S A S T  R E P O R T 




By Sast Report Correspondants


In an italian village a saying goes: 'An old Fox once saw a big black Raven fly off with a piece of yellow cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," he cried. "How well you are looking today, how glossy your feathers, how bright your eye," he said to the Raven, "I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does, let me hear but one song from you." The Raven lifted up her head, but she did not open her mouth, and the piece of cheese did not fall to the ground. So the Fox tried something else: "Where do you come from, where do you live, where have you been so long?" The Raven again lifted up her head, without opening her mouth and pressing her teeth together, muttered something almost unintelligible: "Son zenesen, ris, res, stringo i denti e parlo sei," and again the piece of cheese did not fall to the ground.' A woman from Genoa said when she met Paul Flora, she told him this story which every Genoese knows.



Paul Flora posing for a photograph in front of one of his drawings
Prof. Paul Flora posing for a photograph in front of one of his drawings.



Paul Flora, born 1922 in Glurns, South Tyrol, living in Innsbruck since 1928, is well known for his black ink line drawings in the German and Austrian art scene. The then young artist spent his formative years in Bavaria. From 1942-1944 Flora studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under the Norwegian draftsman and painter Olaf Gulbransson, who worked for the political magazine Simplicissimus. After World War II he occupied a house in the exclusive residential area Saggen in Innsbruck together with the artists Gerhild Diesner, Bodo Kampmann, and the architect Jörg Sackenheim. Paul Flora's early works are influenced by Alfred Kubin with whom a friendship developed. At that time he frequently visited the Art Club Vienna, founded 1947 by Gustav Karl Beck, Albert Paris Gütersloh, Maria Bilger, Susanne Wenger and Fritz Wotruba. For a few years the Art Club was situated in the basement of the Loos Bar. The "Strohkoffer", as the jazz club in the basement was named, was considered the nightly meeting place for artists, for example Arnulf Rainer, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and writers, like the young H. C. Artmann, in the post-war Vienna. Arnulf Rainer told SAST REPORT that he was not accepted as member of the Art Club: "In den Strohkoffer bin i reinkommen, in den Art Club nicht." The reason: "Unseriöse Kunst."



Paul Flora
Stilleben mit einem Raben,
Paul Flora 2003, drawing with ink pen, color pencil.

Paul Flora signing a copy of his latest calendar.
An annual ritual in the alpine town Innsbruck:

Paul Flora signing a copy of his latest art calendar
at the Galerie Thomas Flora on the 3rd floor of a
historic Herzog Friedrich Street building in the
old town where the famed artist usually celebrates
his solo exhibition - vivid, darkly foreboding,
partly mythical.

"Flora is no stranger to this sort of staging.
In fact, he every year in July turns scenes
like this into art. His own wild, cynical,
dark humored invention. Dark and dismal as
of the rivers Acheron and Styx in Hades.

"And he finds a ready and receptive audience.

"We high-tailed it into the small, decrepit
elevator, dragging a native of Innsbruck along
with us. When the elevator door finally closed,
she let out a nervous sigh. Suddenly she said:
'Ihr stinkt's, ihr stinkt's nach Parfum! ...
and then the 'Älplerin' exclaimed in disgust:
'Scheiss Chanel! ...
'Die Finger sind a no' ang'strichen!' ...
'Korrespondenten seit's ... Sandler!' ...
Howling like a wounded chamois buck:
'Deutsche Journalisten sind wenigstens
Terrorischten' ... and was quiet again.

"A small room, snow white walls, new ink drawings
black framed, light brown wooden ceiling with
severe lines, everything in order, neat desks,
neat personnel. In this clean, black and white
setting, Flora, cultivated, charming, somewhere
in his early eighties, struck a refreshingly
discordant note - with his untamed mane brushing
his forehead, in his blue short-sleeved shirt,
gray pants and well worn shoes.

"Flora's eyes, steely, flashing brilliantly
and his deep resonant voice commands attention.

He looked good - reassuringly good.

"Flora is not alone. Standing nearby is a middle
aged woman wearing dark sunglasses and dressed
in black for the part who we identified as a
member of the family.

"It is warm, he has one of the windows wide open
and a white plastic fan running at max speed and
he is bent over a white writing table. Flora
is mumbling 'Der Vorname ist genug', and he is
not kidding. She again gives her best smile and
watching him curiously supplies the information
he doesn't want to hear: Surname, forename, date
of birth, place of birth. It is clearly out of her
hands. Between interruptions from his two female
assistants busy screening the constant flow of
exhibition visitors, he mumbles again 'Der Vorname
ist genug', signs the calendar and briskly hands
it to her.

"She smiles at him, so smartly, so confidingly and
a few minutes ago she whispered, 'maestro, maestro ...',
then swiftly leaves the room with the newly acquired
art calendar under her arm, but without even saying
'au revoir'.

"We're well into the second hour now and there
won't be many more this year, no matter what.
He only signs his works once a year, which
means he is finished soon. He is signing
his last calendar and working over the drawing
he sometimes adds, smiling only rarely and
fleetingly, and I think I just heard him
say, 'Enough is enough,' which may mean that
the exhibition visitors will have to leave.

"It is almost seven p.m. Suddenly a voice is
screaming: "O shit, what are these goddam
animals" Then it is quiet again. Everyone
stares at the door of the elevator. Someone
sent the plumbers' unit. 'Älpler', come on
the scene -- tense for the action, nervous,
hungry as hunters. Two men. Nicknamed the
"Pathologist" and the "Jellyfish". A guest
broke out laughing: "As long as they don't
touch me, it's OK."

"The older one, a former nightclub owner,
usually talkative, corpulent and rugged, wearing
an undersized shirt and red basketball shoes
finally stands stockstill in front of a new
ink drawing and clenched his right fist.

"The small and unusually fat one with thick,
smudged glasses, looking like a ragged version
of bibendum, the Michelin man gorges himself
on a huge, dripping mound of salmon baps, says
something in his high wild voice and
finally burps twice.

"Mayonnaise drips to the floor.

"Paul Flora quickly looks upward, points with
his pen hand at Jellyfish and chuckles.

"It was obvious to one and all that Paul Flora
had won the day.

"The first time I uncased the camera
- a Rolleiflex - was in the late sixtees,
after we met the unifying symbol of arab
nationalism, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel
Nasser, for an exclusive, personal interview
in an apartment of one of his nationalist
supporters, near the central railway station.

"It was warm, Lyndon B. Johnson, the former
senator from Texas and Kennedy's vice president
was president, the relations between Egypt and
the United States had begun to slip into the
period of Violence, the Governor of Tyrol
Wallnöfer had troubles coming to terms
with his past, and a young artist was bent
over a writing table. He had one of the windows
wide open and a white metal fan running at
max speed as someone had just paid almost
one dollar American for electricity.

"At the same time, a young then unknown
Cairo educated engineer, a dynamic man
without a home or a country was watching
the scene from a distance, being largely
ignored by exhibition visitors. Only a few
knew that this man was on space shot's to
the chairman's job."



Since 1950 Paul Flora developed the dainty, thin and soft outline drawing, an unmistakable line technique, which he is easily identified with. Recurrent themes are cities lik Venice and Munich, the topics acrobats, military sceneries, beer drinkng contests, "Älpler", tyrolese peasants, autumn moods, Richard Wagner, Napoleon Bonaparte, Friedrich Nietzsche and Edgar Allen Poe. A frequent motive is the black raven, which has turned into his trademark. In 1985 he was awarded the "Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz" by Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker. Flora's acquaintance with Marion Gräfin von Dönhoff made it possible that he worked as illustrator for the german weekly "Die Zeit" from 1957 to 1971, which is what made him well known. Most of the nearly 3000 drawings he published at that newspaper in Hamburg, he has burned in the garden of his house in Innsbruck. "I bin nach hinten in Garten gangen, hab an grossen Haufen g'macht und sie alle ang'schirrt," Paul Flora recently said in an interview with the viennese "Falter".



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