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–momentul-0/

2011 started off at Casa Matei Gallery of the University of Art and Design in Cluj with Alexandra Bodea’s exhibition, titled Desenează ca şi cum ar avea consecinţe (Draw as if It Would Have Consequences), which was on display between the 13th and 21st of January. The artist is a young graduate of the university and she is currently continuing her studies as a master student. Even though her BA was in painting, the current exhibition features only drawings with permanent marker, which are strictly black & white. There is no color experimentation whatsoever, which may seem peculiar, but can also be challenging for an artist whose supposedly main medium of expression is paint.

The drawings are simple and sketchy, having the appearance of caricatures, and all of them are accompanied by caption texts, which are actual parts of the images. The simple graphic aspect thus allows for the focus to fall on the text, or rather on the relationship between the texts and the drawings, relationship that constitutes, after all, the essence of the show. Many of the images can only be understood via their captions, which thus serve as explanations. It can rightfully be said that the drawings actually benefit from the texts, as they bring a deeper and slightly odd meaning to each  of them.

Although the entire visual outline screams of Dan Perjovschi’s influence, Bodea doesn’t seem interesting in tackling political and social aspects, instead focusing much more on personal experiences, on religious quips, on commonplace, mundane things and proving a wittiness all of her own. The downside to what seems to me a highly personal exhibition, even bordering the realm of idiosyncrasies is that too many of the displayed works tend to get slightly too hermetic. Obviously not all of them can resonate with the viewer’s own experiences and thus there is the risk of them seeming somewhat absurd, or dare I say, pointless. Now, this aspect is probably not a downside for works of art in general, but an art that wants to deliver a message needs to makes sure that the message gets through. Even so, this still leaves a handful of drawings in the exhibition which are meaningful and “legible”, while at the time being very clever and highly amusing.

Probably the best liked piece of the show (also the largest, not that it should have anything to do with size, mind you!) is 238 mici portari care strigă în cor “NU AI VOIE!” (238 little doormen who shout together “YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED!”), a funny and relatable work, underlining the widely shared feelings of frustration, angst and powerlessness in front of a rude administration, in the framework of which technically low ranking people have power and inspire a strange feeling of fear and shame. A neat aspect of the exhibition is the showcasing of the works, an installation of sorts, consisting of polls on which the drawings are attached at eye-level, thus having the general appearance of small flags. These are either lined up along the walls or gathered in clusters, with one notable exception of Ridicat dar pus în umbră (Highly positioned, yet  in the shadows), for the display of which yet another clever solution was found (the work being placed in a rather large niche in the impressive stone walls of the exhibition venue). Another quite original and efficient proposal of the artist were the rocks with drawings on them that were available at the opening. The stones featured works from the exhibition and they were given away to the viewers, making for a nice piece of memorabilia, of greater impact, than, for example, a postcard.

All in all, it is a solo show that speaks of everyday things in a clever and sarcastic voice. It comprises simple images and constructions that have the potential to stick with you after you have left the gallery space, somewhat like a catchy commercial. One disappointment though was the low public presence at the opening of the show, compared to others I’ve witnessed at Casa Matei Gallery, a factor that just might unfortunately downplay the sheer relevance of the exhibition, given the reduced number of people it has actually reached.

Text by Voica Puşcaşiu


January 22, 2011

hey, everybody,
starting today iacob’s review is going to host, under the category “guest’s review”, critical texts written by others than Bogdan Iacob.
For getting published on the blog, the texts have to submitted to and supervised by Bogdan Iacob. In order for this to happen, all those interested are to send their reviews at the following email address:
Several guidelines are to be kept in mind:
1. the texts’ authors should be art or art history students, art professionals or art aficionados, preferably under the age of 40
2. the texts should be written in English
3. the texts should comprise between 3000 and 10000 characters
4. the texts should be about relevant, current or recent contemporary art exhibitions.
The first guest review is to be published today.
Thank you!