February 2 – February 8, 2024
Prsten Gallery
Curated by Roberto Torre and Saša Runjić

His name was Robert Torre. He was a psychiatrist, scientist, writer, philosopher, sharp analyst and social commentator who navigated effortlessly throughout all kinds of human “Thinking and Poetizing” and eventually left a shiny trail wherever he ventured.

He wrote books about psychiatry and addiction treatment acclaimed by his expert peers as well as highly popular and often-quoted books such as “Is there life before death” – a brilliant antidote to the prevailing deluge of so-called “self-help” books – but he was also a painter by his vocation. To the same extent as he was a psychiatrist or writer.

He painted since his earliest days and the fact that he never had any formal training does not diminish the significance of his paintings. This is a case of a mature body of work created by a very knowledgable and self-conscious amateur artist who takes narrow but well trodden paths of scarce craftsmanship on the one hand and a vast theoretical insight into arts on the other hand and in doing so articulates  a unique visual language within which he can express his complex and pungent attitude to the world and life.

Although this is primarily an overview of his painterly legacy this exhibition also aims to present Robert’s life and work in its entirety. His every expression, regardless of whether it was writing, paintings or public utterances (where his facial expressions and body language were significant stylistic tools) was part of one single whole; he was by and of himself a walking  Gesamtkunstwerk – a kind of total design and this is why we have presented him as such – in the entirety of his work. Hence, here you can witness an entertaining, colourful, joyous, provocative, salacious display of fireworks and chaos set against the background of sinister existentially stoical  Weltanschauung – “you will die and yet you have not lived!”.

It is this discord that eventually casts light on the full contours of Torre’s unique character. We hope to the concurrent delight, joy and revulsion of the general public…

Saša Runjić

My name is Robert Torre. I am from Zagreb where I have spent my whole life. Over the past 30 years I have worked as a psychiatrist, dealing mostly with alcoholics, drug addicts and gamblers. I have also been interested in the past 30 years in fine arts, particularly modern and contemporary art and three years ago I summoned up the courage to start painting. This is why I reach out to you, from my natural position of a practitioner of urban naive art or “outsider art”, and ask you to take a look at my works and assess them and if you find anything in them perhaps you can take me into consideration…

I have done about 100 paintings, all of them done in acrylic on canvas and in mid and large formats. Here I present most of them. My things are not paintings in the classic sense of the word. They are rather painted concepts. I insist on a cold, thought-out, cerebral, conceptual and technical approach. I take various visual materials (maps, signs, symbolic languages, diagrams, schemes, didactic displays, graphs…) as the initial basis for my works as I dislodge them from their ordinary context into the context of fine arts. By re-contextualising them I try to add some visual and aesthetic value.

Perhaps it is not clear from what I present but I nevertheless believe that my things are beautiful in an old fashioned way.

I brought these works together under the title of “Tablets of Life”.  The word “life” stems from the fact that the works are loaded at the level of contents with the existential pretentiousness of some kind of fundamental utterance about life and its essence. The reason behind the word “tablet” is simple as these paintings, at formal level, are not paintings in the classic sense of the word as I paint concepts rather than paintings. Hence here we deal with two-dimensional, flat propaganda tablets-concepts, done in clear radiant colours, sharp edges, and painted without psychological and emotional accompaniment. The paintings are therefore objective, aesthetically cold and bright (intentionally in contrast to the contents of the paintings). The paintings differ considerably from one to another, i.e. each of them could be elaborated through variations within a separate artistic cycle but I was not keen on recycling.

The paintings convey the philosophical bias of my education and approach to the world but I hope they transcend being a mere conceptual pun and that they have their own visual value in addition to their narrative. In other words, it does not suffice to have them spelled out as they also need to be seen.

At the level of contents my paintings intentionally radiate variations of the same bunch of messages that could be summed up as follows: that there is only one single life; finite and unrepeatably ours; that we have to live it before death as there will be no other time, that we can easily go astray and lose our own authenticity; and this is why we have to safeguard our inner being, and be on our own always and everywhere. My canvases are defined by bright, joyous colours, they are exuberant and childish in their scope of colours, drawings are two dimensional, flat, with clearly defined surfaces. Hence, the formative element – in its joyful exuberance – is in contrast with the underlying message conveyed by the contents.  I wanted to capture the viewer’s eye by deploying this kind of likeability. One cannot not to look at the painting and when she or he does there is nothing too deep to comprehend. And when the viewer comprehends it I hope she or he will have a rotten afternoon or maybe a whole week.


Robert Torre (on his painting, August 2021.)





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