A COFFEE PAINTING

A painting writes to his painter: IVAN MRSIC

By Rosanna Albertini

 

IVAN MRSIC, Coffee Painting, about 2001 Courtesy of the artist

IVAN MRSIC, Coffee Painting, about 2001,  ground coffee on plexiglas 10″ h x 12″ w
Courtesy of the artist

Dear Ivan,

It’s me, your painting. It has been hard to be on my own: your friend the plumber packed me so well ― as if I were a leaking pipe ― that I couldn’t breathe. Was Peter his name? You had asked him to deliver me to the other Peter, the one from Los Angeles. But, his meeting with the other Peter did not go immediately well. The two Peters waited for each other at the museum entrance, each of them at different doors. Remaking the effort the day after, they finally have been able to reach the same entrance. Both were kind. The American Peter kept me in his hand baggage for the flight. It was good to be packed and not see how far was I going from New Zealand, over the ocean.

My real landing was on a bed, in a Los Angeles house. She unpacked me immediately, maybe she is claustrophobic. I was so disoriented and shy that, instead of blushing, I turned into the palest thing, almost invisible. I did not want to look vain. I didn’t know who the “she” was, but she really looked at me. With no words, so I could read her thoughts. “Did I already see you in Ivan’s house?” ― she mumbled ― “You must be one of the first coffee paintings he made, if not the very first.” I only know I never grew much, my size is 25 x 30 centimeters.

Holding me, she started the tour of the house, where to place me? I desperately wanted to be by myself. She must have felt it, she found two nails already hammered into the wall underneath a shelf covered with books, a shady place symmetrical with the picture of a two-year-old pretty girl: her daughter. Maybe she liked me. You know from your Croatian grandmother that coffee grounds have magic powers. Especially now, after some weeks, I can see her mind-set at first glance when she stares at me. I am so happy I could liquefy.

I am a coffee way that doesn’t need milk,

750 squared centimeters of universe blocked in infinite stillness,

the house for a fruit freed from plantations,

a solidified magic rag showing that beauty can be humble,

a piece of sky the same color of earth,

I am the grace of broken things that multiply, spread on archival drawers.

On the same wall where I am hung, but above the art catalogues, shines her Neapolitan mother’s picture. It makes me dream that in the night time I let the ground coffee go away and jump into the filter of a Neapolitan coffee maker to become fragrance in the morning, as it has to be.

(Letter of a painting to his painter Ivan Mrsic, from Los Angeles (California) to Auckland (New Zealand), sometimes in 2008.)

1945, my mother and me in her

1945, my mother and me in her

Ivan Mrsic is a visual artist and a musician. Born in 1957 in Zagreb, Croatia, when Croatia was still one of the six republics of Yugoslavia. Adopting a Maori custom, I place him in his genealogy: son of Tonica Ilijic, who was born to Ivan and Katarina, and of Andjelko (Angel), born to Andrija and Jelena, the grandmother who used to read the coffee grounds on the bottom of the cups and inspired Ivan, in a dream, to start a series of coffee grounds paintings. Ivan landed in Auckland on February 24, 1989. He was a professional printer for many years. Studied jazz percussion at the Conservatory of Music in Montreux, Switzerland. When I arrived in Auckland for the first time, Ivan volunteered to be one of my  guides through the new world. The kindest.