'Blind Soulmates'

11.11 - 17.12

Blind Soulmates

"Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn't look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world."
- Andrei Tarkovsky

Over the past two decades I have encountered many artworks that have moved me both emotionally and intellectually, perhaps the first of which was Caspar David Friedrich's "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" (1818), joined in quick succession by Pieter Claeszoon's "Vanitas Still Life" (1628). It is undeniable that I have great admiration for artworks that depict vast landscapes and wanderers, those that express feelings of solitude, mortality, melancholy, and the patient passing of time. Much like Jack Kerouac, an infamous wandering soul, I have always been drawn to solitude. Reading his beatnik streams of consciousness provoked a jealousy of his Big Sur mountain cabin where he'd spent months in isolation, in unavoidable confrontation with his thoughts, boredom and self-reflection. Albeit temporary, voluntary societal withdrawal is intrinsic to the life of any artist or writer. Time and seclusion are key to creativity.

Remus Grecu talks about the concept of time in relation to his artworks. The artist's thought process is similar to that of a movie director while also being a protagonist on the stages he creates. The scenes in the artist's paintings often depict small groups of, frequently costumed, seemingly alienated people, immersed in strange ritual-like situations. In preceding paintings, these selected protagonists mainly appeared in the safety of the art studio environment, in his 2015 series titled "Blind Soulmates" they appear in nocturnal landscapes. Grecu, himself, most often appears as a character in these works, accompanied by either his past or present partner. With this knowledge held in relation to both the title of the exhibition and the exhibited series, we realize that the artist is set on a continued, inexhaustible, romantic quest for perfect harmony, which, as Tarkovsky righteously states in the aforementioned quote, greatly lacks realism. As such, this quest is a tragic one, because perfect harmony, or the artist's idea of it, can neither be completely nor eternally satisfactory. Such magical, symbiotic alignment of time and space comes in brief, treasurable moments before it wears off, disappears, changes, or resurfaces elsewhere. The heart-aching impossibility of an everlasting togetherness is what keeps the artist moving, and each loss of heart intensifies the necessity of his pursuit.


At times, the bizarre situations in Grecu's paintings remind me of scenes from Sofia Coppola's 1999 feature film director's debut "The Virgin Suicides": the gloomy, slow-paced psychological portrait of five teen-aged sisters that seem trapped in a tense conflict between reality and dream world. Aware of such filmic tendencies, the artist admits great admiration for another notable, aforementioned filmmaker: Andrei Tarkovsky. Although the director considered the use of color in most of his films as something privileged for specific scenes that should stand out for their metaphysical or exceptional aesthetic values, Grecu's paintings are all in color, but obscured by their nightly settings or by some artificial light source that casts long, theatrical shadows. Grecu meets Tarkovsky in their joined fascination for the experience and alteration of time. Celebrated for his patient and lengthy film takes, Tarkovsky emphasized the fragile, poetic honesty of time passing slowly, and consequently established an elusive dream-state or other-worldliness that makes us believe in the existence of a parallel universe somewhere nearby, yet seemingly unreachable. Grecu admirably achieves a similar experience in his paintings. The practical impossibility of real motion in his non-moving images intensifies its presence, as would be the case in a film still. They are isolated, frozen moments of life that represent the narrative, like the debris of a ruin that represents what was once a cloister or a fortress. The use of such moments for the designs of his paintings, and the fact that we can't fully decipher the depicted ritual-like situations in the artwork, irrevocably adds a mystique to the artist's oeuvre which, I feel I have no business demystifying.

Looking closer at the creative process of Grecu's art making, the issue of translation comes to mind. The artist stages private, personal encounters with people he is close with in the setting of his studio and the nearby forests. These moments are documented using photographic methods from which he later constructs his painted images. Thus, final form of this process, is a painted image based on a photo document based on a performance. In doing this, the artist courageously embraces a process of loss (of the original experience), which is undoubtedly intrinsic to his oeuvre. Heartfelt dynamics between cherishing and letting go are apparent in Grecu's work. The paintings in the series "Blind Soulmates" can be therefore read as homages to both gained and lost paradise. Each one of the paintings are references to the past: complex, distorted, time traveling, autobiographical interpretations, colored by feelings of melancholy and hope, faith and loss. Clearly, the process of translation in Grecu's work is not of literary nature, as it is the case in Tarkovsky's well-known film "Nostalghia", in which the director critically debates the possibility of translation of a work of art. The artist consciously applies a process of removal that intensifies towards the final artwork and he undergoes this in the solitude of his art studio. In his practice, the act of painting balances both the revealing of a new story and muting a million others in an attempt to create one image that holds all. Songs that pay homage to an influential, deceased musician, for instance, move us beyond the commemorating melody and lyrics to our personal memories of the soul that passed. Such music serves as a vessel. This is exactly how I interpret and experience the work of Remus Grecu. "Blind Soulmates" is a group of paintings that contains images referencing highly personal homages to pivotal, private, past experiences of the artist. Notwithstanding the self-reflective, autobiographic nature of this artwork, we find immediate connection in the painting's universal themes of heartache and paradise lost, if the fascinating, mind-traveling mysteriousness of each image doesn't already provide us with sufficient affinity and curiosity.

Jan Van Woensel, Antwerp, Belgium
Bek Vitarelle (editor), Chicago, USA




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