The artist and the auction house

Drago J. Prelog has died on March 11th in Vienna at the age of 81. The Auction House im Kinsky is regretting the loss of such a “positive, unpretentious, humorous and humble human being”, as managing director Christoph la Garde puts it.

The Auction House im Kinsky has not only sold, at its latest auction on March 4th, works of Prelog for € 10.240 and € 8.320 (hammer price € 8.000 and € 6.500), but has achieved the third highest price ever reached for this artist with “Adventure in the center” for € 13.860 (hammer price € 11.000).

The Creative Process

All three works issue from Prelog’s phase of the so-called “circulation paintings” – a denomination he chose himself. In an interview, he described their genesis:

“It was on May 18th 1977. In my studio, there was a board on the trestles, and there was a sheet of paper on it, and I started to draw compact lines, one upon the other, with two pencils, and I moved to the right side, and thought, I can continue moving…” (Drago Prelog being interviewed in „Ein meditativer Aktionist“, Okto TV from 7.5.2012, https://okto.tv/en/oktothek/episode/8514)

He circled the whole board until he reached his point of departure – and so the circulation paintings were born. At the same time, he left room for chance, by using a number of pens in one or both hands, and/or a remotely controlled toy car or a syringe. “I transcribed movement and action, left traces that made a painting.” (ibid.) This made his approach close to that of his Viennese actionist colleagues, his work, which is free of composition, belongs clearly to the same tradition.

Life & Art

Drago Prelog was born on November 4th 1939 in Celje, Slovenia, and grew up in eastern Styria. He went to school in Graz (Viennese actionist Günther Brus was his classmate), where he also attended the school of Applied Arts. He changed his first name from Franz Julius to Drago J. in 1958, the year he came to Vienna to study at the Academy of Fine Arts.  He realized quickly though that it wasn’t the right place for him: “I went against everything that was academic and compository. To composition, I preferred structure and rhythm.” (ibid.)

This led to his first scriptural works of the 1960ies; rows of vibrant lines reflecting the relation between movement and static, action and meditation. This phase of work lasted for over a decade. (Drago Prelog in https://www.prelog.at/)

Later, he did forgo the characters in his “bomb and explosions pictures”; mountain pictures and others which had St. Stephen’s dome as a motive followed. He overcame a creative crisis in the mid-70ies by starting to draw portraits; the “nose paintings”, as he called them. From here, he moved on to the aforementioned circulation paintings. In addition, the artist worked on his own artists biography, the so-called “Prelografie”. To every year corresponds a characteristic idea. The reprography which he used here led to Prelog’s last work entity, the paintings of skin and bark.

“The most conspicuous aspect of my work is the clear devotion to character. The preoccupation with script is my main objective – whether in my scriptural works or in my circular paintings. Script is my theme, my obsession. I always come back to this subject, alter it and find new formations.” (ibid.)