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AT HIS NEW BRATISLAVA EXHIBITION, HROMEC'S TEXTURED WORK CARVES OUT LAYERS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

Painter Robert Hromec: Messenger from time past

High above the roofs of Bratislava, in painter Robert Hromec's airy studio, bleeding torsos and ancient Venus figures come alive. Many of the colours Hromec uses - blood red, terra cotta, ochre - are earthy and evoke a sense of the past in viewers. Indeed, the theme of human history dominates most of Hromec's work.
"Time and history is a circle," Hromec muses. "In a way, everything has already happened, and by looking back in time we may be able not only to understand ourselves but perhaps also to predict events and try to avoid mistakes."
Back in Bratislava from a seven-year sojourn in New York, Hromec is excited about a forthcoming exhibition of his work, called 'Messengers of Time,' which was set to open on January 21 at Pálffy Palace in Bratislava.


'Aphrodite of Melos', a print-painting on wood.
photo: Courtesy of 'Messengers of Time'.

'Messengers of Time', an exhibition of the work of Robert Hromec

Grand opening: Friday January 21 at 17:00 Pálffy Paláce, Panská 19, 815 35 Bratislava
Open:Every day except Mon., 10:00 to 17:00. Admission free.
Tel: 07-544 33 627

Closes: February 26, 2000High above the roofs of Bratislava, in painter Robert Hromec's airy studio, bleeding torsos and ancient Venus figures come alive. Many of the colours Hromec uses - blood red, terra cotta, ochre - are earthy and evoke a sense of the past in viewers. Indeed, the theme of human history dominates most of Hromec's work.

"Time and history is a circle," Hromec muses. "In a way, everything has already happened, and by looking back in time we may be able not only to understand ourselves but perhaps also to predict events and try to avoid mistakes."

Back in Bratislava from a seven-year sojourn in New York, Hromec is excited about a forthcoming exhibition of his work, called 'Messengers of Time,' which was set to open on January 21 at Pálffy Palace in Bratislava.

Holec uses mixed techniques in his paintings, combining carving, printing and standard brush work to create striking images. In one work, the contours of an Egyptian profile and silhouettes of warriors in rich colours appear beneath an 'all-seeing' eye which is carved into the surface of the painting. It's as if the eye wanted to whisper to viewers, "look, here is man, here is history. What I have seen you will see, what I have experienced you will too, even though it may take a different form."

Born in Žilina in 1970, Hromec was accepted at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava in 1989 after having worked for a year as a manual labourer in order to prove that apart from artistic talent he also had the proletarian background required in then-communist Czechoslovakia. Shortly after he began his studies, the Velvet Revolution turned the country upside down. One year later, Hromec packed his bags and left for New York City.

Once across the Atlantic, Hromec supported himself by working as a cleaner, waiter and ice-cream vendor while painting and studying in his spare time. He finally received a scholarship and was accepted at the Pratt Institute, a local art college. He went on to complete his BA at City College, and then an MFA degree at Hunter College in New York.

During the 1990's, Hromec showed his work in many solo and group exhibitions in New York and all over Europe. While holding down two jobs - as a teaching assistant at Hunter College and a ticket-taker at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - he kept his own studio near Times Square.

Having spent the last 18 months in Bratislava, Hromec says he misses the dynamism and multi-cultural vibe of life in cosmopolitan New York.

"What I dislike most here is the dirt and the greyness," he said. "Even though New York is filthy too, there seems to be some sort of colour in the filth and dirt." But while he occasionally dreams of rolling hills, cypresses and an old farmhouse in Tuscany, Hromec says he is back home to stay - back home, back to his roots and painting pictures that take viewers even further back than that.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Hromec's pictures show a reverence for antiquity and ancient myths, and an urge to place them in a modern context. His work is a tribute to human beings and human skills, and reminds us how out of touch we have become with these themes.


Hromec misses New York, but says he is home in Bratislava to stay.
photo: Courtesy of Robert Hromec

"We live in a world today which is inhuman in so many ways," Hromec says. "Computers and information from all directions ultimately serve to make us even more detached from what it means to be human."

The paintings on display at the Pálffy Palace serve as a reminder of the past, a mirror which we can look in to see if we still recognise ourselves. Earth and soil dominate, and in the middle of it all, man and woman try to rise above it and rule it. The rich colours bring back long buried memories of sun and fertile fields, adding light and warmth in this cold, wintry month of January.

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