It has already become a tradition, that once every two years, the International Painting Biennale of Chisinau - 2017, organized under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Moldova has already reached the 5th edition, to delight the audience with large visual manifestations with the participation of 170 artists from 27 countries around the world.
The fact that the exhibition unfolds for the first time in the newly renovated exhibition spaces of the National Art Museum of Moldova gives the event a new dimension of artistic context, as well as to the modern conditions of displaying artistic creations, thus raising the standards of artistic performance, and at the same time, promoting and encouraging young creators in the process of artistic evolution.
Moreover, for the first time, within the International Painting Biennale of Chisinau, the jury awarded the Grand Prize an artist from the Republic of Moldova, Igor Svernei, whose work impressed not only by originality, but also by aesthetic intensity, work anchored thoroughly in the aesthetic principles of modern art , through means of plastic expression and ideology, that reminds us of the famous art critic Tudor Braga, the disappearance of whom is felt more and more in the artistic environment.
We have the certainty that the International Painting Biennale Chisinau - 2017 will contribute to the promotion of artists and contemporary art, will ensure continuity in the promotion and development of the plastic arts, which could also lead to the creation of a favorable cultural image of the Republic of Moldova in the world.
In a world where visual arts are forever expanding their frontiers, where aesthetic evaluation criteria have become so lax as to border on disappearance, any type of artistic hierarchy based on quality can be suspected of pure and simple subjectivity. Bearing the idea in mind, I feel that – as president of the Chișinău International Painting Biennale jury – I am bound to put forward some coordinates of the personal evaluation instruments I have used to select this year’s awards.
This presentation strongly aims at pointing out that it was not an arbitrary process and that, lacking exterior criteria, the effort of bringing some works to the fore was outstanding, and its motivation will follow.
First and foremost, the general evaluation framework started with examining the place painting occupies within contemporary creation as a whole. What can painting represent or what role could it play nearby image capture methods or digital printing techniques and to what extent painting is still anchored in its XX century know coordinates. How much can painting still be an autonomous genre and to what extent has it become the result of its marriage to other techniques and other artistic genres, such as graphics and photography, and we will not limit the list.
It is high time to disclose one “secret”: to me, situating a painting outside the areas and the subjects which have turned classical or at least recurrent due to repetition, has become a criteria which is not necessarily attached to value, but it certainly is an interest arouser and I have used it in selecting the Biennale’s awards. I strongly believe that, just as the world around us no longer looks the same and no longer follows the same behaviour patterns, so do arts, which inevitably reflect, whenever the shape and the content matter, this new world and it coordinates.
It is the very case of the work awarded The Big Prize, signed by Igor Svernei. His painting shows all the characteristics of a supersign which, in relation to other works submitted to the jury’s evaluation, stood apart precisely for its separation from painterly methods which rely on compositional schemes and chromatic associations that can be labeled as commonplace through frequent use. Yet another of the work’s merits is its elaborate air, meticulous but not over-exacting, showing a process determined by a strong inner need, the painting thus turning into a reflection field, a monumental diary page.
It evokes Igor Svernei’s relationship with art critic Tudor Braga, identified as a long-lasting “print” whose shades we can discern only now, when over dimensional, and which can also be read as a posthumous fine art reverence. A delicate, sensitive brushing laying on a unique tonality colour, carefully chosen from among elegiac shades, which follows the mysterious tracks of a nearby pattern, represented by the fingerprints of the one called to mind. Even what, at first sight, appears to be a compact stain which occupies the works’ left hand side, at closer sight we see that the surface consists of successive overlapping of colour with a vibrant, highly savory artistic effect. I would like you to bear in mind, and this is what made me have no hesitation whatsoever in selecting the work for the highest award, is its situation in the field of action with no other objective but the artistic one, with no connection either to the implicitly accepted success formulas, or to the art market value ones. And maybe it is even more than that; it is simply the convincing use of painterly tools to express a complex idea.
The work which was awarded the first prize, signed by Agnieszka Zawisza, could easily be included in a genre that continues to generate scores of admirers, but what makes it highly significant is the very difference to the superabundance of landscape paintings and its sense of the contemporary. Its title plays on the ambiguity of the word slide, which can equally mean to move smoothly along a surface, but also a device for sliding into a swimming pool, which we can actually see in the painting. One can largely “brand” the landscape as genre by its green colour dominant, related to meadows, forests, groves, lakes which lovers of landscape painting take great pleasure in. Even though the artist obeys the rule, her green is the result of an abstract dynamics of the pigment applied with a palette knife, dripped, drained, sprinkled – actions suggesting a fairly large number of elements which have an equivalent in nature without being mimetic, figuratively speaking. The entire surface of the work is in shades of green, for a reason which is directly connected to its distinctive feature: it shows a lake landscape (the lower part is the water reflection of the upper one) shaped by hazard which we could put down to flooding, heavy rainfalls or, why not, global warming and its effects.
What is truly admirable is the way in which this green profusion incorporates several elements suggesting the human presence, now gone precisely as a result of the calamity the painting hints to. It may be viewed as a memento of how frail human civilization can be when confronted with omnipotent nature, ready to get hold of territories it has lost through human action, just like the all dominant green of the painting.
Andreea Albani’s work, awarded the second prize, carries on with the same landscape trope, which is however distanced from its classical coordinates by a new optical viewpoint, focused on a macro level. We no longer have familiar aggregates of natural elements; the eye comes closer to them and captures details which are not at all less significant from the artistic point of view. If we can easily recognize the vegetal suggestions in the lower half, the elements in the upper part seem to be sending in the air different parts which are linked to species spreading, just as it happens mostly in springtime.
The suggestion is ampler and the air itself seems to be vibrating, reminding us of those afternoons during the hot seasons. The palette is limited to serene, ethereal shades, the colour acts rather as an element of support to the multiple graphic elements, bracingly applied, which brings metal engraving techniques to mind. Much like the work of the Polish artist, it expands and enriches the generic landscape motif, whose classical datum is under threat as a result of exhausting traditional resources.
Gabriela Culic’s painting stood out from the works submitted to evaluation due to its angular, powerful shapes and the contrast only black can produce, but not only from this point of view which relates to a general perception. For several years now, the artist’s paintings are built around birds, a key element with multiple meanings. While until now we could discern in the pictorial forms the dove’s harmless silhouette, assimilated to a symbol of peace, in this work, we are presented with a flock of corvids, and the birds have a threatening appearance. Their portrayal as a flock intensifies the negative connotations, associated to war presages, and their living close to waste materials turn them into a symbol of decadence and ruin.
The award honours not only the artist’s steadiness in supporting a strikingly expressive discourse whose significance we have already touched upon, but also the very quality of the painting’s evoking character, which symbolically incorporates present days’ fears and threats.
The Sturza Family Trust Award went to the American artist Grillo Jose Gonzales for his work entitled The Party. It has the merit of restoring the genuine narrative nature to the art of painting, dimmed by artistic productions which make the most of the expressive potential of the informal or of chromatics with no other subject than the colour in itself. Even though we recognize in the painting something of Chagall’s anterior contribution, the artist’s type of composition is produced in a different chromatic key, one of colours, while the narrative thread leads you on to active contemplation, to following and discovering the storyline.
Vrancea Cultural Centre Awards went to two artists whose works are stylistically antithetical to the American artist’s production. Veaceslav Fisticanu and Mihai Țăruș’s abstract paintings are recognizable for the accuracy of their chromatic contribution, using, on the one hand, an ample touch which discloses coherent forms and fructifies the randomness of several colour fusions, while on the other hand also using geometric matrices, whose element of culour constitutes their very substance, taking us to a kind of reading originating in the Bauhaus school of chromatic research.
The fifth edition of the International Biennale of Painting Chisinau 2017, which is in continuous qualitative ascension, confirms the name of a large-scale manifestation of the plastic arts organized in the Republic of Moldova. The rigorous selection, from year to year, attracts more and more performed artists from Moldova, Romania and from abroad. This year, 164 artists have exhibited 185 works of art, all representatives of 27 countries in the world.
I am honored to say that, the same as in the previous cultural representations, as part of the current edition, and as guests of honour, a great number of reference artists from Romania, Belgium and Italy like Gheorghe Anghel, Sorin Ilfoveanu, Ștefan Câlţea, Corneliu Vasilescu, Viorel Mărginean, Silvia Radu, Horea Paștina, Constantin Flondor, Petru Lucaci, Vasile Tolan, Nicole Callbaut, Alberto Bolzonela and others have exhibited outside the contest. The participation availability of such well-known artists at our exhibition, we acknowledge as a substantial support in the strengthening of this international visual manifestation.
During the four previous editions, which have gradually imposed rigorous selection conditions, has led to attracting more and more artists from different parts of the world with a rich professional experience. Initially, many did not believe in the possibility of organizing such an event in Chisinau, even more so in its continuity.
The fact that some of the participating artists, both local and foreign, have been with us since the first edition, makes us believe that the level and dynamics of this event can attract the interest of painters, many of whom demonstrate, during the art expositions, an impressing performance of artistic representations. At the same time, we are very happy to notice from one edition to the next, the appearance of new participants, new extremely talented artists from different parts of the world.
Certainly, we have to maintain, the ascendant artistic course of the exposition in the future, through the selection of the most significant art works, in order to succeed in attracting a wider participation of artists, that will express as objectively as possible the current artistic tendencies of contemporary painting.
In the current edition we are enjoying an impressive participation of the young generation of artists, especially from Romania and Poland. Most of them, through their creations, portray themes adapted to the time we live in, realized according to the latest artistic tendencies. Among them we find such artists like Andrea Albani, Second Prize winner; Samir Văncică, Ecaterina Scoruș, Sarah Daria Muscalu (Romania), Agnieszka Zawisza, First Prize winner for the „The Slide”, Kosiek Malgorzata, Klaudia Lata, Aga Pietrzykowska, Gossia Zielaskowska, Pola Wojcik (Poland) and others. The level of their performance is remarkable in the context of the new stylistics and tendencies of contemporary painting.
At the same time, we must mention the fact that during the years of Chisinau, International Biennale of Painting, the Biennale does not only represent an exhibiting space for artistic creations, but also, from its first edition, a communication platform, creating opportunities for knowledge of the local artistic environment, for invitations of artists, art critics, curators, museum and gallery directors to inauguration and award ceremonies in various countries. Throughout the years, the Biennale has been able to enhance relationships between artists, supporting their mobility through participation in cultural projects organized in different countries like symposiums, creation camps, conferences, competitions, exhibitions, etc. This process of continuity, contributes to a wider intercultural connection of artists from different countries.
For the first time, the Grand Prize was given to an artist from Moldova, to Igor Svernei, for the work „The Holy Land – People of Genius „. Made in a monochrome range, it is distinguished by exquisite expressivity and a powerful emotional load. This work of art is a tribute in the honor of the late famous art critic Tudor Braga, whose absence we feel more and more in the cultural life of Moldova. Igor Svernei is one of the artists who has become remarkable in recent years through an admirable performance on the Moldovan arts scene.
In this edition of the Biennale, as way of tradition, there are two personal exhibitions organized of two invited artists from different countries; Gabriela Culic from Romania, the winner of this year’s National Art Museum of Moldova Award, and Aleksandras Vozbinas from Lithuania, the Artmuseum Trophy winner. The Works exhibited in the Exhibition Centre of the „C. Brancusi „of the Union of Fine Artists, contributes substantially to the expansion of the exhibition space, amplifying the value of this international event, which is why we express our gratitude for the two representative pictorial speeches and for the effort made in the organization of the exhibitions.
We express gratitude to those who are confident about the need to organize the event and support us since the first edition: the Ministry of Culture of Moldova, the Union of Fine Artists, the Department of Culture of Chisinau City Hall, the Sturza Family Foundation, for their trust and support, without which It would be impossible to organize this important event for the cultural life of Moldova. We also offer sincere thanks to the Vrancea Cultural Center for the awards given to the two artists Mihai Ţăruș and Veaceslav Fisticanu, thus supporting the process of art creation in the Republic of Moldova.
This year exhibition is an obvious proof for the need to insist on preserving a wider common space for national and international artistic skills and values, to create a favorable environment for visual representations, and debates on contemporary issues of contemporary painting.