The paintings of Marius Bercea, which are presented in Blain|Southern’s current show, recalls the artist’s personal pilgrimage from his home in Cluj, Transylvania to Los Angeles, California. Hypernova is split into two rooms; the hang in the first room is of concrete places from his travels, while the paintings in the second room are more surreal with mystical characters and themes. Both the mundane and the fantastical accurately depict the reality of arriving in a new place, where the overload of new visual information is both surreal and disorienting. The show is not only a presentation of beautiful paintings but is also a narrative.
Though Bercea’s often using the technique of building up abstract colour and ignores traditional perspective, his paintings use iconic images of both California and Transylvania. The Seasonal Capital of Itinerant Crowds depicts the Californian architecture that was historically influenced by that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which in the early twentieth century was also in Romania. The jagged architecture collides into the Hollywood sign, reflecting the psychology of culture shock.
In Bercea’s Two Charmers on their Walk of Fame, two small figures have a vaguely alien or gremlin-like appearance, because of the greenish colour of the right figure’s complexion and the somewhat sinister stoop of figure on the left. They obviously do not belong in sunny California since both are dressed in winter clothes. The stooped figure stands at the end of a path of the iconic, Hollywood stars, triumphantly clutching a large starred sign or flag, while the left figure gazes up at it in awe. The pair looks like conquerors marking their territory in a new land. On the left are the Hollywood palm trees, while to the right is the Austro-Hungarian architecture, as seen in the Seasonal Capital. The piece is organized into four colour planes. The ground level is gray, which transitions into colour, then again into the gray mountains, and finally transforms into a colourful sky. The composition of two lonely wanderers is somewhat desolate and baron, however directly above them is an explosion of colour coming up from the Hollywood hills, almost like an erupting volcano, perhaps to show the grand significance of the strangers’ exploration of an unknown land.
Electric Snow is one of Bercea’s paintings least rooted in a tangible place, but rather shows a path bordered with a series of trees decorated with bright lights, or “electric snow.” The background is an explosion of abstraction. The scene is both chaotic, but also grounded in the clearly outlined footpath. The painting represents the journey; the need to explore the unknown is clear and concrete, while the potential outcome can be scary and disorienting, but also exciting.
Words: Katherine Morais Photo: courtesy of Blain|Southern
Marius Bercea is at Blain|Southern until April 17th.