T00429 Chestnut-Brown Picture 1960
Inscribed on stretcher 'KULMER | "SMEDA SLIKA" ulje 149 x 97'
Oil and wax encaustic on canvas, 57 3/8 x 38 1/4 (146 x 97)
Purchased from the artist through the Yugoslav Committee of Cultural Relations (Grant-in-Aid) 1961
Exh: Ferdinand Kulmer, Galerija Suvremene Umjetnosti, Zagreb, January 1961 (10); Contemporary Yugoslav Painting and Sculpture, Tate Gallery, April-May 1961 (25) as 'Brown Picture' 1960; Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, June-July 1961 (25); Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, July-August 1961 (25); Brighton Art Gallery, August-September 1961 (25)
The artist told the compiler on 5 January 1962 that painting, for him, must always have some suggestion of space or a figure - it must have an organic character.
Later he added (in a letter of 15 September 1979): 'The suggestions of space in my paintings of the period were due to associations produced by the patches of colour and by the pictorial material, and they changed in the course of working. They were mainly details of the forest, the theme which was the basis of my "tachiste" pictures. They included foliage, earth, water, humidity, the bark of trees, and sometimes the sky like an "aerial hole" in the dense matter. I remember that in the course of working on the Tate's painting an association of the earth and stones seen through water (as in a stream) was one of the ideas that inspired me. In most of the compositions of the period there was also some suggestion of figuration in the patches and groups of patches (in the way that patches of damp on a wall suggest a battle, a figure, a horse's head and so on), but always subordinated to the "climate" of the forest.
'In any case the associations followed the act of painting which was not a considered gesture but rather the result of a "resemblance" which I saw to a naturalistic image, a resemblance often destroyed by the next painting acts to create a different resemblance. This was a method of controlling the gesture and the act of painting.
'As the years went on the act of painting led to marks which were more precise and more "calligraphic", and the "resemblance" of the rather amorphous patches of the period 1957-65 gave place to the "significance" of the signs.'
Though this work was exhibited in England in 1961 as 'Brown Picture', the word 'smeda' of the original title can be translated as 'brown' or 'chestnut'; 'chestnut-brown' seems the most appropriate translation in this instance.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.403, reproduced p.403