Two shows were opened at the Paintbrush Factory on April, the 27th, one at Lateral art space and the other one at Bazis gallery, and, while both young men exhibiting are MA graduates of the painting department of the University of Art and Design in Cluj, their interests, endeavors, and personalities are ever so different, thus making for two very different experiences during the course of one visit.

The Lateral art space is the “new kid on the block” when it comes to the Paintbrush Factory, the artist run space being an independent platform for contemporary art founded by Andreea Ciobica, Dragos Badita, Cristina Curcan, and Lucian Indrei as a place open to collaboration and experimentation. I personally find the initiative quite adventurous and yet necessary, taking into consideration the unfortunate demise of several of the Paintbrush Factory’s spaces. Not to mention that the practice behind an artist-run space always creates a slightly looser atmosphere than a generated by the actions of a gallery and that is a nice thing to see on the art scene.

The inauguration show was of one of its own founders, namely Dragos Badita. The young artist’s main focus is painting, but he used this exhibition to showcase some more experimental work alongside two self-portraits in this normally medium of choice for him. My Body Is Always Here is a show that features the artist’s body, the human body from both a self-referential and a more intimate point of view. It’s by no means just a series of self-portraits, as it also exploits the body as the object that is ever so close, something we can shake off or leave behind, it really is always there, whether we love it or hate it, so we might as well just try to get to know it better.

The show proposes the following: despite our body being our closest and most intimate companion, we seem to take it for granted and we don’t show terrible interest in its means. We drag it along and notice it when it brings us pain, or when it stops us from reaching certain goals. And so the artist tries different means through which to better get acquainted with his own body and its relationship to the world. In this respect, the show contains two self-portraits (head and naked torso) in oil on panel, in which the primary focus is placed upon the nuances of the flesh, skillfully rendered, and set against a brilliant and rather unnatural shade of blue that makes the twisted nudes pop out, vulnerable and alone. With the beautiful use of color these two works bear the mark of an artist who is comfortable and confident about his craftsmanship.

Another part of the exhibition is a series of 9 ink drawings on paper, one containing an explanation, presenting the left hand of the artist sketched during train rides, alongside comments on the environment, or whatever else caught his eye while drawing. These are meant to show us the ever present and available study material that is the left hand. Complex and substantial, always available for a quick sketch so that you can get your (right) hand to practice, anyplace, anytime. The whimsical handwritten comments on the surroundings add charm and give insight into a curious if only slightly bored mind – the fur that caresses a neck, the mole in the cleavage, kids playing outside the window… Random bits of nothingness, they describe a picture made out of probably unessential details that are though rendered important simply because they somehow stuck with you, which, after all, is all that matters.

A long series of bizarre and mysteriously looking prints were displayed on the opposite wall. On a closer inspection, you recognize them as images taken during a medical ultrasound examination of various parts of the body, from “head to toe”. Tens of them, black and white, abstract shapes that might as well be alien… except they are not, they are all too human. The exploration of the body and the invasion of the personal space are taken here to a whole new level.

The show also contained a video piece of roughly one minute long, which I personally found to be particularly good, Heartbeat. An explanatory photograph set up next to the projector shows the artist lying on his back with a camcorder attached to his bare chest. The camera is filming a white wall at full zoom, so that the motion provoked by the beating heart is even greater. The very abstract image, coupled with the movement reminded me for a moment of something you see through a microscope in the seconds you are setting up your lens… shifting in and out of focus. The steady thump and the rhythm fill the room, and you feel as if you are pressed against somebody’s chest for a while, but it’s the cathartic inhaling at the end that really makes the piece. It’s the first time you are fully hit by the previously existing tension that the rhythm was unconsciously imposing. An exercise in breathing, or rather holding one’s breathe in order not to interfere with the movement caused by the heart, I found this video to be both fascinating and endearing.

My Body Is Always Here made for and excellent first show for Lateral and I am sincerely looking forward to their next, wishing them the best of luck. And as for Dragos Badita, although proving to be an excellent painter once again, I found it refreshing that he maybe stepped out of his comfort zone with a nice combination of experiments that were set up in such a clever manner.

The show hosted by Bazis, Dan Maciuca’s Nothing to Hide, brings forth, like I already mentioned, another painter who also on this occasion decided to step away from his familiar medium and tackle his old interests in the form of collages, sculptures, and also video.

Dan Măciucă is well known for his wild, spontaneous canvases, on which thickly applied paint still gives proof of a well-thought chromatic arrangement and composition. The surfaces of his works are rough and textured, and already close to reliefs; his interest in all things having to do with matter: its structure, texture, and ultimately volume, inevitably brought him to outgrow the bi-dimensional plane of traditional painting. In the works shown at Bazis, the artist decided to go even further into translating his paintings to 3D objects, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.

In taking up his older themes and quests and rephrasing them in different media he (literally) adds a new dimension to them, thus they don’t seem to be dull or passé, instead they become more interesting and complex, posing new problems. This just goes to show that digging ever deeper into the same old questions isn’t necessarily something bad, as long as you manage to find surprising and intriguing new answers, this being precisely what is happening here!

The objects used in the collages / sculptures are mainly found and repurposed items such as (plastic) bottles, industrial scraps, pieces of glass and wood, different materials with as many different textures as possible. This offers a new life, meaning, and function to these objects after they have been cast off as useless. The jagged edges offer a raw finish and the colors, although quite similar to the artist’s usual pallet are no longer obtained through physical combination of pigments, but rather found such as they are and then juxtaposed. Another element is the use of commercial magazines, which are found in over abundance all around us and to which we don’t exactly pay attention; here they have taken on other shapes, they’ve become strange landscapes: peaks, valleys, and caves that capture the eye despite their apparent mess.

The show contains three pieces created more or less in this same manner, my favorite of which is the first one on the right-hand side. Its value comes from the fact that it is just perfectly clear in getting the artist’s message across to the viewer, and also I especially liked the uncluttered and very well balanced composition. The work next to it is much more three – dimensional, using bent pipes and wires, while the composition that used various plastic bottles was clear in its simplicity and chromatically exciting. What I found to be an excellent invention for the entire show was the way these three pieces were illuminated. The light-bulb at the end of a tube that is built in the work and hangs above it like some sort of fishing pole creates an amazing lighting for each piece and the entire atmosphere of the show becomes incredibly elegant because of this. Any other lights are turned off, except for the video projector, and the gray walls of the gallery really work to an advantage. The washing machine door, stuck to the wall, has the appearance of a round window that shows you what’s on the other side of the wall. The jumble of clothes inside make for a piece that initially makes you smile, but as you look at the clutter pressed against the glass you cannot help but reference Arman’s Le Plein, albeit a miniature version of it.

A piece that stands out in the show is the world created and contained in what used to be a wooden chest of drawers (by my best guess), now torn open, illuminated from the inside, which it is mainly an excuse to play with as many textures and materials as possible, the shards of glass, the clumps of wool, the leftovers, and so on. It’s a game of differences, but one who’s power I’m afraid was not fully developed, especially since I find it to be somewhat disconnected from the other displayed works.

The video on the other hand is spot on, a journey through a strange land with bizarre geography seen between the flashes of the strobe light. The messy artist studio that is actually presented, the glimpse into what looks like a hoarder’s collection, all rendered much more serious and even slightly disturbing by the addition of the unsettling background noise and the aforementioned usage of the strobe light. This experiment had a really great outcome, with the particular textures, the trickling water aspect, the constant feeling of apprehension you get, as if you are exploring something you should not be seeing. The artist has nothing to hide, even if it’s not the prettiest sight to behold.

With these well constructed experiments, Dan Maciuca proves that he can very well rise above what is expected of him, all the while sticking closely to the path set up by his obsessions. His paradoxically elegant show, along with  Badita’s were two of the best shows I have seen at the Paintbrush Factory for what seemed to be quite a long time. Hopefully their frequency will once again pick up.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Text by Voica Puscasiu

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Take painting as a medium, pop art as an ironic approach and Bucharest as a bottomless visual reservoir for the sleazy, the crammed and the apathetic, mix all these and you get Berceni, Nicolae Comanescu’s show at the Museum of National Contemporary Art. It’s a recap of roughly ten years of the artist’s work as a painter, time over which he conducted a vast study on the social landscape of a post-communist society, still stuck in the chaotic maze of its own transition.

There are a few dozen canvases which can be seen at MNAC, as the exhibition is comprised of various series produced during the past decade. Whether one takes into consideration Grand Prix Remix, Wrong Paintings or Beach culture in Bercsényi, the images are extremly violent as far as color is concerned and almost insulting with regarding to their content. The sheer amount of images done in this manner is, in all honesty, extremely confusing as far as the purpose of this very amounting is concerned, simply because at one point the endeavour actually stops being about the irony and too much about the artist indulging in the topic towards which the irony is presumably pointed at. The pile of works start to sink in a very similar mess to the one they were meant to show, as they become harder to “read “ and even harder to process, as a fair number of images repeat themselves in terms of content, therefore appearing pretty redundant.

Adhering to a sort of uncertain surrealism, most of these frantic images are a result of mixing various sights of Romania’s capital city with representations of pop culture figures or stereotypes, as well as all sorts of reflective quotations drifting around a bunch of odd characters that spring out of nowhere into the painting. As far as the visual aspect is concerned they seem to be dangling somewhere in between Daniel Richter and Jeff Koons, suggesting at times a rabid psychedelic mess and, other times, a rather obvious grin of irony aimed at behavioural clichés and resented mentalities that inhabit  this peculiar environment. The zombie-eyed cats, the crazed city traffic and the delirious settings with blinking signs and street lights, the bizarre palm leaves placed in the middle of a concrete wilderness or the portrayals of cheap summer delights are some of the topics the artist chooses to include in this hysterical circus of everyday trivialities. Of course, all this is topped by the use of an irritating abundance of colour, as he shamelessly saturates everything in highlight tones, disregarding any kind of attempt to please the viewer’s eye. His intent is pretty clear, as this fashion of painting stands in utter opposition to his “dust paintings”, a project conducted around a concept of recycling filth (literally and metaphorically) found in this same hectic environment by using actual dust as a painting medium. The result was a series of extremely pleasing monochrome images which added a very noticeable refined and tasteful factor to the same type of urban scenery that can be seen in the exhibition at MNAC.

As it is a retrospective of the artist’s work, the show sits well inside the museum’s walls, but as a visual spectacle in itself it’s rather overflowing with too much art. It’s hardly pleasurable and rather exhausting. The effect you get is more similar to experiencing an installation than a painting exhibition, simply because it’s extremely difficult to undergo each image in itself, while it’s more likely to submit to the overwhelming flood of this glitzy and quite nauseating depiction of disorder and negligence. Nicoale Comanescu is not being belligerent in these paintings. The best argument of that is the passive stance demonstrated by the obsessive use of views from inside the intimacy of the car and of reflections in the side mirror of sights already passed. All in all, it’s a junction of a lamented passenger’s disgust and his freakishly feverish imagination. But what is more unsettling, is that the endless string of these paintings doesn’t really imply at all a humorous snicker, but a sentiment of resignation and unredeemable acceptance.

 

Text by Adelina Cacio

For photos of the artist’s work, go to http://comanescu.blogspot.com/

The 27th of May marked yet another collective opening in the well accustomed manner of the Paintbrushes Factory. Plan B’s contribution was a show entitled The May Salon, curated by Mircea Cantor, that brought together the gallery’s main featured artists along with some guest artists.

The name of the show itself poses an interesting question that remains largely unanswered: is the salon reference directed towards the idea of the salon as a well established institution that has the power to make or break artists? Or is it an ironic and bittersweet reference to the salons organized in the communist era? Even though there is no definitive answer that I can provide, I must say the name is rather appropriate for a show that seems to have no particularly strong conceptual link between the presented pieces, this being doubled by the fact that it presents a large number of artists – some of which are among the best known names of the Romanian contemporary art scene.

Having artists such as Ion Grigorescu, Ciprian Muresan, Serban Savu, Cristi Pogăcean, Ioana Bătrânu, Corneliu Brudascu, Rudolf Bone, Mircea Cantor, Victor Man, Miklos Onucsan, Cristian Opris, Eugenia Pop and Gabriela Vanga in the same room is evidently a tour de force on behalf of Plan B, but I keep wondering if the inconsistent aspect of the show is not too high of a price to pay for this… The selected works are mighty different from one another in terms of topic, concept, medium, and –on lesser level– quality. However, this creates some confusion as you enter the gallery space and thus the works suddenly become less enjoyable and dare I say even annoying due to the fact that you just can’t seem to view them right.

Victor Man and Anna Bella Papp’s work is visually appealing and intriguing even though I found it quite hard to grasp. Cristian Opris’ realistic portrait engravings are highly elegant and well executed from a technical point of view, and they were also really nicely showcased. And even more than that – they are just simply very clever and ironic! The “portraits” corner of the show is then continued by Ciprian Muresan’s Family Portraits – snapshot-like photographs in color, that want to come through as sincere and informal.

Ioana Bătrânu’s Melancholic Interior is a masterful painting, reminiscing of Bonnard, in terms of color, composition, and even theme, but with an extra dose of surrealism to it. The color scheme is rich, and along with the strong brushworks it makes for a great visual treat. Corneliu Brudascu’s two paintings are gestural and highly expressive, with muted, yet sophisticated colors.

Both of Mircea Cantor’s works are interesting enough, but special attention must be paid to his video, Vertical Attempt. It shows a little boy trying to cut the stream of water running from the faucet with a pair of scissors. It is short, with a clear message, and it sure gets the message across.

The centerpiece of the show (literally) is Rudolf Bone’s installation Clouds Over Picnic, a large setup of a picnic, complete with grass all around and the scattered leftovers of a luncheon. Above this whole scene hang two large, childish clouds made out of tinfoil. At the opening, this particular artwork also had an interactive role, the artist inviting people over for the picnic, but if you happened to be there at some other time, this interactive dimension falls out of the picture. The downside to this installation, and what, in my opinion, affects the entire show is that because of it being rather large the space seems unfit for it, especially since it is surrounded by small works (the engravings and the photographs can be seen in the background), neither of which can “breathe” properly because of it.

The rest of the featured works include a painting by Serban Savu (Procession), very much in the painter’s known style; another installation, this time belonging to Eugenia Pop and called History of Europe – a wooden “frame” with bidimensional ceramics figurines representing soldiers from different eras, hanging from the frame… Also Gabriela Vanga’s Magnum opus – an ultrasound image of a fetus inside a womb, a work I honestly have mixed feelings about: is it supposed to be a sincere and feminist statement on the power of creation… or is it a bitter irony towards the condition of the woman artist?!? …or maybe I am just trying to over-think this…

As an overall conclusion, the show brings out many worthy pieces of art, and it does indeed have the appearance of a salon, and with this I mean both the good and the bad of it, by the later meaning incongruity.

 

Text by Voica Puscasiu

Anish Kapoor is a London-based sculptor with an Indian Jewish background, being born in Mumbai in 1954, but living in the U.K. since the early 1970’s, when he arrived to study Arts. He first started to exhibit as part of the New British Sculpture art scene, then he went on to win the prestigious Turner Prize, and at the moment he is one of the most prominent figures of contemporary sculpture.
His works are characterized by often massive, but always simple and elegant, also usually monochromatic shapes. Almost all materials that can be associated with sculpting have passed through his skilled hands, as he created works out of: chalk, raw pigment, polystyrene, fiberglass, stone, aluminum, stainless steel, bronze, felt, acrylic, wax… etc. More often than not the artist’s intention is to enable expression via his works, rather than to express a specific message of his own, this can be seen most clearly in his installations and in his reflective sculptures where the participation of the viewers is quintessential to the work. Even though large scale is not always in the artworks’ best interest, often shifting the accent from the idea to the pure craftsmanship, Kapoor’s works take size and work it to their advantage. Pervaded by elements of minimalism, they fill the viewer with a sense of awe that can only be experienced in front of a well-presented, monumental piece of art.

The exhibition in focus here took place at the Serpentine Gallery of the Kensington Gardens, in London. The show that was on view between September 28th of 2010 and March 13th 2011 contains 4 pieces by the artist, all of them made of highly polished stainless steel, that have never been previously shown together. This show was curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, one of the world’s top curators at the moment, and who has been working at the Serpentine Gallery for over 10 years, and it is unique in the way that it is the first contemporary sculpture project to take place in the Kensington Gardens in the last 25 years.


Entitled Turning the World Upside Down, the show does just that, both symbolically and literally. Watching the surfaces of Kapoor’s pieces you experience the world around you (and even your own figure) in unexpected ways. They record the nature’s movements, the changes in the weather, the foliage – take note of the period in which the exhibition takes place, one of the most interesting and rewarding periods from this point of view. When faced with his works you are forced to see things from a different perspective, and thus notice details you would’ve passed over if it wasn’t for them. The idea behind this show is for the works of art to be directly experienced by the viewers. Reflecting and distorting, they may be destabilizing at first, showing a new yet familiar sight.
The pieces, placed around the park are not integrated in the scenery; instead, they stand out, like curious, alien objects, arresting the gaze. Still, this does not distract the attention from the park itself, but rather the opposite, since this is precisely what they reflect. So, after all, are you admiring the artwork itself, the grand scenery, or your own funny self?

Probably the most popular work displayed is the C-Curve, which, as the title pretty much says, is a long curved band of stainless steel that on it’s outer (convex) side shows the reflected reality of the park grounds, but it’s not just an oversized mirror you are looking at – the curvature of the band makes the experience slightly stranger, due to the sensation that you might just catch a glimpse of what lies hidden just around the corner…
On the concave side, the entire scenery is reflected upside-down; it is in regular scale in the very center and enlarged towards the edges. This view brings on a whole new perspective over the arrangement of the park, the often overlooked elaborated design of the Kensington Gardens (conceived in the 18th century by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman), the rows of trees, like something out of a Hobbema painting.
Certainly the best-placed sculpture in the exhibition is the Sky Mirror – Red, the smaller of the two present in the show, it has a diameter of aproximately 280cm, and it consists of a concave disc, (resembling a satellite dish) that stands close to the shore of the Round Pond, seeming to float above the water, amongst the swans. Its tint – pinkish red, with violet gleams like the hues of a Rothko piece makes it look like a setting sun, and the angle at which it is placed makes it reflect not the swans or the visitors, but only the skies above… a permanent sunset. Its positioning with Kensington Palace as a backdrop creates what I believe is an iconic image.


The second Sky Mirror, an enormous sculpture with a diameter of 10.6 meters that originally stood in the middle of the Rockefeller Center in New York, is in this case placed farther away from the public, more precisely across the Longwater. It brings the unseen into full view, it brings down the sky, making us acutely aware of it’s constant movement, constant change, especially in a city such as London, where the weather is well known for its moody swings. Pointing out the easily recognizable, but not quite familiar, the work draws you in and keeps you focused, never offering a dull moment.
The last of the works, and also the one I, myself found the least appealing is Non Object (The Spire), a 3 meter piece, shaped like a non-Euclidean cone, with its pointy top shooting up, a tad too alien for it’s ambient, but still a clever find, as it reflects itself onto it’s own surface, making for an interesting distortion of the shape itself and also of the surrounding environment.

One of the downsides of the exhibition is that this last work and also the C-Curve have been surrounded by rope in order to protect them, thus diminishing the actual experience of the viewers, who cannot properly interact with these works anymore. It can be argued here of course that a good public sculpture or installation should be able to sustain itself and to stand apart in its environment… But other than that, I believe the show is a success, given the excellent location, the always amazing works of Kapoor and especially the chemistry that was created between these two elements. The mix of all these provides a unique way of experiencing contemporary art. This highly modernist abstract art transforms the well kept oasis that is the Kensington Gardens, but without ever giving the sense that it attempts to invade it.

As a whole, Anish Kapoor turns a walk in the park into a whimsical trip, like something out of Alice in Wonderland or a Hall of Mirrors. He is an illusionist that engages and amuses the viewer, but on a deeper level he is also a revealer: his sleek, sophisticated sculptures teach us to look at the world anew.

Text and photos by Voica Puscasiu

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/

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/