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Stanislaus Ivan (Stan) RAPOTEC (b.1913; d.1997)

Stan Rapotec was born in Trieste, Italy, October 4th 1913. In 1918, his family moved to Ljubljana, Slovenia, where the young man grew up surrounded by the culture of drama and opera whilst completing his schooling. Rapotec went on to study Economics at University, however he was also drawn to the Arts and took up studies of the history of art. His involvement in student politics saw him lead the student union movement, becoming Secretary-General of Interuniversity Union of Yugoslav students. After completing University, Rapotec joined the National Bank of Yugoslavia.

With the outbreak of World War 2 and the occupation of Yugoslavia, Rapotec joined the underground organisation. Mobilised within a few weeks, he saw action in the Middle East. The religious culture and history of Jerusalem had a major impact on the young man straight out of University. Rapotec remained in the Middle East for 7 years, absorbing and studying the history of Cairo, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. As he was always on the move, his early artistic pursuits consisted of small-scale paintings. He became fascinated with Egyptian mythology and history, which remained a source of inspiration for his works throughout his career.

Shunning formal art schools, Rapotec instead turned to his travels, archaeology and history for inspiration. In 1948, on the advice of a friend and the promise of greater opportunities, Rapotec moved to South Australia. He resumed his economics studies, found work in a timber yard and began painting again, holding his first exhibition in 1953 at the Art Society Gallery.

In 1955, Rapotec holidayed in Sydney before making it his permanent home where he began developing his signature large, bold abstract expressions of myths, rituals and architectural forms. Whilst drawing his early influences from the European and American abstract impressionist movement, the artist also sought to break away from the old established painting methods by introducing his own unique style.

From the early 1950's, Rapotec held numerous Solo and Selected Group Exhibitions throughout Australia, London, Brazil, Rome, Paris, Austria, San Francisco and New York. In 1961 he married Andree Du Boise and won the Blake Prize and the Daily Mirror's Waratah Festival Prize.

In the early sixties, Rapotec moved to No 44 Victoria Street, eventually sharing the house with fellow artists John Passmore, Bob Hughes, Leonard Hessing and John Olsen. Rapotec persuaded Russell Drysdale to move into the district and helped him secure a flat. Whilst Melbourne artists of the time rebelled against the new arts revival movement in Victoria Street, Rapotec believed it was an important era for art in Australia.

In 1965 Rapotec returned from a visit to England and Scotland, where his paintings were based on cathedrals. He stopped in Greece and the Middle East to revisit his favourite places. The artist fulfilled one of his greatest desires by visiting Mount Olympus, a trip that inspired Poseidon, a work dedicated to Greek mythology.

Along with numerous contemporary artists of the time, Rapotec encountered initial resistance from bishops at Sydney University who questioned the suitability of abstract paintings in churches.  Twelve years later, Pope Paul VI attempted to bridge the divide between the church religion and art by asking for a collection of paintings with themes addressing the issues of religion. The Pope donated a Vatican apartment as the gallery, collecting a number of paintings during the last ten years of his pontificate. In June 1973, Rapotec joined his contemporary artists in the Sistine Chapel to witness the official opening of the gallery by The Pope. Rapotec’s Corpus Christi in Seville hangs in the Vatican.

Fascinated with exploring the country and people of Australia, Rapotec travelled extensively across South Australia, north up to Flinders Ranges, outback New South Wales and Queensland. He produced a series of pictures on his outback experiences.

Rapotec painted directly on horizontal hardboard, without preliminary drawings or sketches in order to maintain his interest and spontaneity. He painted in bouts, drawing on his memory store of events and experiences. Before embarking on a series of paintings, Rapotec devoted time to concentrating and planning. He balanced his painting bouts with keeping his life in order, minimising the interferences of everyday life in his mind. He began painting at night to ensure spontaneity and lack of interruption. He believed that the subconscious produces the best work. He painted quickly, usually completing a work within 2 hours and never returned later to touch up the painting as he believed this practice would ruin the work.

Rapotec turned from oils to acrylics in the fifties as the medium better suited to his technique. His paintings relied on washes that were flooded onto the board before he started painting. The flow of the paint was vital to Rapotec, so he painted quickly. Using the same brush for each colour, the artist created controlled yet spontaneous strokes of colour, a process that fascinated him, with its resulting mixtures and tones.

On 26th January 1989, Rapotec became a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the arts.  In February 1995, Rapotec suffered a debilitating stroke.  "To become an artist, you must have a life rich with experience, a strong desire to express yourself, a will strong enough to carry out this desire, and . . . talent," he once said.

Stanislaus Rapotec died in Sydney in 1997, aged 83.

The Australian National Gallery carries three of Rapotec’s major works. The awesome Yorkminster and Experience in the far west, both of which were selected by Sir Russell Drysdale and Poseidon. Yorkminster hung in the Australian Embassy in Moscow for many years, generating a great deal of interest amongst Russian artists.  Rapotec’s work is represented in Selected Collections including the Australian Embassy, Paris, Vatican Gallery of Modern Religious Art, Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris, Blake Dawson Waldron, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, numerous Regional Galleries & Tertiary collections and Corporate & Private Collections in Australia & oversea.


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