The Romanian artist Mircea Suciu has proven during the last years to be an artist able to joggle with several artistic media, engaging them with equal interest and inquisitiveness, from painting to drawing, from installation to what one might call staged photography. However, the artist is still largely perceived, rightfully or not, mainly as painter, and it is precisely the topic of painting itself, namely of its condition as artistic medium and of its translatability, that he obliquely tackles in his show at Laika Gallery in Cluj, titled Full Moon.
The exhibition consists of seven rather large sized drawings in charcoal on paper, one of the most classical forms of graphic art. However, the surfaces of the works possess more painterly than graphic qualities: the blacks and whites and all the grays in between look fluid like paint, they induce in a remarkably realistic manner the illusion, albeit not immediately perceivable for a hurried gaze, of an unctuous surface specific to oil painting. It is as if paintings would have been kind of near-IR photographed, yet not in order to help a process of restoration, but with the ambitious and maybe even utopian purpose of revealing something deeper, acutely meaningful, about their inner existence and essential structure. The colour is expelled from these works only to come back with a vengeance, using drawing as a disguise, as a sort of subversive excuse and also as a challenge addressed to the viewer.
Thus, the substance on the paper performs a double exercise in mimesis. On one hand, the images are recognizable as figurative scenery, they are images of the world in the most immediate meaning of the syntagm. On the other hand, one medium mimics, or rather translates another and by doing this it questions and re-evaluates it. One must not understand from these that Suciu’s drawings are merely vane technical show-offs. Rather, they are the result of an acutely sincere endeavour of an artist fiercely aware of the problematic character of a traditional medium in the context of contemporary art, a medium which is nevertheless considered by the artist to remain relevant in the highest degree. From this standpoint, the whole exhibition appears as a difficult, yet successful and visually arresting attempt to confront and exorcise the inner demon of doubt that haunts a truly inquisitive and dramatically serious artist.
The images themselves are at the same time strongly metaphorical and open to the realm of the narrative, they are apparently easy legible, yet actually subtle. They equally offer the viewer the possibility of looking at them, getting the obvious metaphorical point, be pleased and move on and that of taking the time to scrutinize them and to use them as starting point for building several alternative narratives of her or his own. Thus, Suciu’s drawings possess the remarkable quality of being demanding and semantically reach, on one hand and apparently unproblematic, on the other hand. Confronted with this paradox, ultimately, the spectator has the choice: the works’ substantial and diverse potential is always within reach, but the viewer’s patience and reflexivity are required in order for that potential to be fully grasped.
The “dress code”, so to speak, is of crucial importance for understanding Suciu’s metaphors and intentions. The uniform or the standardized clothing, which are almost omnipresent in the works displayed at Laika Gallery, unavoidably make one think of discipline and of institutions. In the visual universe that Mircea Suciu has built up in Full Moon, it seems like they are viewed as the most important items circumscribing and regulating the world. The standardized characters he depicts don’t seem to feel handicapped by their regimentation and they do not act as they would feel oppressed by their somewhat rigidly fixed condition. They are acting rather naturally, fulfilling their social tasks and roles with a certain detachment and making the social order they epitomize look like it would be the natural order under which human beings function.
Indeed, although the images on which the drawings are based upon all belong to a time span of less than seventy years (from the beginning of the 20th century until the late sixties), there is something timeless about Mircea Suciu’s works. There is also a conscious refuse of, lets say, geopolitical specificity in his black, white and gray charcoal paintings. As a result of the two above mentioned features, the viewer can imagine most of the depicted scenes taking place just as plausibly in the American early forties, in the Nazi Germany, in communist Romania just after the Stalinist period or even in colonial Algeria. Thus, for an attentive eye, the works appear to boldly strive for universality. Their real, encompassing topic is human behaviour and the human tendency to perpetuate patterns of behaviour in various epochs and geopolitical circumstances. And although the images are somewhat cool and aloof, there still is something mildly, yet irritatingly and genuinely menacing about them. One of the most impressive qualities of these works is precisely that: although they strive for universality with a good chance of reaching it, they are also subtle, yet ominous reminders of the bitter truth that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, with mostly tragic consequences.
Yet, there is hope. This is made perfectly legible by the most out of place looking work in the show, namely 1902 – 1968. The drawing appropriates the famous image of the anthropomorphic and unfriendly, kind of murky looking Moon in George Melies’ movie, A Trip to the Moon from 1902. Mircea Suciu’s drawing is the expression of its belief in the genuine and maybe salutary power of imagination to generate real change in the world and to motivate people’s actions. And indeed, if Neil Armstrong was at all right when he famously proclaimed that his first step on the Moon was a giant leap for mankind, he was right because his legendary step proved that mankind is able to pursue its most benign and even lyrical fantasies at least as stubbornly as it follows its most dark and destructive dreams.

The present text was previously published by Bogdan Iacob in the small catalogue of Mircea Suciu’s Full Moon solo exhibition at Laika Gallery in Cluj.

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Drawing is a very handy way of doing art, that allows the artist to work in various forms, ranging from the simplest and spontaneous approach to an extremely complex and elaborated level. More often, it’s the area which a lot of them either rely upon for attaining a fresh view on their current work, use in order to speak their minds as directly as possible or to conduct a study of a new topic. For Mircea Suciu, it’s all that and a very good pretext to “paint” with a piece of charcoal. A black and white moment added to his already established technique and general concept, the fairly large sized drawings comprised within the Full Moon show are on view at Laika Gallery in Cluj.
The generic outlook suggests an attempt to reflect Suciu’s trained eye as a painter into a greyscale converted mirror. The outcome presents itself in the form of seven works on paper, neatly kept behind Plexiglas sheets and which resemble oversized analogue photographs from the mid-twentieth century. There are several aspects that signal the painter’s choice to take hold of these images, invade their circumstantial context and alter it as he considers fit. For one thing there’s the size, result of a magnifying process that gives the artist room enough to do his trick. Next, there’s the manipulation of the image by which he crops, rearranges and zooms in on certain areas of interest – a method practiced as a kind of post-production amongst artists today. Of course, the most aesthetically pleasing part of all this is how he indulges in modelling the black, velvety charcoal powder on the luscious white surface of the paper. Strictly referring to the gesture at hand, this repetitive tampering with white space by hiding it at one point, barley unveiling it at another, constantly teasing charcoal marks by spreading them all over or clinching to the ones that are grey enough to make you drool, is part of this artist’s working process. It’s like circling your fingers around between really smooth grains of black sand. But coming back to the editing process carried out by the artist, the original images are now a highly subjective version, result of his creative sense of interpretation. The titles of the works can be seen as clues to his intentions. How big is your soul shows an illustration of two male characters, one in military uniform and another one, shirtless, wearing only pants, as his chest circumference is being measured, presumably, for the making of his own uniform. The allusion is pretty obvious, as the measuring ribbon becomes a metaphor for the reification of mankind as a consequence of war during the last hundred years. Further still, there is a subtle sense of poetry concealed in the picture, which can be noticed, firstly, from the positioning of the two men: the one already wearing the uniform and, therefore, already enrolled for the soul stripping mission, is shown from behind, as his face, the carrier of his entire identity and emotional status, is turned away, while the candidate’s face is fully visible, expressing acceptance and pride. Secondly, there would be the black strip opening up between the figures, marking the border line that is separating the two stages and also providing a slight peek into the future for the newly recruited soldier.
Give and take could just as well stand for “this is how it all begins”, being a blurred depiction of a domestic violence scene. Here there is also a play on the identifying feature of the figures, as the formally dressed man is missing his head altogether and the child on his lap, which he furiously hits, barely presents a clear facial outline, for a single powerful stroke wipes to fade into the background. This way the impression of a struggle is more explicit, being sustained also by the pain revealing grip of the man’s leg by the hand of the child. The hitting arm is frozen in an upright position, with the fingers widely spread and the hand itself being reduced to an isolated black shape, connoting extreme threat and feared authority. Displayed at the entrance of the gallery, on the left wall, it is the first piece of the exhibited series and because of its chosen subject and placement, it functions as a threshold for the other ones like Soap opera, with the deceiving tyrant standing on a pile of skulls or the two chatting officers in Thieves will steal.
On the other hand, Heritage is discussing the other perspective, related to the behaviour of the masses. On a perfectly white background, a group of ordinary individuals are stampeding to catch what appears to be a falling ball of smooth fabric, maybe leather, casting a black and dusty shadow underneath. The plot seems to refer to the herd mentality, as the irrational and panicked crowd is desperate for proof of authority or of a higher power up to the point they would take, basically, “whatever falls from the sky”. The flooding white haze that surrounds the scene suggests a blinding light of salvation that blurs the judgment of the confused group of people. The gradually loss of substance and subsequent emphasis on the contours of the bodies to the far left bring to mind a correlation with the idea of either past or future generations that already suffered the same fate or will surely indulge in the same action.
Finally, 1902-1968 refers, both explicitly and metaphorically to a period of tragic agony which potentially comprises all the actions depicted in the other works on display. The first group of digits point out to the original context of the picture. 1902 is the year that George Melies’ silent science fiction film Le voyage dans la lune premiered in cinemas. The charcoal drawing reveals the most recognizable scene from the movie, which is the moment when the explorers landed in a capsule, straight in the eye of the anthropomorphized face of the moon. The image is actually a cultural icon of irony towards unpredicted flaws of the exact sciences. The year 1968 relates to the time of the Apollo launch series that assumed the same mission in real life. On this note, this last work somehow embodies all the conceptual basis of all the other ones, as it works as an iconic symbol of mocking and ridicule.
Aside from these aspects, there’s also the matter of light, as a substantially important part of Mircea Suciu’s study process. Precise use of light is a key factor in achieving the quality of a visually appealing image, but it also plays an equally important role in expressing the actual concept of the work. It’s obvious that the artist relies on this element to create the general atmosphere that he finds appropriate for his paintings and drawings. Also, the bizarre element which, granted is not that present in this current series, but definitely more noticeable in the previous ones, places him somewhere in between the technical approaches of Michael Borremans and Luc Tuymans, given the eerie and curious method of handling the impact of past and present events.
Taking into account the charming view of elegant and savoury charcoal drawings, the show succeeded in pleasing both painting aficionados and graphic art enthusiasts, but regarding the conceptual proposal brought in for discussion, it kind of blends in with the approaches of all the other young stars of our contemporary art scene. It is this passive and, now, starting to get rather cliché, chosen voyeuristic attitude in perceiving things that seems a bit stale.

Text by Adelina Cacio

For photos, go to http://www.laika.ro/laika-artist-90-exhibition.html

Polish multimedia artist Łukasz Jastrubczak is Sabot Gallery’s choice for their current show, lasting, as it was announced, all the way through April, up to the 4th of May. “Miraż means mirage”, as the text available on the exhibition’s leaflets states and that is the chosen title of the show at the Paintbrushes Factory in Cluj. The word Miraz comprises, in its meaning, both the concept of “image” and that of “utopia”, considered here as primary concerns of most visual artists. Miraz is actually considered by the artist to be a project divided into three stages: one being the current show, the second – a display of sculptures in public space, in a town in Central Poland and, finally, Łukasz Jastrubczak’s residency in San Francisco, an experience which would be stitched together later on in the form of a road film. The artworks presented in this first phase of the project are mostly videos and installations which populate a perimeter governed by illusion and constant recurrent symbols in which the artist managed to put together a sort of research site for the cryptic mythical concepts which appear to intrigue him immensely.
The most revealing and clarifying clue for the whole purpose of the show is the Untitled video, which is adequately placed just outside the main room of the gallery, at the entrance, as a type of intro, presumably to point out the possible links between the scattered objects which can be seen through the doorway. The video is a kind of documented journal or, one might say, a “traveller’s log” in which are presented experiences, findings and analytical thoughts in the manner of a visual sequence, accompanied, in the background, by the sound of narrating, explanatory voice. The bits and pieces gathered for this projection are quick shots from the East Coast of the States, namely from San Francisco, clips from El Dorado movies and other Paramount Picture flicks, a synthetic commentary regarding Cezanne’s innovation on perceiving perspective and, of course, the Cubists’ take on the same matter that evolved from the postimpressionist painter’s studies.
As we move along, we can see the same type of concerns present in Jastrubczak’s own work. It’s the installation called Cubist Composition with a Jug, which embodies a number of similar life-size jugs, cut out of cardboard and gold sprayed. These cut-outs are placed on a three-legged wooden table, its top being carved in the shape of a trapezoid. It is basically a three-dimensional illustration of a cubist painting: a visual depiction of the abstract concept that reality is seen in a two-dimensional frame, but it is perceived with all of its three dimensions. In addition, the trapezoid top contributes even more to this cubist setting, as it shows the illusion of perspective, the actual trick used in painting to create depth. While getting caught up in this cubist re-enactment, the viewer might stumble upon the piece that hangs on the wall behind it. The Golden Perspective is an extremely summarized version of the installation I just mentioned, as it is a framed abstract landscape, done by cutting a piece of cardboard in the form of rays that converge from the edge of the surface towards its centre. It is a quite simple and organic solution for capturing the essential idea of perspective as a key aspect of visual arts.
Another important issue in this direction would be the artist’s obsessive circling around the image / concept of the Paramount Mountain. First mentioned in the video at the entrance, then recognized in the installation with the blue fabric peculiarly displayed in the form of a (presumably) high peak, giving the slight impression that it might be hiding something underneath and, yet again, in the video with the man holding two large triangles with which he is playing a monotonous tune on a synthesizer, the triangular symbol seems to haunt him quite a bit, as it appears to be a motif with a rather strong presence in his displayed body of works. This video, Third Song about Triangles, comes as a declaration of unity between man and idea. It looks like the person in the video is engaging in a merger between him and his own obsession that generates this odd keyboard playing hybrid. A curious effect added by Jastrubczak to the piece is the swinging of the projection, probably meant to append the time factor to this newly concocted crossbred, as it moves from side to side like a suspended pendulum.
Walking through Łukasz Jastrubczak’s exhibition was somewhat intriguing and enjoyable, but it wasn’t necessarily an exhilarating experience as a whole. It mostly seems like a prologue to something more consistent and elaborated than a consciously assumed project. But in the lines of a visual research on certain theories, iconic images and myths it could be well received, as any international artist is more than welcomed to spice up the local art scene by expanding the variety of proposals amongst cultural events.

Text by Adelina Cacio

For video images in the show, go to http://www.galeria-sabot.ro/index.php?/exhibitions/lukasz-jastrubczak-mirage/

Two new spaces for contemporary art were recently opened in Bucharest and some others are rumoured to be soon established, which is certainly an encouraging thing for the local and also for the Romanian art scene in general, especially as this evolution follows a rather difficult period –2009 and the first half of 2010– when several contemporary art spaces, especially commercial galleries, were closed de facto or kind of went idle. Both new venues I am referring to here are the result of private initiatives, yet none of them is assuming the role of commercial gallery. Thus, they both use the term “platform” to define their envisaged role in the art world, a term which is both praisable given the democratic openness it presupposes and dangerously imprecise in an art milieu such as the Romanian one, where confusion regarding the roles of the institutions are still quite common and impeach on its coherent development.
Victoria Art Center for Contemporary Cultural Production is a space managed by Petru Lucaci, esteemed artist and professor and started its program with the exhibition Corpul supravegheat / Body under Surveillance, which is the result of a research project pursued by a team of teachers of the Bucharest National University of Arts, coordinated by Lucaci. Disturbingly uneven as far as the quality of the displayed works is concerned, yet including relevant works of some of the most prominent contemporary Romanian artists (such as Perjovschi, Acostioaei, Aurel Vlad etc.), the exhibition is accompanied by a coherent catalogue and a volume of texts on its (rather loose) topic, truly remarkable being the contributions of Alexandra Titu and Cristian Nae. The LC Foundation, also placed on Calea Victoriei, opened with a show titled Figure In / Figure Out, based on an exhibition concept and on a statement that are imprecise and theoretically dubious to say the least, and then hosted Fresh Drawings / Intalniri cu desene, a coherent show featuring the Bucharest based artists Alexandru Radvan, David Sandor, Lea Rasovszky, Maria Be and Alexandra Baciu.
The Fresh Drawing project actually began in 2006, when David Sandor and Radvan started meeting on regular basis to show each other their latest drawings and to discuss about them. Lea Rasovszky soon joined them, then other artists did the same, getting involved in the project for longer or shorter periods of time, Maria Be being particularly constant in her participation. Completing the group exhibiting at LC Foundation, Alexandra Baciu is the invited artist in the show.
The basic presuppositions or questions that the project and the show are based upon are far from being groundbreaking novelty. As they are summed up by the exhibition’s curator, Simona Vilau, the main questions underlying the project are: “What does drawing mean for an artist entangled in the blinding carousel of the contemporary world? Is it a working method, a research instrument, a transgressive procedure? Is it an information retriever, a way to fight the conventional systems”? These questions and also the conceptual assumption that drawing is a better suited medium for direct artistic expression and for conceptual inquiries, more open to spontaneity, that it is a medium lesser governed by rules and historically acquired expectations than, for example, painting or sculpture, date back at least as far as the sixties. This manner of understanding or approaching drawing was also significantly present in the Romanian art of the late sixties and the seventies. However, the coherence of the project is beyond doubt and its longevity, vivacity and straightforwardness are definitely praiseworthy, as is the overall consistency of the show at LC Foundation.
Alexandru Radvan has produced, during the last decade or so, an art that is somewhat hard to assimilate or to resonate with, based on a “heavy” imagery that looks eerily outmoded in the context of (very) contemporary painterly practices, topics and stylistic approaches, especially those deployed in the Romanian (young) painting – painting being for him a medium of choice. Both in painting and in drawing, his references are placed mostly in the realm of the antique world and the classical culture, of religious rites and devotional forms; the historical age of the late and “decadent” Roman Empire and the dusk of Antiquity seem closer to Radvan than the realities of the consumerist, communist or post – communist societies, although one might at times suspect that the ancient is, for him, a metaphor for the unsettling present times.
However, his art is highly personal and there is no way it can be denied the attribute of real originality, whether one speaks of his paintings, of his drawings or of his sculptures. The drawings are, in my view, the best part of his artistic production, and the show at LC Foundation confirmed their remarkable quality. Radvan possesses a very good mastery of the “technicalities” of the medium and this ensures that his endeavours in this realm are visually poignant, while his effervescent, history haunted, ritual oriented imagination guarantees both their fresh look and their straightforward, assumed seriousness. It seems that for the dynamic Alexandru Radvan art is always about serious things: the monumental, solemn, archetypal sexuality embedded in the women’s outlines – the Fara titlu (Untitled) series, the vibrant and subtle relationship between the human, the animal and the vegetal – the Iulie (July) series and so on. When mythology is not near, history is there with all its might and with all the pressure it puts on people, as in his Atentat (Terrorist Act) series.
Radvan’s drawings plainly and compellingly reveal what he is, first and foremost: the producer of an art that’s maybe difficult to like and to resonate with for those approaching it with a contemporary (social) state of mind, yet an art that’s impossible to overlook when one approaches the Romanian contemporary art world of the 21st century’s first decade.
Lea Rasovszky is a graduate of the National University of Arts and has lately been one of the most active young artists in Bucharest. Her approach to drawing has something of the rebelliousness of a teenager, but the series presented within Fresh Drawings, namely Tot (Everything) and Anormal de bine (Abnormally well) also reveal an artist that is starting, with good reason, to feel confident about her artistic instruments and results.
Abnormally well consists in drawings of human faces, quite sketchy rendered and almost hysterically colourful. The faces are all smiling at the viewer, in an artificial manner; after watching them for a while, their smiles seem to turn into grimaces, and they appear to be rather grinding their teeth than acting happy and optimistic. Thus, the characters cease to be friendly in any way and begin looking strangely menacing. The works reveal the falseness behind what one might designate as the social conventions of happiness, behind the compulsory display of a well state of being that we practice in order not to bother the peace of mind of the others, to disturb the social conventional comfort or to appear weak. When asked “How are you?”, we feel almost all the time obliged to smile and answer that we are good, ok, fine; we are abnormally well.
However, besides irony, trauma is also present in these formally bold and convincing drawings, as it is in those constituting the Everything series. Here, too, a forceful line and a nonchalant use of colour can be easily noticed. A rather non – violent, yet defying revolt spirit can be detected in the works: it is the revolt by disguise, by childish stubbornness, by refuse to look like the “others”. All these rather futile, one might suspect, strategies of resisting social pressure seem to be deployed by the joyfully strange characters depicted by Rasovszky.
David Sandor is drawing frantically, obsessively, compulsively; he draws a lot, with unmasked joy and adamant confidence in the relevance and the meaningfulness of the medium. More than it is the case with any of the other artists featured in the show, he is using drawing as a diary and simultaneously as a way to comment on his own entrances in that diary. His works come in various formats and take the viewer along a variety of stylistic approaches. From the simple, slim black line that remains the epitome of the medium to the vibrating surfaces of colour that end up shaping forms, throughout all the possibilities in between, the artist is deploying all these manners of drawing in order to approach his almost naïvely designated and “monumental” topic: the human being. From the lively colourful portraits of adults to the compelling sketch – like renderings of children faces, a combination of tenderness and dramatic pathos pervades his images. And although one would hardly find one single work that could be coined as impressively compelling, the ensemble is surely worthy of admiration.
The works exhibited by Alexandra Baciu are really good, honest and expressive portraits. Unfortunately, that’s all they are. Several images of people with mostly Latin American facial features are accompanied by captions that reveal their presumed names, country of origin and social status, defined by the word “illegal”. There is nothing more here, in terms of message, than in Manu Chao’s Clandestino. That is not to say that Manu Chao’s song is a bad one; it’s just that the literalness of Baciu’s drawings really doesn’t increase the conceptual strength of her works and it actually downplays the visual quality of what could have been charming and somewhat mysterious little portraits.
I find the drawings of Maria Be to be a body of works that are rather difficult to critically grasp. Technically solid, the displayed drawings allow one to get just a glimpse at the inner world of what appears to be an (overly?) sensitive artist. The figure of the child is obviously recurrent in her works, being present both in the black and white drawings in the Inner Child series and in the coloured pieces of the Nameless series. Her visual metaphors are at times literal to the point of becoming demonstrative and somewhat didactic. That is the case with the figures of children literally embedded in representations of the body in Inner Child, with the voluptuous small drawing titled Inainte si dupa pacat (Before and After the Sin), representing the beautiful head of a snake or with the simple outline of an eye in an artwork titled Me. The simple elegance is probably the most prominent feature of her artistic production, as demonstrated also by the expressive and somewhat alienated looking children portrayed in the Nameless series. Then again, simple elegance is hardly enough to make an artwork truly complex and impressive.
Finally, a word must be said about the animation pieces in the show. These works don’t actually add anything to the overall value of the exhibition, as they look more like sequences of stills than as actually meaningful animations. There is nothing in David Sandor’s film that can say more than (or expressively surpass) the exquisite elegance of the preparatory drawing depicting a dolphin in the water, displayed in the same room where the animations are screened. As for Radvan’s contribution in the mentioned medium, I think, knowing him as I do, that he can speak on the topic approached by his animation (a recreation of Christ’s passions preceding the bearing of the cross) more thrillingly, sarcastically and rhetorically dramatic than the actual work can ever be.

For photos of the show, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/LC-Foundation-Contemporary-Art-Centre

Mihuț Boșcu is yet another young graduate of the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca who is coming of age as an artist on the city’s scene via the galleries at the Paintbrushes Factory. What is striking about this artist in particular is that even though his major during University was ceramics his work is a journey throughout a plethora of different techniques and media. He has experimented with ceramics, sculpture, (be it glasswork, steelwork and so on), installations, he created the shoes for Lucian Broscǎțean’s Sky Mirror collection (absurdly high, sculpted wooden platforms), and his previous show in Cluj was a replica of the capsule that flew the famous Laika into space in 1957. The work was shown in an exhibition called How It’s Made at the Laika art space, also based at the Paintbrushes Factory in February 2010, making for quite an elegant show . All of this points out to a uniquely talented fellow with enough imagination, talent, but also curiosity and force to try out and master a wide number of techniques in order to make his point. He is a highly active artist, always searching for new or appropriate means of expression, and in my opinion he is worthy of admiration if only for this courage and unrest alone.
His most recent show, titled A Prologue to Vanity and Self-Adoration, which was on display between February 2nd and March 12th 2011 at Sabot Gallery in the Paintbrushes Factory, revolved around the idea of human vanity and of the immersion in pleasure despite the passing of time and despite all the things that are obviously wrong with the world.
The show is made up from all sorts of different works, ranging from sculpture, to drawings, installation and paintings, which brings me to a downside of the exhibition as the whole: joining together all of these different works that were quite obviously not created with the intention to support one another (or one very strong concept for that matter) makes it hard for them to function in the same space. Thus some of them seem not to belong there and this reflects badly on the ones that do work together since they don’t showcase them in a proper light. To me here the only problem seems to be the over-zealousness of the artist to exhibit works that he liked or enjoyed creating and thus unnecessarily stretched their meaning in the hope that they will play nicely with each other and support a concept.
The central piece, from which the show originated, called This is Eating All Our Time is a life-sized sculpture of standing nude man smelling / eating(?) his own intestines in a very cherishing and self-absorbed manner. The materials used are resin and fiberglass, which was afterwards covered in a multitude of lively colours and the texture was altered by pouring wax on top of it. All of the different paints and materials used to cover up the sculpture are arranged on the board at the feet of the figure.
The main idea behind this work comes from the presence of a substance called serotonin in the human body, and its effects on people’s mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for blocking out discomforting feelings, leaving the body in a state of well-being; its actions make it a key ingredient in several classes of antidepressants. Even though serotonin can reach the organism in a multitude of relevant ways, in humans the levels of this substance are highly affected by diet and approximately 80% of the total serotonin is located in cells that are found in the intestines. Thus we have the narcissistic figure, overly enjoying his state of pleasure, and seeking it in complete and slightly grotesque self-absorption. The statue is placed on a large wooden board that has the sketch of a burning zeppelin painted on it – the figure has its back turned to the scene, in total oblivion of the disaster, his time and attention consumed by something completely different.
The same burning zeppelin can be seen in the work entitled Drinking Tea, which is a rather large paper-relief, the pure white downplays the horror of the disaster, intention which becomes even more obvious once you also notice the title, choosing to remain in a comfortable ritual, ignoring the pain that concerns others… The calm of the tea ceremony, the quiet, hushed atmosphere cannot be further away from the roar and the chaos of the consuming flames. The craftsmanship of this piece is impressive, and the resulting work is one of disturbing elegance.
At the far end of the gallery there is a space that was dedicated to creating the aspect of an artist’s workplace, random objects, visual experiments, a table with a couple or so paintings, and more remarkably, a skull made out of thistles. It is a vanitas symbol, and also a reply to the famous work of Damien Hirst – For the Love of God, recreating the emblem of our mortality and human frailty, out of “immortal”, natural materials. This “artist’s corner” type of space is a nice inclusion in the show, despite it being a bit overly staged.
Nearby this space there is a painting that also somehow connects to the tea ceremony, this time not by title, but by subject, showing butlers with serving trays. Other works in the exhibition are a series of pencil drawings, a comet carved in a polystyrene plate, and another vanitas guards the entrance – a clock with a mechanism that makes the pointers move in a frantic manner, underlining the passage of time while we idle along.
All in all, even though for me the show seems to lack the (overly) wished consistency, by including less necessary pieces, it still makes for an interesting experience due to the talent displayed once more by the artist. Mihuț Boșcu’s prolific personality and eagerness to experiment will, for me, always make for a must-see show, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one who looks forward, both curious, and with high expectations to his future creations.

Text by Voica Puscasiu

For photos, go to http://www.galeria-sabot.ro/index.php?/exhibitions/mihut-boscu/

Victor Ciato at Plan B

April 2, 2011

February ended with the beginning of a new project pursued by Plan B Gallery, consisting of a series of exhibitions which will feature the works of Victor Ciato. Born in 1938, the artist lives and works in Cluj and was, for many years, a professor with the painting department at the Cluj Art Academy. The starting point of the upcoming program of shows is the exhibition titled Moment 0, which presents the art public with 11 watercolours on paper, done by the artist in the late 1960s. Alongside the visual gesture which the viewer can easily interact with while strolling through the exhibition space (one of several located in the Paintbrushes Factory) the context from which these paintings stemmed serves their understanding even better. Therefore, going back about fifty years into an academic environment, which implied studying painting under the circumstances of a cultural dogma highly present in the socialist regime, we find Victor Ciato eager to break away from visual stereotypes as soon as he graduated from “Ion Andreescu” Institute of Fine Arts. On this note, after completing his formation and mastering the skills of a professional painter, the artist chooses to make a radical move at the beginning of his career – he chooses to start over. Today, the viewers find themselves facing this visual tabula rasa while witnessing the very founding of the forthcoming art of Victor Ciato.
On the pristine white gallery walls this series of humble chromatic markers reveal to the visiting public, step by step, the newly established grounds of this artist’s attempt to revive the visual identity of his production. As similar as they are to one another, as far composition is concerned, the paintings individualize themselves by the sole gesture that generates this pattern of mostly vertical strokes. Judging by the recurrent nature of the way in which this process occurred, the abstract elements generating the image act like a matrix chosen to receive the unique and personal signature of the painter’s brush. The chosen medium favours the immediacy of the result expected of this repetitive exercise, as watercolour requires the boldness of a straightforward brushstroke. As the outcome shows us, these directional patches of colour are at the same time airy and smothered, clear and diluted, steady and ambivalent, but all these elements were intended to look precisely in this manner. The artist clearly relied on this tedious routine in order to experience the sheer pleasure of applying paint onto a blank surface, of letting the simple and basic elements of an image “find” their own place in the empty space. He wanted to give colour itself a chance to act.
It’s not at all uncommon for artists to feel the need to “reboot” their creative instincts. Some come to a point when even the smallest dot on a piece of paper makes them unbelievably overwhelmed, in which case the concept of “nothingness” becomes the most soothing notion for making the artist comfortable. We love to stare this echoing void in the face because it’s our last shot at figuring out what’s left of ourselves. Otherwise we get caught up in the erratic mess of our daily lives. On these grounds, complete and utter abstraction of an image is not pursued “for art’s sake”, but it aims to relocate the misplaced self. It’s something done for the artist’s sake.
This small sequence of untitled works is not meant to be seen as a statement, but as a complete lack of statement. It’s the visual equivalent of somebody learning to speak all over again, word by word – or, in this case, stroke by stroke. Kazimir Malevici, at the high peak of modernism, found his “point zero” in the form of a black square. For Victor Ciato it was a handful of repeated, uneven forms. It’s a neutral area where many artists have gone to essentialize or resuscitate what it is they consider to function as art. What is on display at Plan B Gallery is this painter’s own version of what nothing looks like.

Text by Adelina Cacio
For photos, go to http://plan-b.ro/index.php?/expo/expo-cluj-victor-ciato–momentul-0/

The current period (namely February and March 2011) represented for the Paintbrushes Factory in Cluj one of its best moments, if not the very best moment of its short, yet significant history. At Sabot Gallery, the show of Mihut Boscu is still on view and stands as a good opportunity to meet a brilliantly promising, so to speak, young artist. The Bazis Gallery opened a venue within the Factory with a spectacular, yet somewhat elusive (as it was on view for an unusually short time) exhibition of the famous, humorous, post-Dadaist, post-pop and postmodernist Russian group Blue Noses. The opening show was soon replaced by Welcome to the Uncanny Valley, a painting exhibition curated by Adriana Oprea, featuring Berszan Zsolt (the conceptual and organizing mastermind of Bazis), Veres Szabolcs and Betuker Istvan. It is a solid, honest exhibition, however a bit unbalanced, visually, by the strong presence of Veres’ big and frantically colourful pieces, which kind of overwhelm the rest of the works on display. Zmart Gallery displays a solo show by Calina Hiriza, titled @Home, which, although being a bit boring and using symbolic items in a sentimentalist manner that borders the realm of the pathetic, fulfils the minimum requirement of coherence.
However, the most articulated recent shows at the Paintbrushes Factory, which are both conceptually strong and visually compelling, are Mircea Suciu’s Full Moon at Laika Gallery and Victor Ciato’s Moment 0 at Plan B Gallery. If the first is presenting the public with the latest endeavours of a fiercely intelligent, courageously true to himself and truly investigative artist, which seems to have reached his full creative maturity, the latest brings to attention a local “legend” in his seventies, that really deserves much more attention that has been getting during the last two decades or so.
Moment 0 continues a series of exhibitions that were organized in Cluj in the past two years, which were meant to bring to public attention or to offer the public a better, more in depth understanding of prominent Romanian artists, mostly active from the sixties until the eighties and not really known to the contemporary Romanian (or international, for that matter) audiences. Plan B Gallery has been quite active in this respect, as proven by the solo show of Sorin Campan in Cluj, but also by promoting, in its Berlin venue, the artistic production of Rudolf Bone or Gheorghe Ilea. However, the gallery’s project focused on Victor Ciato is, I believe, the most serious and the most necessary initiative of that type undertaken by the Cluj based gallery (and it has chances of becoming one of the most promising ever pursued in this direction by a Romanian institution of any sort), given both the artistic value of Ciato’s oeuvre and the announced plan of the gallery to treat his “comeback” to public awareness as a coherent project, comprising several carefully planned steps.
Ciato is definitely a sort of a local legend. Esteemed and seriously influential, especially during the seventies and the eighties, his work is though little known, by the (very) young generation of Cluj based artists, who are usually more familiar with his emphatic, exuberant and often humorous behaviour. Still, he is talked about not only with affection, but also with respect, stemming from a genuine admiration for his art, by those who know him better than by means of a talk in the pub. On the other hand, his presence in the art world gradually faded during the last couple of decades, as he seems to have never been able to truly adapt to the new realities of post – communist Romania, although he also seems to have been quite poorly adapted to the socio – political realities of the communist era, as well. His last solo show happened twenty years ago and he hardly ever got national widespread recognition, not to mention the lack of any significant international attention. Under these circumstances, Moment 0 constitutes a serious argument that there is much more to Ciato than meets the (contemporary) eye.
The exhibition focuses on one the first phases in Victor Ciato’s artistic production: the very important move away from the classicist or academic painting, performed in order to open up to a realm new to him and that one might label as lyrical abstraction. Some fifteen watercolours, dating from 1966 until 1968, were displayed at Plan B, compellingly conveying the dedication, talent and inquisitiveness the artist had deployed for reaching an entirely modernist goal: abandoning representation for the pure painterly qualities.
In that respect, it is worth mentioning that Ciato has reportedly stated, at the opening of the Moment 0 show, that the presented works are “about nothing”. He also explained his drive towards this issue of nothingness and the non – representational as being mainly the result of the dissatisfaction (would disenchantment have been a better word?) that he had felt when getting in contact with the art of the day made in Paris in the sixties, when he visited the iconic and mythologized “city of culture”. Be it so or not, what is certain about his watercolours is that they are indeed self-referential to the core, fulfilling, albeit unintentionally or without the artist being aware of it, the requirements of a greenbergian type, purist modernist art. From this perspective, comparisons with Rothko or even Hodgkin are easy to pursue, but I hold them to be rather irrelevant, since the inner mechanisms, as well as the cultural context that forged Ciato’s beautiful abstract works are significantly different from those that define the American fifties or early sixties and given the fact that the modernist debates in Romania had a totally different ideological profile.
Anyway, Victor Ciato’s watercolours possess a rather rare quality: although undoubtedly lyrical, they are at the same time cerebral and savvily composed. Thus, the viewer is compelled, in front of them, to do away with the annoying cliché of the artist’s sincere soul (whatever that might mean) being somehow expressed in the artwork. It must be noticed, thus, that in the case of these works, the savoir faire is just as impressive and as important as the delicate quality retained by the results of its deployment, that make his watercolours, at times, breath-taking in a very direct, psycho – somatic meaning of the word. The works displayed at Plan B are not (thank God!, one might be tempted to say) confession – like and sentimental. Rather, they are complex, refined and conceived with a cool deployment of intelligence and with a genuine mastery of what could be called painting as painting as painting, to paraphrase Ad Reinhardt. The attentively balanced compositions, the sheer refinement of the somewhat pretentious chromatic contrasts that Ciato used, the choice of slightly coloured, wrapping – type paper as surface on which the thin, transparent layers of colour are applied are all arguments that come to support the assertions above.
The images constructed by Victor Ciato seem to eerily hover in space and they are also capable of haunting the memory. Personally, I have seldom felt so strongly the intellectual impulse (not to be confused with hedonist wish or with sheer fascination) to revisit a show as in the case of Moment 0. The display of the exhibition was maybe a contributing factor to that, with its very “clean”, unassuming and elegantly neutral look, definitely well suited for the works on view, with the spaces between works being just right, so that the attraction exercised by each image in itself would be pleasurably, yet still tensely matched by the desire to continuously move to the next one.
And I would dare to say that even if the exhibition and the works wouldn’t present all the above mentioned qualities, it would still be a joy. The simple fact that one can see in Cluj, after so many discussions about the new vogue of the figurative painting, after the more or less pointless fussing about “the first” and “the second” wave of Romanian figurative painting, about the figurative “painting school of Cluj” and so on, an exhibition of exquisitely fine abstract painting, conceived and made here, mostly on the eve of the Summer of Love, and for which comparisons with art works one can see in serious museums for modern or contemporary art is not ridiculous, is rewarding in itself.

For photos of the works, go to http://plan-b.ro/index.php?/expo/expo-cluj-victor-ciato–momentul-0/