Royal Academies of Fine Arts in Antwerp and Brussels, focusing on the area of precious metal shaping. He even got a Belgian citizenship, but he eventually decided to return to Croatia.
He finished his post-graduate specialist study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2006, focusing on fine plastics and medals within sculpture. He is one of the most appreciated and most educated Croatian sculptors in the sphere of fine plastics, who has often exhibited his work in various European countries, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. He is inspired by everything he can see around himself, including the neighbourhood he lives in. We discussed that over cheese, prosciutto and red wine, glancing occasionally through the large window of Luka’s apartment, looking at the backyards of the surrounding building blocks, which have always kept their own secrets in Martićeva.
Luka Petrinjak: Like any other Croat, I moved into my apartment when my wife’s grandmother passed. Before she died, I had never lived near Martićeva. I lived at the Railroad Colony in Ravnice and Antwerp, Belgium. I ended up here due to a combination of circumstances, but it is a nice coincidence that I’ve come to live with my wife and daughter halfway between the Academy and the atelier in Ravnice, where my parents still live. We have been in Martićeva for almost ten years.
The greatest thing about the neighbourhood is that it’s a real social mishmash. There are very different people living here, rich and poor, young and old… You go to Kašić’s park near Kvatrić and see how the people are divided: on one bench there are drunks, the other one is occupied by people running with their kids in the “jukebox”, then there are people with dogs, older kids playing football, old people and lovers, and finally, there are people eating there. I think it’s cool. Tompa, my old man, went to the park to look after his granddaughter, Maja, and she said to him: “Look, Tompa, you took the drunk’s spot..” What can I say, everything is mixed up, you know?
On the other hand, there are fine restaurants, good bars… Some new bars have started attracting people from the centre, like Mojo bar at the beginning of Martićeva. I don’t like Mojo, but people go there… I have coffee everywhere, but my favourite café has unfortunately been closed down. It was right here around the corner. It was a real neighbourhood café — it was social, that’s why I liked it. On the corner of Zvonimirova and Šubićeva there was a small, narrow café, where members of the Workers’ Front (political party, AN) used to gather. We used to tease the owner that party animals visited his café all the time. I have a friend who is a goldsmith over in Vlaška; I often go there for a coffee, so we can exchange materials and talk about the trade. That’s it as far as work is concerned. I often go to Zlatna Školjka restaurant, which gets better each season.
The trademark of the neighbourhood is undoubtedly its architecture — Ibler’s and Vitić’s skyscrapers, the Small Vatican… The former exchange building also. In addition, a lot of artists live here. Designers as well. There was a time when fifteen sculptors lived in Martićeva and its surroundings. They had ateliers in their buildings, those rooms at the top, see, up there (pointing through the window to the building across the street, AN). I guess everything played a small role in attracting them to the neighbourhood.
It is very important for artists that they have a certain perception of the environment, certain experiences they can express through artistic work. I tend to complicate my work too much. I present myself with problems I want to solve, you know. For example, right now I’m trying to be inspired by utilitarian things. I think that a bridge could be built only to connect two sides, and by fulfilling its function it also accomplishes an artistic sensation. Since I like music very much, I had the idea to make a homage to musical instruments. I dissect musical instruments and modify their parts into a new art form. For example, I apply treble clefs onto a medal, and you can use them as a joystick (Play Violin). I never had the intention of playing it in the classic sense. I sometimes go the other way round: I take a guitar string and make a brooch out of it. I have exhibited my “instruments” in Pazin and in Bruges, Belgium.
That phase of my creative practice was definitely influenced by the neighbourhood I live in, namely the music shops that exist or used to exist here. They have left a mark. And what does the neighbourhood lack? Honestly, we lack clubs, places to go out at night, the kind that used to exist here not so long ago.
— We were already very late for the next interview when we managed to detach ourselves from Luka’s kitchen. Passing by the derelict Kulušić, but also by the resurrected Culture Factory, we thought about the neverending opening and closing of spaces in and around the neighbourhood. The thought had a sense of fatalism, but also of a certainty that something new is bound to happen everywhere eventually. It usually does in the end.