Arts and Design

Radovan Kraguly obituary

My friend and colleague Radovan Kraguly, who has died aged 87 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease, was one of the first artists in the UK to make the case for harmony between animals and people. He lived in Wales from the 1970s and it was there that he developed his ideas on what we would now call climate politics.

Radovan worked in a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, print, sculpture, film and performance. His work was meticulously crafted, even though the subject matter was often dealing with forces threatening our culture.

He was born and brought up on a small farm near Prijedor in the former Yugoslavia, now Bosnia-Herzegovina, the son of Dragoje, a miner, and Mileva (nee Radulovic), a housewife. During the second world war, Dragoje was transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Zemun, near Belgrade, where he died. Radovan was deported with his mother and six siblings to a concentration camp in Cologne in Germany; they all survived the war.

Returning home to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Radovan went to two military-run schools before being conscripted into the army at 13. He worked in the accounts office, where his talent for drawing was spotted. Eventually he was encouraged to apply to the Belgrade Academy of Fine Art, and studied there from 1953 to 1960.

In 1962-63 he attended the London Central School of Arts and Crafts on a grant from the British Council. In the early 1970s, Radovan first visited Wales and soon bought a farmhouse deep in the countryside near Builth Wells. Between the 1970s and 2010 his life and work alternated between mid-Wales and Paris.

Radovan and Nena Radovanovic, an art historian whom he had met in Paris, married in Builth Wells in 1985 and they spent some of their happiest times there. In Wales he created important works concentrating on cultural relationships between animals and people. From 1999 to 2001 he worked on the concept of the Dairy Cow Museum, a proposal for a museum examining farming practice and relationships between humans and cows that inspired a significant body of art work.

Radovan Kraguly worked in a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, print, sculpture, film and performance
Radovan Kraguly worked in a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, print, sculpture, film and performance

His first solo exhibitions in London were held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1965 and at Angela Flowers gallery in 1977. Later solo exhibitions were held at the Bemis Center of Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska (1988), the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris (1989), the National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo (1990), the Provincial Museum for Modern Art, Ostende (1991) and the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff (1995). Over the years, Radovan took part in more than 200 group exhibitions, and biennials in 16 countries.

His work is held by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. One of his key works, Reflection (1995), a mixed media installation commenting on the industrialisation of farming practices, made from straw, wood, perspex, costumes, lightbox and video, was recently purchased by the National Museum of Wales. A retrospective of his work was shown at Mostyn gallery, Llandudno, in 2012.

Radovan is survived by Nena.


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