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Published 2016-07-02

Dominik Behal, Painter

Disguised as garden landscapes, exotic groves and historical mansions, Dominik’s paintings are not quite what they seem to be. Apart from the radiant beauty and deep tranquility, which is typical to them, they have a second meaning – the politics. As their titles, Haiti, Yalta and Castle Bravo, among others, suggest, they are about problems of the present times. Painted with the lightness of soft pastel and oil media the concepts and their seriousness invite us to think and re-think what happened and why.


It looks like a bush, rendered in cadmium yellow, growing peacefully under the rosy sky. However, as the title, Castle Bravo, suggests, the tranquility of the summer’s evening will soon be broken by a blast of a hydrogen bomb. ‘Castle Bravo’ was the most catastrophic nuclear test in history. Carried out by the United States in 1954 at Bikini Atoll, the bomb exploded with the power of one thousand Hiroshimas. It burried the surrounding islands, together with their unsuspecting inhabitants in nuclear fallout. Until the present day, neither the islands nor the islanders and their future generations have recovered. Dominik’s painting is a remembrance of the sad story.

    Left: Castle Bravo, 2014, 145 x 120 cm, oil on canvas   Right: Haiti II, 2016, 25 x 18 cm, dry pastel on canvas

Haiti is a series of two soft pastel paintings reminding us of the 2010 earthquake. Unfortunately, 6 years after the calamity thousands of Haitians are still living rough in camps for internally displaced people. The gentle, abstract paintings suggest the gentleness in which similar situations should be approached and dealt with.

Right: Yalta (diptych), Yalta III, and other paintings from the series (available on request)

Livadia Palace in the town of Yalta, Crimea, is where President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin met in 1945 to discuss the future of Europe after the WWII. Winston Churchill pressed for free elections and creation of democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe, which was agreed upon. However, the declaration was soon broken by the Soviets and the 44 years long Cold War followed. Yalta is a series of paintings from which the largest one, Yalta, is a nearly 10 feet wide diptych. It depicts the subtropical gardens of Livadia Palace, lit by the evening sun. The right side mirrors the left, but differences in colour can be found, posing ambiguity – similar to the one in the Yalta deed. In Yalta III  three figures are present, immersed in a discussion.

Baionette Inteligente II, 2014, 40 x 30 cm, oil on canvas

Baionette Inteligente II is another painting set in terrace gardens. Surrounded by lush vegetation and a lake, two figures are walking across the lawn. ‘Baionette intelligente’ is a military theory in which a command, often unlawful and violating human rights, must be obeyed unconditionally. The figures are, perhaps, discussing the morality of such decision.

Rendered in abstract or semi-abstract style with only the title suggesting what Dominik's works are about, they might seem ambiguous - but their message is quite clear: What has happened to the honesty and fairness, and is there anything we can do about it?