Edita Schubert

Illustration: Rina Barbarić / Fierce Women

17.06.1947 – 25.7.2001

I stabbed a knife into the canvas instead of a paint brush.

Edita Schubert was born into a German-Italian family in 1947 in Virovitica. As a 13-year-old, she moved with her family to Zagreb, where she first graduated from the School of Applied Arts, and in 1971 in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts.

After graduating, she got a job as a draftsperson at the Department of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb (where she would work all her life), and her drawings of the human body can be found in many atlases of anatomy.

Edita’s prolific career spanning 30 years is difficult to capture and define because it is imbued with the principle of transgression and evasion of stable categories. Her oeuvre can be classified in movements ranging from hyperrealism and transavantgarde to minimalism and new geometry. The only constant was her continued refusal to conform to conventions. Re-examining the existing visual language, it was as if with each new work she articulated a new question.

In the early 1970s, Schubert first exhibited her figurative, hyperrealistic paintings in oil and acrylic on canvas depicting “trivial” objects (Summer dress, Hairpins, Bracelet, etc.), which the art historian Leonida Kovač interprets as a comment on the cultural representation of gender identity.

In addition to painting, Edita skilfully worked in other media, not hesitating to combine them. In 1977, she photographed the dome of the madrasa in Počitelj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would serve as the basis for a series of works in the coming period. The dome motif proved to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration – Schubert coloured, drew and modeled it, encased it in a trunk and a note box, turned it into a seal, and used as an ornament.

In the late 1970s, she exhibited Herbarium, a series of works made of plants that reflected her interest in the relationship between nature and culture. Using a term borrowed from gardening, she created a series of still life works called Gredice (Flower Beds), and skewered petals and leaves on iron bars in Sculpture. 100 roses is another remarkable work made up of two piles of torn petals and leaves bordered by twigs, which seem to undermine the conventional symbolism of the rose.

In the late 1980s, Schubert devoted herself to geometric paintings. She created a series of irregular quadrangular shapes under the names of trapezoids and cathedrals, and also made collages with geometric motifs. In 1995, she thematized the very idea of the ​​border by exhibiting Beskonačna traka (Infinite Tape), also known as Rad na traci (Assembly-line Work), a paper tape encircling the entire space in which it is located.

In 1998, she created Biography, five groups of glass test tubes on a stand. The first group of tubes features photographs from Edith’s childhood; the second, pictures from her trips; the third, her works from the 1980s; the fourth, drawings of human guts from anatomical manuals; and the fifth, her self-portraits. In this way, the artist pointed to biography as a performative act, also suggesting that identity is composed of different layers and experiences. She engages similar ideas in what is probably her most famous installation, Ambient (1996), which consists of six self-portraits on tripods and the surrounding area bordered by a strip made of a series of serigraphs with printed barcodes.

In July 2000, she had her last exhibition, Horizons, which consisted of seven hoops lined with black-and-white photographs of different cities, which the visitors could “enter”. It represented the blurring of the boundaries between space and time, internal and external, subject and object.

Schubert died in Samobor in 2001. Some of her works are in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum of Modern Art, the City Museum of Virovitica, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Split, and some in private collections.

Edita Schubert Promenade, Virovitica

The promenade in Virovitica, which stretches from the FINA building to the park of the Franciscan monastery, was named after Edita Schubert in 2010 and designed by Krunoslav Kovač. The facade of the building which dominates the promenade is painted with Edita's geometric motifs, the sidewalks are adorned with her favourite domes, and the "false" door on the gable walls is a replica of the author's 1978 work.