The subject of Florentina Pakosta’s paintings is often the common man. He turns up in oils, dull and blunt in earthen and mud colors with touches of ochre, as well as in graphics. Sometimes he’s depicted singly and sometimes in crowds. When he appears in company, he usually appears in his own company, in other words in a series in which all faces are alike.
Pakosta grew up in a small house in a low-income section of Vienna, which borders on an artery of the Danube. Now the houses, shops and Gasthauses of the neighborhood have been swallowed up by high-rise apartment houses, chain stores, fast food restaurants and a giant shopping mall.
Pakosta still resides in the house of her childhood, which is backed by a long narrow garden. She has only recently had the pock marks made by Russian bullets filled in and painted white.
As a child, she experienced the confining atmosphere of the Third Reich, the allied carpet bombing and the street battles between the remnants of the Wehrmacht and the advancing Russian army.
These experiences helped inspire her “Madonna” graphics with babes in helmets and military garb. In the Eighties, Pakosta drew a series of portraits of Austrian politicians and other luminaries. The faces are all frontal and symmetrically limned. The subjects seldom reacted with pleasure. Their expressions do not reveal traits that can be considered to be complimentary. Pakosta cannot belie her candor. She is not a flatterer.
Pakosta graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and continued her studies in Paris. Her career progressed in the tradition of the masters and outside of fad and fashion. She has not enjoyed the consistent support of Austrian nabobs and satraps, but in spite of this, her work has been acclaimed.
Pakosta does not mass produce. Every work is painted or drawn with care. If a painting or graphic does not reach culmination to her satisfaction, it is discarded. She only lets the best she can do represent her.
Pakosta the artist and the woman has worked individually and is an innovator like all significant artists. She has stood alone over the years. Her erect posture represents her work and attitude. Only the unbowed can paint as she does.
Late in life, she was offered the key to “popularity” by members of the Austrian cultural establishment. Even though her work basically contrasts to that of the popular artists who produce and sell with ease, there would be money to be made with it. An artist who has youth behind him, is a good investment, even if his work has not conformed to the norms of non-art or anti-art. The monetary aspect now outweighs all others.
The price for the key was integrity, and not adhering to the demeaning conditions posed meant the threat of artistic and financial ruin. The key, of course, could not be accepted with the strings that were attached. Pakosta’s refusal triggered off pernicious repercussions. However, both the artist and her work have prevailed.