Eugen Gâscă. Retrospective
Eugen Gâscă (1908-1989) is a defining personality in twentieth-century Romanian art. His oeuvre, in its suggestive and spiritualised modernism, is the fruit of a career that spanned six decades. His melancholy expressionism, with its metaphysical undertones, clothes the figures and landscapes presented in a blue colour-light, conveying the turmoil and hope experienced by an artist who was constantly fighting to stay alive.
Born into a family of elementary school teachers at Cristur-Grindeni in 1908, he lost his parents and siblings while still young. These tragic events, along with poverty and his own struggle for survival as a TB sufferer, represented the life experience that led to the early maturing of his personality as an artist and the crystallising of an original vision of life.
His formation took place in the cultural ambiance of interwar Cluj, where he began his studies at the School of Fine Arts in 1928 under young teachers trained in Paris. He went on to study in Bucharest and Iași, in the latter place as a pupil of Tonitza, who commented on his sense of colour. While studying in Cluj he belonged to the famous Boema group of young art students who turned their poverty and love of art into an ars poetica. Gâscă’s life story was characterised by frequent moves to different corners of Romania, either to take up some modest art teaching post or as a patient in one of the sanatoria in which he frequently spent months or even years.
Our exhibition is the first retrospective to be mounted since the artist’s death (the last was in 1978-9) and is thus in a position to look at the full range of his oeuvre, including the works that date from the final decade of the artist’s working life – these being of great relevance to the fulfilment of his artistic vision.
This event brings together a substantial series of works dating from the 1930s, when the young artist achieved an early artistic synthesis. These works were shown in a personal exhibition at Cluj in 1934, when the disturbing modernity of his voice made itself heard. Conscious as he was of the fragility of life, his painting springs from concomitant feelings of sadness, hope and joy.
By tracing the artist’s career both as a painter and as a graphicist, the exhibition gives an overview of his manner of thinking and creating. The drawings and watercolours are not independent of the pictures but precede their realisation. However, they are not mere sketches but essays at tuning into a rhythm, actions aimed at creating greater depth and steps towards reaching the essence of the theme.
After a period of experimentation, that of the “compulsory” realist stage of the 1950s – during which he achieved renown for his successful historical painting Horia and his Captains – from the 1960s onwards he returned to the visual universe of his youth and took it further: his figures set in the landscape, angel-like silhouettes that are merely suggested, unreal, have mysterious concerns of their own; they do not initiate action but are subject to the rituals and rhythms of rich inner lives. The symbiosis between man and nature – with the hills and poplars characteristic of the artist’s native region, the Mureș valley – is cosmic and metaphysical in nature, with everything appearing to be composed of the same substance, expressed by the use of cold shades of bluey-green that recall the suffused glow of frescoes.
Alike through the subjects of his youth (The Flight to Egypt, Crucifixion, Christ) and through the spirit of his entire oeuvre, Gâscă’s art shows us a sensitive and deeply spiritual individual who as a result of his personal experiences succeeded in reinventing the iconography of Christian art and reinvesting it with meaning.
For the very first time we are also exhibiting the works – watercolours and paintings – that the artist produced in his final years, a collection entitled Joy. This was a period in which explicit references to Biblical themes were not permitted, but these are works in which the joy of the Resurrection can be seen: the artist’s final luminous synthesis, full of hope. This is the chef d’oeuvre of someone who has reached old age, at peace with his own life, free now from the trials of a precarious existence that had overshadowed all his earlier years, and sure of his artistic creed.
The major part of the exhibition is constituted by a collection which has been preserved in the care of the artist’s family and that includes examples from the whole of his creative period. Loans from private collections in Romania and abroad also make a substantial contribution. The value of the exhibition is enhanced by our collaboration with the Mureș County Museum - Târgu Mureș Art Museum, which holds an important Eugen Gâscă endowment.
We would also like to use the opportunity of this retrospective to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Quadro Gallery – a gallery devoted to researching and promoting significant works and phenomena of twentieth-century art in Romania.
Image-Painting. Exit into "Reality".
Teodor Moraru Award – Five Years
Curators: Diana Marincu și Székely Sebestyén
Artists: Magda Amărioarei, Dragoș Bădiță, Marius Bodea, Anca Brânzaș, Adrian Dica, David Farcaș, Norbert Filep, Camilia Filipov, Ioan de Moisa, Laura Niculescu, Lucian Popăilă, Sabina Suru, Andrea Tivadar, Diana Tudose, Daniela Vîrlan
Whether we speak about abstract or figurative painting, watercolor or oil on canvas, collage or drawing, the experiments of young artists have been doubled by a solid theoretical support. As Teodor Moraru, the artist celebrated by this award, said: ‘we can pass by forms, images and not see them as they are not part of our programme, they are not thought; painting needs to be, therefore, thought’. Keeping in mind this aspect of the tension between immediate reality and the visual language that processes and establishes it, we propose a re-composition of the five years of Teodor Moraru Award as seen in the practice of shortlisted artists from 2014 until today.
The revival of painting we notice today – or, as Hans Ulrich Obrist called this moment, the ‘urgency’ of painting from the point of view of the polyphonic voices it has brought to the international art scene, determines a wide interest in the development of this medium of expression and an increasing research of its engagement in contemporary society.
The exhibition builds on a game of visual abundancy that surrounds us today, in contrast with the stakes of painting to cut out its own reflexive and self-reflexive strip in the process of knowing and rediscovering visual language. Teodor Moraru revealed his working method as a permanent oscillation between studio analysis and exit into ‘reality’, going through documentation, specific to artistic explorations of his generation, for which the laboratory was not a perfect synonym of the studio. The laboratory included of course the studio, but went beyond the borders of its physical space and allowed for contamination from everything that reality imposed as an experience and as a specific subject.
The artists in the exhibition, all shortlisted for the first 5 editions of the Teodor Moraru Award, represent a wide strip of what young painting in Romania proposes today, while the exhibition offers the possibility of drawing out some networks that connect various practices, from both conceptual and geographical diverse areas, holding multiple instruments and fundaments.
Initiated in 2014, Teodor Moraru Award is given yearly in the memory of the painter Teodor Moraru (1938 – 2011) and is addressed to artists under 35. Teodor Moraru Award aims to offer support for young artists, approaching several of the needs for artistic development. The award offers a financial support as well as a residency together with the group Colonia 21.
This Quadro Gallery exhibition introduces those areas of Ion Vlasiu’s artistic activity which up to now have not been integrated, or only partially integrated, into his oeuvre: found objects (branches and roots), drawings, photographs and coloured sculptures from the 1960s-1980s. Behind those works, one can see an authentic artistic vision which the artist had shaped starting with the 1930s.
Born in 1908, in the village of Lechinţa, on the Mureş Valley, his thinking and his imagination were strongly marked by nature and the rural life. His artistic debut was furious so that he had between 1930-1936 as many as six exhibitions. Among those, together with his eloquent spiritual works, related to the anthroposophical thinking and the art deco aesthetics, it can be seen the vein which will represent Vlasiu’s specific voice. Seeking a deep understanding of matter, the artist found out that: "It is beyond question that there is an animating cosmic rhythm that expresses itself with an eloquent and indestructible logic." - as he beautifully said in an interview from 1936. In his vision, this rhythmic dynamism gave life to matter, including wood or stone, which allowed him to integrate into his sculptures the “found” givens of the wood - the contortions and the rhythms specific to it.
After those exhibitions - well received by critics, but with no material success -, in 1937 he set off to spend one year in Paris. Here he made the acquaintance of Brâncuși in his studio. This strengthened Vlasiu’s conviction that the core and essence of sculpture was precisely its material/matter. Despite this, the decades that followed saw him moving away from the style he had maintained both in visible terms and in theory and turning towards a figurative and expressive kind of sculpture and towards the creation of a number of monumental works.
Only towards 1960, the artist will come back to this style of his that we could call “the sculpture of rhythm”, based on the organic construction of form. On the land he owned in Bistra Mureșului, he began to make a collection of branches, roots and rocks. About these “found objects” which were sculpted or painted, as a way for the artist to preserve the “apparition” he had seen in that form, he said: “all these pieces have been produced in direct collaboration with the springs of the Mureș.”. The artist himself integrated them in his oeuvre when, on the occasion of the retrospective exhibition held at Dalles Hall in 1984, he exhibited coloured wood and roots.
Besides the found objects and the wooden sculptures, the exhibition also introduces the drawings related to these and photographs taken by the artist. The unadorned visual language of the drawing of the shapes leads us in the direction of the “primitive” sources of art, the world of children’s drawings, while some shapes follow the line of the fragments of found wood. In the photographs immortalising scarecrows, the artist represented those shapes of country craft skills that intersects with the modern artistic practices: “ready-made” and “found object”.
The rhythms found in wood, the drawn apparitions, the scarecrows and the photographed rocks all contribute to Vlasiu’s organic artistic synthesis, showing a broad thinking horizon, an understanding of the unity of the vital sources of nature and man.
It was in 1944 that Incze János Dés executed a series of illustrations of fairy tales, the publication of which was, however, prevented by wartime conditions. During the 1950s the artist returned to these illustrations, intended for Nagy Olga’s anthology of Hungarian traditional popular fairy stories from the village of Sic, but in 1957 the publication of the drawings was rejected by an editorial decision.
Although no explicit reasons were given for this rejection, the incident stirred up a major reaction in the press. Writers and artists sprang to the defence of Incze János Dés drawings and in doing so also made reference to what they assumed had been the motives for their rejection. These articles appeared in the weekly publication Utunk. In the course of this one-sided debate the writers ranged themselves against the requirements of socialist realism, to which, absurdly, illustrations of fairy tales appeared to have been subjected, with a realist style of representation being called for even in them. The painter Mohy Sándor and the sculptor Márkos András went on to defend the genre of illustration in itself, emphasising the fact that Incze’s drawings are fine examples of how one can capture the world of fairy tales by using an expressive and contemporary idiom and avoiding “a superficial view of children, seen through adult eyes rather than from inside, from one’s own memories of childhood, and thus assuming a viewpoint that is bookish, hypocritical, ‘Sunday-best’, and ludicrously didactic” (Márkos András).
Incze János Dés’s illustrations reflect the mature visual universe of his paintings. When he fulfilled this specific commission as an illustrator he did so in line with his own characteristic way of looking at people, with its humorous sense of the grotesque and “clumsy” drawing style, assimilating the fairy stories to this key.
Ana Botezatu is well known as, among other things, an illustrator, but the works exhibited here were not executed to accompany any particular text. In her manner of working she employs, spontaneously, craft methods such as cut outs using coloured paper cut with scissors, or “drawing” by exposing photosensitive paper to light. Both methods work with silhouettes, leaving room for that childish surprise and delight which accompany the birth of the image. When the folded paper is opened up, or when the mask is peeled off the photosensitive paper – that is the moment when the figures appear and begin to lead a life of their own and to tell a tale. Ana Botezatu is gentle with her figures, directing them with minimal interventions, leaving them in their mysterious state in which their language cannot yet be understood. Between the figures, which carry out all kinds of strange actions, we may observe affinities, as if all of them belonged to a larger story – one which is written only in that way, in images.
While The Beheading of the Dragon does not set out to draw a forced parallel between the visual universes of the two artists, they can nonetheless be legitimately placed alongside each other because of the striking manner in which they both approach the task of illustration.
Incze János Dés (1909-1999)
He received his first intimations of art at Satu Mare, in the studio of Aurel Popp, and later developed under the guidance of Ziffer Sándor at Baia Mare. In 1935 he settled in Dej, where he was the cantor of the Reformed Church, and for the whole course of his career as a painter found inspiration in the wealth of subject matter provided by that small town.
Ana Botezatu (1982)
She studied at the Cluj University of Art and Design, graduating from the Ceramics Department in 2005. She lives and works in Berlin. Her work includes drawing, illustration, book-objects, animations and design. In 2016 she exhibited animations and illustrations in the Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The Quadro Gallery is planning, through a series of exhibitions, to draw attention to a number of works from the field of the decorative and applied arts, which have frequently been passed over by art critics and historians, even though the fresh and sustained approaches we meet here are relevant both for the history of art and for a better understanding of the period in which the works were produced.
In the socialist countries those marginal fields of art were less subjugated by the social realism (in comparison with the plastic arts). The artistic practice and thought were permitted to manifest more freely, showing new directions of expression. In the 1960s those fields caught a strong impetus from society’s general need of modernization, the improvement in the standard of living and the birth of a new type of comfort. Those phenomena shouldn’t be read as being exclusively a mean to synchronize with the Occident. In most of the cases, the means of expression present in the two blocs were similar, but the reasons were frequently different.
The substantial collection of tapestries, executed by Maria Ciupe between 1964 and 1973, must be interpreted in the context of the renaissance in Romanian textile art. The beginning of this development can be dated to around 1965, and in this phenomenon we see Maria Ciupe engaged in raising textile art from the level of an applied art to a serious genre, the place it had occupied in its best days in the course of the history of art.
Maria Ciupe's synthesis was realised at a late stage in her career (the artist was 56 in 1964 when she started the series). At that point, the younger generation had already embarked upon a search for a way out of the classical constraints of the genre. This sustained personal synthesis has an identifiable place in the history of art in Romania, since it is among those which achieved a restoration of the dignity of the genre. Maria Ciupe's tapestries go through a number of compositional stylisations that move beyond the realist vision to recover the modalities of coalescing the image (through collage and transfer) specific to the historical avant-garde. They are characterized by a refined chromatic, the colour palette oscillating between the natural colours of wool and earth and the vivid hues of the rugs of Maramureș.
The tapestries have not been brought together in an exhibition since 1973, and the preliminary sketches have never been placed on public display. The latter offer us an intimate insight into Maria Ciupe’s creative process, showing the viewer an approach whose modernity is sometimes manifested more freely in the sketches than in the finished works.
The mock-ups transposed into tapestries on the scale of the human body and of inhabited spaces are no longer pictures to look at but become presences with which one can live. They cease to be windows onto something and become means towards “the re-enchantment of the world”, as is the case with Maria Ciupe’s greatest tapestries.
str. Samuil Micu nr. 7
400014 Cluj, România