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Mrkusich, Milan  

Kyla Mackenzie

(b Dargaville, April 5, 1925).

New Zealand painter. Self-taught, Mrkusich pioneered abstract modernism in New Zealand in the 1940s, a period when there was little acceptance of abstract art there. He co-founded the Auckland design firm Brenner Associates in 1949. His interest in European and American modernism, and the Bauhaus school, informed both his early painting and architectural designs of the 1940s and 1950s, which in turn, influenced each other. His early works on paper explored spatial concerns using line, geometric and organic forms, and colour. Mrkusich’s approach to colour was generally informed by Kandinsky’s writing on the emotive and metaphysical power of colour and its receding and advancing qualities. The orchestration of irregular coloured squares and rectangles in Buildings (1955; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa) echoes Piet (er Cornelis) Mondrian’s Boogie Woogie paintings of the 1940s.

Mrkusich painted full-time from 1958, and from c. 1960 he began to paint with a gestural spontaneity reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. In these paintings irregular networks of brushwork form loose grids. In other works, amorphous colour fields are overlaid by, or adjacent to, finely drawn straight lines, circles, and squares. Geometric shapes appear in the ...