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Artist Profile: Alfred Krupa

The Japanese Girl (2019), ink wash & plastic pen with yellow oil color on canvas, 20/26x80 cm. (All images courtesy of the artist)

Artist Profile: Alfred Krupa 


To say that the works of Croatian artist Alfred Krupa's are earmarked by war and post-war social injustices is something of an understatement. By roots one of the representatives of the rare Slavic people of Upper Silesia (a concatenation of Polish, German, and Jewish ancestry), located in the territory of Poland, as well as partly in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, not only was he directly involved in bombings during the period of the Homeland War in Croatia (1991-1995), but his studies in the culture of the Far East, which eventually led him to pen the New Ink Manifesto, has put him at odds with much of the vocabulary of Western art generally.

Interstellar Love (2021), ink wash & plastic pen with white acrylic and yellow oil color on canvas, 20/26x80 cm. 

The relatively diminutive scale of the art world in Krupa's native Croatia has only compounded the High Modernist tendency that runs throughout his work. Unlike most artists working Krupa can make a genuine claim to being avant-gardeif only because the sulferous vapors of war, and existential sufferings following a corrupt and disrespectful post-war establishment, seem to emanate from his handling of ink, making it less an artistic medium and more like an advanced technology documenting the nervous tremors that attend our awareness of inner and outer conflicts.

In the Cobweb of the Sun: above the Waterfall and the River (2021), en plein air grated ink, 35,5x50 cm.  

In Nature (2020), ink wash & plastic pen with white acrylic, 73x61 cm.   

Ink, in Krupa's hands, becomes a kind of expressive seismograph. It traces out a subterrenean thrum barely percpetible below the threshhold of awareness; a muffled cacophony that can at any moment rupture into a macabre explosion. Just as violence is conditioned by peace, however, Krupa's artistry seeks out nature as an archetypal model for his storied images. In the teeth of nature's presence, the human world of acculturated objects becomes a mere grid against which Krupa's fluid works become as portentuous as an overcast sky.

His ink-on-paper work, A Standing Nude, is representatively eloquent in this respect. The work is composed around the torso is a woman, which is relegated to the left of the paper's surface. One might think the negative space surrounding this headless body should give it ample room to move, to appear. But confined as she is to the margins of the composition, a kind of stuttering congestion reveals itself. In truth, there are two torsos here, two women. One is has the Westernized shapeliness suited to the male gaze; the other has a more poetic dimension that makes this bifurcated figure appear more arboreal than feminine. Rather than discountenance us with a horrifying monstrosity, Krupa obliquely describes the various repressions Western civilization has imposed on women, showing the greater potental embodied forms have in relation to to organic development and experiential space.  

A Standing Nude (2016), ink wash & plastic pen, 70x50 cm

The uniqueness of Kruppa's artistry lies in this: that his use of ink allows us to peer past the web of realism that has encrusted over our perception over space. Whether one calls this occlusion ideology, custom reinforced by habit, or delusion, Kruppa's tendency is to peel back the constituent parts of this veil, showing the vulnerable kernel that reveals itself as true intentionality of awareness. The porousness of his minimalist ink work allows us to peer into his scenes as much as we observe them from without. In this, the boundary between imagination and reality, possibility and actuality, is all but annulled. WM

Jeffrey Grunthaner

Jeffrey Grunthaner is an artist & writer currently based in Berlin. Essays, articles, poems, and reviews have appeared via BOMB, artnet NewsThe Brooklyn RailAmerican Art CataloguesHyperallergic, Heavy Feather Review, Arcade Project, Folder, Drag City Books, and other venues. He's the author of the poetry pamphlet, Aphid Poems (The Creative Writing Department, 2022), and the full-length poetry collection Paracelsus' Trouble With Sundays (Posthuman Magazine, 2023, with art by Kenji Siratori). Some recent curatorial projects include the reading and discussion series Conversations in Contemporary Poetics at Hauser & Wirth (NY), Sun Oil for Open White Gallery (Berlin), and FEELINGS for synthesis gallery (Berlin). 

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