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