Petar Tale - Leaving 1979Leaving 1979 20,5*27 cm

Tale’s Drawing

Anchoring all Tale's work is the concept of drawing. Revealing his heritage and debt to the Western Tradition, drawing has, throughout Tale’s career, played a fundamental role.

Western tradition

Tale is a modern master of the art of drawing. Drawing provides the key, in many instances, to a fuller understanding of his oeuvre. As an end in itself and as preparation for other work the fount of Tale’s creativity has always been drawing. During his working life he has completed over 4000 drawings. This achievement invites comparison with the masters of the Western tradition with which Tale has so profitably engaged, and which, in his innovatory style, he extends. While there are in Tale’s work affinities of a generic quality with the old masters – use of a particular medium such as sepia/black ink, a reductive tonal range, or the fluency of an assured hand – that is exactly what they remain. For what is so compelling about Tale’s drawings is their distinctive individuality together with a completely modernist sensibility. Tale has produced contemporary images which communicate at such a potent level, because that is above all what his drawings are concerned with – communication. Feelings, ideas and observations are all transformed inimitably by his brush or pen. These drawings, art-works in their own right and worthy of further study, offer inspiration for future development in art. They demonstrate persuasively that contemporary painters can gain stimulus from the past and without loss of identity or archaising, transform this into new ways of seeing.

The magic powers of the brush, art and the artist

Tale’s innovatory approach to drawing is evident in his earliest works, for example, the self-portrait as an artist, aged 15, Painter with Models. Contained here are almost all the seminal features to be found in Tale’s subsequent development. Foremost there is the assurance of one with innate, unselfconscious confidence in his own graphic abilities – a quality in Tale’s drawings that may appear to be effortless, yet should never be underestimated. This ability is combined with faith and trust in his vision which, even at this stage in the young artist’s development, transcends the personal to form a statement with wider references; here in this drawing, it is the awed and delighted realisation of the magic powers of the brush, art and the artist.

Surprise and spontaneity

Flowing, vivid and selective, the self-portrait drawing heralds another elemental characteristic of Tale’s work – the capacity to surprise. He seizes and holds a memorable image, a moment or an action in a manner which retains the freshness and spontaneity of the initial vision. Tale not only captures this moment but, as consummate artists do, transforms it, like hand-writing in its characteristic distinction. Every mark and line contribute; nothing is superfluous – the primary aim is to convey feelings and ideas. The drawing is expressive but not expressionistic, a further constant feature of Tale’s work, seen in Blue Composition. These factors partly explain how Tale achieves his unique quality of mystery and poetry – as in the spirit of Giorgione, Miro or Chagall. Like these masters, while creating images with a universal fascination Tale is able to maintain his own identity throughout his work, exemplified by this charming image of himself here.

Language of art itself

Painter with Models is a portent of other salient characteristics which contribute to Tale’s recreation of familiar subjects. There is no doubt that the drawing is the result of intense observation, yet it is not a literal reality as, for example, may be seen in some work of Lucien Freud. Tale has certainly had individual models in mind, as here he bases his model on himself – but they are always ‘translated’ into the broader allusions of his own artistic language. Showing an inherent grasp of the lessons of the 20th Century, Tale has with notable artistic maturity from the outset of his career, employed a subtle and nuanced use of a reductive emphasis within a discrete form of distortion, grounded in his artistic and human understanding. His preference is for economy – that is to say the substance of a subject is described with only as much as required to convey meaning, while adroitly harnessing the power of suggestion. Perhaps here Leaving is a more apposite illustration of this particular characteristic. Using the expressive power of a line, a mark, a form – the language of art itself – Tale achieves a penetrating psychological ‘short-hand’. It is this original synthesis of psychology and art’s own language, which is at the heart of Tale’s drawing

Line and calligraphy

Yet the strength of Tale’s drawing does not reside entirely here. Other constituents should be acknowledged and refer more directly to the tradition of drawing in Europe. Perhaps the principal feature of his drawing is the handling of line – not the painstaking care of the literally minded in pursuit of accuracy but the free spontaneity of a hand which responds intuitively to the will of his slightest inclination. Such fluidity and expression immediately bring to mind the drawings of Rembrandt and Tiepolo, or other masters who have employed, in their own right, spontaneous, energetic pen and brush strokes with verve and economy – the achievement of so much with so little. The deployment of the expressive line is highly evident in all Tale’s work, both painting and drawing. It is particularly apparent in his figurative work where it often assumes a delicate intimacy. Tale later developed this calligraphic element to form the basis of his abstract art shown in Conference.

Figurative drawings

In his figurative drawings Tale invariably reinvents the use of the ‘grotesque’, a tradition which extends to the Renaissance and first, perhaps, seriously explored by Leonardo da Vinci. While there may be echoes of Daumier, Rouault and Soutine, Tale takes a fundamentally contrasting approach in his own use of the grotesque. As devised in the early stages of modernism the grotesque is a means of escaping cliché – and that is certainly one desired outcome for Tale. However, Tale’s more overt aim is to attain a deeper psychological dimension – to portray the ‘inner’ reality, the ‘inner’ state of mind, rather than for example a literal or conventional description of a sorrowful expression. While proceeding to explore the potential of his discovery he extends the boundaries of the grotesque, employing it to describe a subtle range of states of mind. By the use of a few reductive gestures of the pen, brush or pencil Tale describes elusive, fleeting, unarticulated states of the human psyche – this is clearly manifest in Leaving. Here with compelling and deft strokes, verging on the abstract, the marks of the eyes, mouths, hands allude to a wider gamut of inner stress and turmoil than might possibly have been achieved by a literal or expressionistic style. Never overtly shocking, never over-emphatic, the restraint with which Tale uses the grotesque to convey the life of the mind endows ostensibly ‘simple’ drawings with a magnitude which strikes at the heart.

The emblematic

However, Tale continues this development. In the case of Leonardo’s work on the grotesque or caricature, the study is not so much about opposite poles, more about demonstrating the links between beauty and ugliness. This too is part of Tale’s concern with the grotesque, but he applies his own solution to create a different beauty, clearly evident in a work such as Refugees. How does Tale achieve this? He does so by the lyrical use of the brush/pen strokes which contain in themselves, a quiet, yet almost palpable empathy – the rendition of the lines ‘speak’ and a sense of the ‘inner’ life of the mind is intimated. This grotesque sensibility often endows the unheroic man or woman with a pathos and dignity while simultaneously bestowing a strangely moving beauty. By a purposeful synthesis of the grotesque and the lyrical, sentimentality is destroyed; and from this achievement Tale derives great potency. Tale deploys the emblematic in both drawing and painting, and this constitutes a prominent characteristic of his work. In Painter with Models, for example, the sketches of heads and animals are, other than themselves, portrayals of the boy’s thoughts. The power of the emblematic achieves a heightened significance in the rapt depiction of the paint brushes – they almost seem to twitch, so eager is their owner to wield them and all their stirring power. Tale’s use of the emblem allows for a greater range of references and broadens the content. This inclusion immediately confers a richness and multiplicity, yet Tale always maintains an economical discretion in his application of such powerful ciphers.


Tale’s drawing is often characterised by chiaroscuro, seen in his work based on the human figure. Tale re-invents this device for various reasons. He uses it as dramatic means to focus attention on the principal actions taking place in a work; he occasionally uses it to emphasise a feature within the composition, but most importantly he uses chiaroscuro to construct an inexplicable and unfathomable space, such as vast unreal vaults, from which the figures in the silent drama seem to emerge and retreat. The darkness portrayed seems to contain so much and may be variously interpreted - as seen in The Last Night. Contained within this darkness, textured and transparent layers of pigment contribute to the dynamic energy. This enigmatic darkness reappears, in contrasting form, in Tale’s later abstract work.

Abstract drawing

Any discussion of Tale’s drawing must include reference to his abstract work. True to form Tale began his initial experiments in a totally abstract art with the use of drawing as seen in Transition. Using the components of his previous work – light, space, natural forms, calligraphic elements – Tale has conjured up some magical imagery. The development of his abstract paintings emerged from these works.

meny Tale's Figurative Work»