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Author: Albín Brunovský
Mirbach Palace (show Contact)
12. 3. 2020 - 30. 8. 2020
Curator: Ivan Jančár

Albín Brunovský, a graphic artist, illustrator, designer of stamps and Czechoslovak banknotes, became a legend in his lifetime, both as an artist and a teacher. In 2010, the Bratislava City Gallery presented the artist´s complete graphic works. However, a special place in his body of work also belongs to the paintings on wood. The book Albín Brunovský – Maliarske dielo (Albín Brunovský – Painting Work), published by the artist´s son, Daniel Brunovský, presented 123 these works, we have managed to put on display the collection of forty paintings on wood. It is hard to say how many of these works can be found all around the world, as many of them have been sold abroad during the artist´s life and remained undocumented. About three years ago, one of the paintings came up for the auction in Germany.  

     Brunovský started painting on Persian walnut wood in 1969 as a part of the commission for the decoration of the government´s hotel Bôrik in Bratislava, designed by one of the most famous Slovak architects, Štefan Svetko. The painter used high-quality wood discarded from the factory in Hodonín, the Czech Republic, and applied a special technology of panel painting based on old methods of production of chalk primer, which he consulted with the art restorer Dorota Filová. He succeeded in reaching high stability of the painting without cracks and gradual changes in colour shades. In most of his works, he does not cover the entire surface of the wood panel with paint to highlight the structure of the wood. Between 1969 and 1974, Brunovský completed a series of 26 works for the decoration of Bôrik Hotel. However, they were not approved by the ideological commission, and so they found themselves in the basement of Matica slovenská building in Martin. Due to the prescience of Ctibor Belan, they finally found their way to the collection of Orava Gallery in Dolný Kubín.

     In the best sense of these words, Albín Brunovský became a bearer of traditions and an explorer of new creative possibilities, even though he deliberately followed in the painterly perfection of Renaissance, pompousness of Baroque, romanticism of Romanticism, the elaborateness of Mannerism, enigmatic references of Symbolism, and decorativeness of Art Nouveau. Drawing inspiration from his native region of Záhorie, he placed the fragments of deliberately deformed human and animal motifs into its mysterious atmosphere (Third Variant of the Super Big Garden Theatre, 1971; Walking in Záhorie, 1973). He freely interpreted the works by old masters (Memory of Velázquez, 1969; Homage to Arcimboldo, 1973), drew inspiration from a famous novel by Francois Rabelais (Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1971), followed the sixteenth-century School of Fontainebleau (Cousins of Fontainebleau, 1971), and depicted the stories from the Bible (Landscape Behind the Tower of Babel, 1971; The Story of the Sinful City, 1973).

     The artist´s search for the synthesis of body and soul, the human and the universe, and the human and nature is of special importance, too. It can be quite challenging to decipher the compositions consisting of interwoven images, often depicted only in fragments. The elaborate compositions are made of the relationships among the human, the animal, and the natural. The fragments of figures are often deliberately misshaped, and the animal motifs resemble fantastic zoology of Jorge Luis Borges. Yet, they can hardly be characterised as surrealist compositions. They do not include random juxtapositions or deliberate references to the unconscious. A special place in the artist´s painting work is occupied by tondos, circular works of art (Wedding Bouquet, 1973; Passion, 1972; Shoes, 1974; Roses, Little Roses, 1974; Clematis, 1974).

     In 1975, Brunovský´s work underwent a dramatic transformation. He changed both the idiom and the way of artistic thinking. The figures in his works became more realistic, sometimes even hyperrealistic. While in the previous works they were covered with fantastical elements, now they were embedded in a natural setting (Sarah, 1979). The real figures situated in imaginary landscapes (Lady With a Hat, 1981) were quite frequent, too. Many paintings on wood were heavily romanticised. The motifs of naked men and women embedded in skilfully composed landscapes were perceived by the artist like large gardens of dreams, or gardens of earthly delights, like a fragment of nature created by humans. Here, Albín Brunovský searches for harmony, understanding, peace or an ideal picture of the world. In his interpretation, this world emerges in a rather idealised form, but the artist emphasises seemingly ordinary things, such as the clouds, or the earth with rich vegetation. He often creates multiple layers where small isles hover above the earthly nature. The figures inhabiting the isles have their prototypes on the earth as if the earthly and the heavenly were coming together. On the other hand, Brunovský also depicts human passions, hypocrisy hidden under the mask (Masks, 1988; Balkan Stage, 1995), or deep emotions (Frustration of Tolerance, 1978). The artist´s work also includes very intimate pieces made on special occasions, such as the artist´s 50th birthday (The Clocks for People in Their Fifties, 1985).

     Brunovský´s paintings on wood are jewels of every art collection and only rarely come up for public auctions. The Bratislava City Gallery is proud to present the largest exhibition of artist´s paintings on wood, which was made possible due to the family of Albín Brunovský, the Orava Gallery in Dolný Kubín, the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, M.A. Bazovský Gallery in Trenčín, the Nedbalka Gallery in Bratislava and many private collectors.


                                                                                     Ivan Jančár


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Albín Brunovský

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