Organic Forms, 1976
oil on canvas
110 x 100 cm
Ordan Petlevski is one of the most significant Croatian representatives of Organic Abstraction based on the experiences of Art Informel and existential anxiety, but also the enchantment of the world (G. Gamulin). This original painting is a hybrid between material Art Informel and natural, even biological associativeness of Organic Abstraction. In addition to painting, Petlevski created drawings, prints and illustrations. Originally from Macedonia, he has been living in Zagreb since the 1950s, where he graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in 1955, and then until 1960 worked as an associate in K. Hegedušić’s Master Workshop. After the stylised cubist paintings of human figures, nudes, still lifes, interiors and exteriors, he became preoccupied with Surrealism (Landscape of the Imagination, 1957). Later, under the influence of materiality and alienation of Art Informel, he achieved an individual expression with tactile organic forms and characteristic biological inventory of destroyed forms of a muted, earthen palette. Since the 1960s, he painted compositions of intense colour harmonies. The artist’s peculiar and distinct amorphous shapes become increasingly massive, transforming into optical stimuli. For Petlevski, materiality, (un)formedness and physical factuality of the work is a substitution of the body and nature in the matter of the painting. Growing out of unbearable suffering, alienation and philosophy of existentialism, for Petlevski, painting is an organic anti-intellectual gesture reduced to the bare act of creating a minimal evocation of reality. The title of the work Organic Forms (1976) refers to the subject matter, as Petlevski often does with his works. By choosing the earth hues in the background, he focuses our attention on the central part of the image with a distinct inner core composed of red, dark brown and blue-green shapes. In the title, Ordan Petlevski alludes to organic forms which is a paradigm of organic, exuberant and irregular abstraction. Certain forms have an associative effect referring to the idea of the organic world. He participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, and in 1964 he was one of the Zagreb artists who participated at the Venice Biennale.
Text: Lorena Šimić curator trainee at the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023