On the wings of colours and wax
The exhibition of works by Alfred Pal is the first presentation of the finest works of his painting oeuvre. It contains 80 of the best paintings from the cycles Camp Inmates, Execution Ground, Convicts, Flying Machines, Trees, Beasts and Burning Bushes, which the artist produced between 1960 and 2009. The selection of the exhibits, the conception of the exhibition and the exhibition design are by Biserka Rauter Plančić, and the foreword to the catalogue is written by Academician Tonko Maroević.
Although for decades Pal’s work held a central position in the Croatian art community, because of his omnipresent activity as a designer and the numerous visual identities he created for the best known Croatian libraries, knowledge of the totality of his work is full of gaps, which will be filled in by this retrospective exhibition of the Modern Gallery. What he should be remembered for is not just his designs, but also his painting, in which, during five decades of quiet and retiring creative work, he produced a series of marvellous works with a fiery colouring and characteristic associative expressiveness. With a propensity for an expression founded on pure painterly values, he combined the old technique of encaustic and an expressive palette in a synthesis of old and new, imaginative and real. The incendiary emotions and protests against the horrors he had gone through are the subjects and characteristics of his suggestive painterly language of gestural abstraction and sarcastic fantasy.
The life story of Alfred Pal (1920-2101) was always a mixture of great tragedies and a will for life, which is immortalised by the power of achievement of this artistic oeuvre. The very end of the great Croatian artist is in key with the artist’s life, which was full of rises and falls. As a young man of 20, a would-be student of architecture, in the Holocaust he lost all the members of his family. Having suffered his first internment in camps in the occupied territory (Kraljevica and Rab), in 1943 he joined the Partisans. An excellent draughtsman, he had a leading role in the illustration of printed matter and brochures for the purpose of promoting combatant literacy. On his return to Zagreb, he was not long to enjoy the fruits of his successful management of Illustrirani Vjesnik and Kerempuh. From 1949 to 1953 he had his second spell in a concentration camp, on Goli otok. After that came a period in which, because of discrimination, he worked under a pseudonym, until 1961, when he had his first individual exhibition, and his life and creative work once again took an upward path. Exceptionally active in the art of the print, in design, book design and illustration, he dedicated himself to painting in cycles, within the four walls of his studio. Yet this does not mean that his painting oeuvre is modest in its extent. Until a traffic accident that led to his death in 2010, Alfred Pal created a series of remarkable works that tell of an exceptional artistry and an unrepeatable painting career dedicated to the fight for human liberty and the victory of creation over destruction.