Petar Tale - Self-portrait 2004Self-portrait 2004 42*30 cm

Tale’s Figurative Work

As an artist Tale has always considered the portrayal of humanity to be a major component of his concern and objective, both on an intimate and personal level and perhaps of greater significance to him, in a social and moral sphere. He has created some of his most passionate and emotive works in this domain – yet always with a restraint bordering on the classical; a restraint which succeeds in reinforcing the inherent authority of these works.

Frailty and suffering

Many of the drawings and paintings of groups of traumatised survivors depict a fragile social unity and a primary focus is silent mutual support. All his major statements on war and conflict include the depiction of suffering and injured humanity. Tale’s concern is with ordinary people bearing the brunt of disaster. While careful to retain anonymity, Tale describes every figure with an individual touch or mark. He has succeeded in creating a significant series of gripping statements concerning the human psyche in a collective and profound state of tragedy and trauma, which it should be stressed, always encompass universality. His work is about all conflict and the suffering it engenders.


Born and brought up in Montenegro, Tale reacted intensely to the conflict which arose in the Balkans in the 1990s – in part because it affected the land of his birth, but also because of the immediate associations with the holocaust it had for him. He had worked for some years with war imagery, but the eruption of the Balkan crisis proved to be a defining point in his pre-occupation with this theme. For the next eleven years he intensified this focus, culminating in such an iconic image as Balkan War – in which Tale uses a grim and macabre irony, rarely displayed in his other work. However, much of Tale’s work on the subject of war and violence is centred on the desolate aftermath and the stoical defiance of those who survive, united in their shared grief and the tentative, desperate sharing of mutual support. Tale describes, with an intuitive understanding, the shattered lives of refugees, concentrating on the dignity they strive to retrieve and the unquenchable instinct for survival. The refugees are often seemingly involved in quiet discussion or consultation, functioning cohesively either in prayer or some other collective activity. This capacity for an unobtrusive empathy may be observed in all Tale’s works on this theme. He creates a poignancy which twists painfully in the mind, as in Night After, where, as so often with Tale’s work in this domain, it assumes the mantle of an elegy; it would not be too portentous to say requiem.

Children in conflict

Tale’s depiction, often in vivid drawings, of children devastated by war are perhaps without precedent. It is Tale’s flair to be able to portray the hideous reality of war with a compassionate intensity, while never betraying its victims. In Children of War, a child carrying another dead child looks to the viewer in questioning accusation – a rapier-sharp image.


Tale’s empathetic but disturbing portrayals extend to other individuals who may be seen as victims, as in Alone – but his spare treatment and restrained use of the grotesque prevent any lapse into mawkish sentiment, so that the viewer is only ever concerned with the wretchedness of their plight. Tale occasionally deploys a mythological approach as in Horse and Sick Girl, to which he gives an oblique slant, rendering the image doubly affecting.


In his revealing self-portraits Tale has predictably turned the same un-flinching gaze inwards on himself – to expose a vulnerable and apprehensive persona, yet notably with an artist’s eye, distant and dispassionate. During his working life he has completed several self-portraits, often drawings.

The young child

In a contrasting sphere Tale has realised other acutely perceptive studies of young children. Their freshness springs from a fondness devoid of all sentimentality together with an ability to depict a tricky moment of indecision or conflicting desires in the young minds portrayed. As apparent in Solitude these penetrating psychological insights extend the portrayal of the mind of the very young child.

meny Tale's Landscape Paintings»