An Audience, 1984
ink on paper
Kamilo Tompa (1903-1989) is probably the greatest chronicler of social and cultural life amongst Croatia’s artists. Hundreds of his drawings depict theatre or concert audiences, actors in action, museum exhibitions, funerals of colleagues, concerts, musicians, lectures and the like, most of which relate to Zagreb’s cultural life of the second half of the 20th century. Tompa’s An Audience drawing from 1984 features not only the peculiarity of Tompa’s style, but also the poetics of his work, wherein his motivation should be sought. For instance, given that Tompa drew his figures without character, given that he seems only to have wanted to record their presence in time and space, a comparison could be drawn between Tompa’s entire drawing oeuvre and the literary form of diary. The value of any diary does not lie in extraordinary events, but in the very discipline of recording ordinary experiences, the mere passage of time. It is difficult to count the number of people in this drawing; had he not drawn some men with beards and some women with long hair, the gender of his figures would be unidentifiable; nevertheless, what is evident is that yet another theatre or concert performance took place, a performance attended by Tompa himself as well. In other words, with this drawing, he seems to have wanted to say the following: “There was a show (concert, public lecture) and I was there.” And that (to him) is quite enough.
Kamilo Tompa graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1928 in the class of Prof. Ljubo Babić and Prof. Vladimir Becić. He also studied art history in Paris. He was a professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb and Head of the Department of Set Design at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. Tompa was initially, particularly in his drawings, close to the social agenda of the Earth Association of Artists, after which he balanced, in terms of style, between figuration and abstraction.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb