Yellow Surface III, 1961
mixed media on canvas, 86 x 75 cm
Next to Ivo Gattin, Eugen Feller (1942) is the most consistent and refined representative of Radical Art Informel in Croatia. Feller is a self-taught artist who has been creating paintings in the category of their physical factuality by experimenting with non-painting materials, by using indisputable processes of creation and by rejecting organised formations of matter and form. Feller’s Art Informel is an anti-intellectual process defined by the material and factual essence of painting. It is just as topical in today’s time of constant crisis as it was in the time of its first appearance on the Croatian art scene, its topicality arising from its function as a semantic substitution of corporeality, suffering and universal alienation.
Feller has been active as an artist since 1957 and has been exhibiting since 1959. He created his most famous series of eight paintings – Malampias – at the beginning of his career. Monochromatically composed and created by applying thick layers of plaster, these are painterly facts of relief tactility, first exhibited at a solo exhibition of Feller’s work in 1962 at Studio G curated by the Gorgona Group of Artists. Feller borrowed the name for his series from a novel written by Nathalie Sarraute, a pioneer of the French “New Novel”, and her “Portrait of a Man Unknown”: She must have loved that nice big Malempia of theirs (from J. Denegri). Sarraute’s use of the term implies an objective naturalism of sorts. The features of Feller’s Malampias are more akin to the spiritual moods and ambiances conceived by the New Novel than to the philosophy of existentialism (J. Denegri). In fine arts, Malampias signify anti-painting of sorts, the foundations of which are different from those of painter Julije Knifer. The Yellow Surface from 1961 is a self-sufficient work of Art Informel that achieves the processuality of painting and materialises the physical reality of the image with two types of monochrome layers: shallow and relief.
In the next stage of his career, Feller created minimalist objects in painted wood and colour screen prints, and in the 1980s he neared primary Abstract Art. Since the 2000s he has been creating geometric structures, which often intervene directly into space. He has lived in Italy since 1969, and is the recipient of the 2016 “Vladimir Nazor” Lifetime Achievement Award.
Text: Željko Marciuš, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Musem of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022