Although the Berlin Wall started coming down over twenty years ago and, by then, Communism as an ideology became a thing of the past in Europe, the influence over a young, and not so young, generation of painters remains. The New Leipzig School in East Germany, and the Romanian school, seem to have a common key point: technique. While the Western European schools jumped on the Conceptualist wagon; the Eastern European bloc continued with the traditional training method of concentrating on the disciplines of figurative art. They drew from nude models and learnt to master the techniques of perspective. A worldwide appetite for well-crafted paintings that were more and more difficult to find were awaiting.
Beers.Lambert Contemporary in Shoreditch, London, is presenting us with a solo show by Dan Voinea, who graduated in 1997 from the National University of Arts in Bucharest. Voinea confronts the audience with highly constraint and claustrophobic set of scenes with a hidden narrative that leaves the viewer intrigued; not by what they are seeing, but by what they not. He pushes the boundaries between realism and surrealism. Exceptionally well-executed, they are a treat to watch.
Kurt Beers, previously a communications manager who worked for two former prime ministers in Canada, is now the director at Beers.Lambert Contemporary. He has kindly agreed to explain us why he chose Voinea for an exhibition at his gallery.
What struck you first to invite Voinea to a solo show?
The gallery maintains a loose focus on painters through our exhibition schedule, but at times it can be difficult to find a painter that conveys the right kind of perspective consistently to warrant a solo show. Further to this is a book I am writing with the publishers Thames & Hudson, entitled 100 Painters of Tomorrow, and I have my eyes peeled for new and interesting perspective in painting. I also feel that right now on the international art scene the tides seem to be shifting – ever so minutely – toward a reinvested interest in figurative painting. We are seeing more and more figuration in various guises, paired with technical brilliance, and Dan is one of these artists that assumes a distinct voice paired with strong technical ability. I had been following the careers of Dan and a number of painters with similar tendencies, but Dan’s work spoke to me on a number of levels. Furthermore I felt that the gallery hadn’t quite exhibited anything quite like this previously; there is such a saturation and drama to his works, alongside a real adherence to realism that is countered quite radically by abstraction.
What differences and similarities can you point out with other established Romanian painters such as Ghenie?
I think more importantly than pointing out the similarities and/or differences – and clearly there are both – is to make note of the trends that are occurring internationally. There appears to be something of a ‘Romanian School’ of painting surfacing the past couple of years with Ghenie more or less spearheading this movement, but artists historically have operated and worked within and in opposition of groups, micro-movements, and similarities in ideology and tendency. An easy comparison is to consider the Surrealists, I think its foolish to assume that only one of these artists pinpointed the movement or articulated what Surrealism truly was and is: what is exciting is to think a group of artists are working in a manner that can still be considered new and exciting in today’s artistic economy. I do think that Dan articulates certain elements in his paintings that are unparalleled by the others working in this method, and that’s why I wanted to exhibit his works. There is a real methodical purpose to these works, a precision of both painterliness and narrative that is total subverted within the confines of the same painting.
A Momentary Rise of Reason is an exhibition in uncertain times. It is a pause, a reflexion, of a reality that currently borders the surreal.