José Angel Araguz at TheFridayInfluence.com posted yesterday a brief notice that included a reference to Singapore-born, London-trained artist Tan Zi Xi, creator of the installation Plastic Ocean. Made of over 20,000 pieces of plastic refuse, Plastic Ocean was exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum in 2016. Here’s more about it, along with five impactful images, in an interview with the artist on oceanic.global.
Browsing the current exhibition at Elite Art Gallery the other day I was struck by how gripping Dan Mohanu’s seasonal landscapes were. They were the stuff of virtual reality. I felt part and parcel of each of those three landscape vedute: Summer, End of Winter, and Beginning of Spring.
The only thing missing was, of course, a scene for autumn/fall. Fall is glorious outside these days (still), and yet I was nostalgic for the kind of season captured by Mohanu, with brushstrokes that make the grass almost rustle, and the light almost more natural than any captured by cinematographers. Yes, I was that taken with these paintings. They were detailed yet not overdone in the foreground and middle ground, and rather abstract when it comes to gestural strokes sketching foliage and land in the distance. But notice how the light hugs the tree trunks (and canopies) in summer, and how it seems to suffuse them in winter.
And notice how faint sunlight is at the beginning of spring, where only the leaves of new plants and some small and tiny spots of snow bring hope into the landscape.
I’ll leave you to enjoy these images on your own some more. If you wish to see the actual paintings, they are on display until Nov. 5.
A bit about Dan Mohanu, courtesy of Elite Art Gallery. He’s been working in mural restoration for decades. In fact, he is the founder of the Department of Conservation and Restoration at the National University of Art in Bucharest, and was the head of this department between 1990 and 2016.
The current exhibition, which includes several painters, has been organized under the patronage of the Romanian National Commission for UNESCO.
If you’re interested in acquiring the featured paintings by Dan Mohanu, you can do so at Elite Art Gallery for 5,400 lei/approx. €1,090.
If you can stop by the gallery, there’s a lot there to enjoy. It’s one of my favorite places in Bucharest.
Aesthetica, the magazine and its website, is one of my favorite go-to places for contemporary art. Here’s a piece about Doris Salcedo sliding a crack along the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, Baptiste Debombourg’s sending a gallery wall cracking and tumbling toward us, and more ado about fragments and fragmenting.
Visual Inspiration: Art as Fragments (brief Aesthetica article)
Doris Salcedo’s 2007–2008 installation and intervention piece fractured the floor of the Turbine Hall—after adding a new layer to it for this purpose—with a crevice of various widths and depths and set chain-link wires inside it. She called it Shibboleth.
In the Bible, in the Book of Judges, there’s a passage about a battle between two Semitic tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites. When the Ephraimites tried to escape, the Gileadites put them to a test of saying the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the initial sh sound (they turned it into an s) and were thus exposed.
As a noun, a shibboleth came to mean a custom, such as a way of speaking, a belief, or a tradition which distinguishes a group of people. It’s a marker used to both include and exclude, to differentiate between an in-group and out-group. According to her own statements, Doris Salcedo uses the notion of shibboleth in a vein close to its biblical context, as a signifier that rather than benignly evoking group differences points instead at discriminatory practices and also violence against members of out-groups, with particular reference to immigrants who come to Europe from the so-called “third-world” countries. The work is meant to reflect both pressure and division, Salcedo says. But there is so much suggestion of struggle, too, in the work, and of calling into question, as Salcedo suggests, the direction of our gaze—toward those who struggle, toward those fallen through the cracks, toward those who push from the crevices to free themselves only to find themselves, in many cases, in circumstances that hold them back like those bits of chain-link fence incorporated into the crevice walls of the installation.
And here’s a photo:
(Photo by Nmnogueira on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)
But this post won’t be about Hamdi. I chose this image because it was freely shared on Pixabay and it shows some of the thought processes behind Marcus Møller Bitsch’s work, the Danish photographer featured recently on Aesthetica Magazine‘s website.
Unlike most Surrealist artists, Marcus MB, as he likes to be called, doesn’t use digital manipulation if he can help it and instead creates his version of Surrealism using simple props, such as a photograph of a blue cloudy sky cracked open in the middle to reveal a night sky with small sparkly stars. Or a photograph of the sea, torn in places in order to insert what could be actual small rocks—which then end up looking like large outcrops in the middle of the sea.
Whether you’re an art aficionado or not, I think you may find you’ll enjoy some of the art galleries in downtown Bucharest on your next trip here. Entrance is free and I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. I’m amazed myself every time I go for a leisurely stroll and stop at Artmark or Galateca or Cercul Militar / Military Circle (the latter one where Victoriei Blvd crosses Regina Elisabeta Blvd, close to University Square). I had another favorite gallery on Victoriei Blvd, but unfortunately it closed down sometime this year. Other galleries I invite you to explore are Elite Art Gallery close to Unirii Square and Art Yourself Gallery near Romana Square.
All of these spaces showcase contemporary art, but Artmark also has an impressive collection of nineteenth-century art (along with collections of various objects they sell at auction) which rivals in many ways that of the National Art Museum (not in size, of course) and is free to visit. So you have nothing to lose; give it a try! Artmark’s building lies close to the National Art Museum, on a street (C.A. Rosetti) which connects Victoriei Blvd to Magheru Blvd.
Here’s a photo from my last promenade in the area, when I caught some contemporary pieces right after the official close of an exhibition.
And here’s an amazing piece from yesterday’s walk, when I swung by Cercul Militar and caught a glass painting exhibition by Elena Cioclu. The two images presented here are on show until August 5. My favorite is Golden Dream. It includes not only a cross, a (church) bell and angels, but also an axis mundi (through the cross), a liminal circular area which includes references to vegetation and organic forms, and a spiritual realm where angels support the structure of this world, including by holding on to the edges of the bell (and therefore helping it move in the world). The color composition is also intriguing, with golden, blue, and turquoise hues (which I haven’t captured very well) and with a more intense, orange reddish dot at the center of the cross, in a blue square. This bit is very significant, as it may refer both to the human nature of Christ and to His sacrifice, and also to the intensity of the center that holds all things together.
Note as well the circle around the meeting point of the arms of the cross, which is an ancient symbol of the Sun adopted by the Celts. Given that it’s also split in four, it also references, just as crosses do, the four corners of the Earth and the four elements that—at least in Western symbolism—make up this world (earth, water, air, and fire). And if you don’t see any symbols of the Trinity, keep your hair on: the vertical arm of the cross is flanked by three beams on each side, making up a total of seven, which is said to represent the unity between the Holy Trinity and the created world, among other things (the seven days of Creation, for one).
Golden Dream sells for €1,800.
NB: I had to take the photos at an angle because I developed a smudge on my camera lens (can’t fix it) and also this is glass, so I didn’t want my profile reflected in the photos.
If the above two pieces are too spiritually charged for you, I’ll leave you with a photo of marigolds from nearby Cișmigiu Park 🙂 (It’s a trick, of course. Marigolds got their name from Virgin Mary. They have been the flowers of choice for the Day of the Dead in Mexico and Latin America, where they originated. While in pre-Hispanic times they were offered to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec Lady of the Dead, after Día de los Muertos merged with All Saints’ Day they’ve started decorating altars to the Virgin Mary, which have become integrated into Day of the Dead shrines. And so these fragrant flowers, which in Día de los Muertos rituals are believed to have the power to lead souls to the homes of their families, became known as “Mary’s Gold.”)
Some wonderful ways to add texture to paintings
To set the stage, here are the seven elements required to create art: line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture. Some artists use all of them in a given work, some may only use two or three, but each artist has her own way of employing the elements and choosing what expresses her intent. The elements required to create art are line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture.
Last time I wrote about line, an element that makes frequent appearances in my paintings. This time I’ll select another one off the shelf –texture.
The element of texture doesn’t require much explanation. You know when a tactile quality catches your eye, begging to be touched. Running…
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Chihuly Extravaganza at Kew Gardens
I was lucky enough to see some of his works at a museum. They’re very much alive when you’re in their presence, especially if they’re under natural light.
During the Easter break we were fortunate to have some extraordinarily unseasonable weather – the sun shone, the sky was a bright summer blue and the thermometer rose – so this seemed the perfect opportunity to see an outdoor glass installation by a favourite artist.
The Dale Chihuly Exhibition, “Reflections on Nature” at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a sequence of artworks, both indoors and nestled within the famous glasshouses. It took a couple of hours of gentle strolling to see them all and to spend time really looking at these beautiful works within the natural environment.
As well as seeing the installations in the garden, we visited the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art (located inside Kew and included as part of your ticket). There is a large exhibition of classic pieces by Chihuly, some of which I already knew. However, I particularly liked seeing his…
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“Later that week Anca sent a number of poems to the magazine Literary Romania. “Tell Me” was among them. It talked of roasted potatoes and onions, rooibos tea with honey, and perky sad music on the CD player. It considered whether life is ever more than swapping stories in a kitchen over a poor man’s meal shared threeways, each bite charmed with sunlight and music. It described an intoxicating scene with a long-haired woman in a vaporous dress, pirouetting on the kitchen table to humor her boyfriend, who then grabbed her by the thighs and hips and put her down in front of the piano, where she played God knows what, for she used no sheets, and she and her man were the only musicians in the room. Finally, it mentioned her bare foot pushing the brass pedal with conviction, her launching into Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, whirling its listeners like a tornado, and her cutting loose as more water for tea boiled on the stove, and the guests were invited to crack walnut shells for a makeshift dessert.”
I love the aesthetics of Lucia Lobonț’s ceramics, whether they be tamer decorative pieces, moody portraits, or mixed-media-informed collage-like compositions with more recognizable use of decalcomania. (Here’s an example of the latter.)
I discovered Lucia Lobonț about a week ago at Elite Art Gallery in downtown Bucharest, where she had two portraits and a mirror frame on show. Here’s one of the portraits and part of the mirror.
Lucia Lobonț, Reflection and Portrait
In the piece to the right, I’m drawn to the economy of gestures in marking shadows and red cheeks, and, of course, the moody tone, set by those wonderful droopy eyes, the chubby chins, the quirkily curved lips, and the full ovals of the faces.
Nika at prettylittlebibliophileweb.wordpress.com has posted a glowing review of Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel. I am tremendously happy when my book touches so many chords with a reader, and I’m especially thankful for hearing from readers like Nika who say my book changed their lives in some way.
Here’s Nika’s review, complete with many quotes from PAL.
Thank you, Nika!