Ivan Bulić Ićo, a lighthouse keeper and self-taught sculptor from Split with an address in Vis, makes sculptures of fish from driftwood that have been exhibited at more than 25 individual and group exhibitions, and at one of them fish with the names of Boris Dvornik, Špira Guberina and Ivica Vidović became – whales.
He will say for himself that he failed as a student of fisheries because he replaced his studies with the defense of his homeland, but over time his love for wood, the sea, boats, sailboats, falkushas, and especially fish, outgrew the initial youthful desire to study.
He started his works quietly, out of his own free will, 29 years ago when he first arrived at the lighthouse on business, around which there was a lot of debris from palm trees and other wood.
A fish was created from palm waste in two steps
As he has a lot of free time at the lantern (lighthouse) in winter, he collected driftwood day after day and one day, as a former student of fisheries, he decided to make his first fish.
“I came up with the idea that I could make fish while walking on the beach around the lantern. There I found a palm tree, took its waste material, arranged it a little more and in two strokes a fish was created, since the palm itself has the shape of a fish,” he says.
Since the wooden sculptures of fish could not be seen only by casual summer visitors to the lighthouse, he went a step further and started organizing exhibitions in Split, Vis, Komiža and Zagreb. Many of them were humanitarian, and with the collective exhibition, his works even reached the Ukrainian city of Kyiv.
Until now, he worked at the lighthouses of Blitvenica and Palagruž, and since 1998 he has been at Stončica, which is three miles from Vis.
He says about the lantern that living there is the same for him as in the house – he fixes what needs to be done, paints the “shuckers”, everything he would do in his own house. He likes that he is separated enough from other people and yet can always reach civilization.
When you ask him how many wooden fish sculptures he made, he will say that he doesn’t know, he documented and photographed all the fish, but he never counted them.
“Fishes are mostly ordered by my friends as gifts. Every year or two I make a sales exhibition. I make them from all kinds of wood, it takes me about five days to make a sculpture,” says Ićo.
He makes wood sculptures in the workshop at the lighthouse, and he has another workshop in Vis. He doesn’t like to call Radiona a studio or a studio, because “it’s better to work, and there’s a lot of talking in a studio or studio,” he adds with a smile.
He owes his love for wood to his aunt, a woodworker.
“My father worked with iron, and I fell in love with wood precisely to get away from iron and heavy colors, because I accept wood dust better than metal dust,” says the self-taught sculptor.
Various art associations operate on Vis, and they are helped by the City Office for Culture, which always organizes something, book promotions, presentations, etc. Ico would like to teach more children to make wood sculptures, he is also thinking about opening a workshop to teach them this skill, but he will see how it all goes.
Great Dalmatian actors as – three whales
Last year he had an exhibition in Bjelovar, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Bjelovar echoes of culture festival – BOK fest. He was invited by the actor Goran Navojec, on whose initiative he gave his fish sculptures the names of deceased Croatian actors.
He made about 15 sculptures, and since he couldn’t decide which fish to give the names of three Dalmatian greats – Boris Dvornik, Špira Guberina and Ivica Vidović, he made three whales for them.
Ico knows how to sometimes make airplanes and old triplanes, again for his friends, but he has the most fish in his head that he still wants to make.
“Sometimes it happens that I have a fish in my head that I have already made and I want to do it again, but in vain, it always turns out somehow different,” he says.