Artist: Marian and Victoria Zidaru
Curator: Diana Dochia
25.11.2004 – 15.01.2005
Opening: 25.11.2004 at 06:00 p.m.
Beyond the Rupture
The Zidaru (Marian and Victoria) phenomenon, or case, as it was called, exploded, after 1990, in the Romanian artistic environment (which was more and more marginalized, in fact), but also in larger spheres. The sensational, the elements of uncontestable surprise, which have constantly backed their manifestations after 1990, have gradually converted into quasi-normality, were transformed into a certain habit. The artists’ activism, the regular rhythm of their public appearances – exhibitions, performances, publications, production of icons -, their perseverance, which was, in a sense, indifferent to the echoes and their nature, remain just as impressive. The routine, the repetition, the constancy can induce a sensation of excess, of fullness, of lack of measure, but at the same time they institute, complementary, a state of expectation. The presence of the artists Zidaru in Bucharest’s landscape has become, in a way, normal, natural. Each of their appearances brings a sum of already known elements, which are repetitive, recognizable but are combined in different articulations and syntaxes; their appearances also bring a dose of novelty, well integrated in an ensemble that has stable coordinates. Each new manifestation insinuates a feeling always perceived as comforting, a feeling of stability, of the unchangeable, and never of rupture. Deliberately or not, the strategy of the Zidarus counts on this effect. Their work does not contest, does not mock, does not search, but, with each new exhibition keeps on affirming the assumed religious belief, with an unaltered conviction, and calm (but not resigned) perseverance.
The canonic history of artistic modernity (actually contested since a long time ago) has made us evaluate the traits of the artistic phenomena as an unavoidable and fatal number of reactions and contestations of a current against another; the individual artistic act, too, obeyed the same principle of contestation. The Zidarus (“Builders” – trans. note) – predestined name? – not only refuse or avoid to be caught in this logic of rupture, but they plead through all that they do for the abolishing of contradictions. The acute awareness of the gap between religious painting and what is currently being promoted as art mobilizes their effort, along with all the paradoxes that it implies, in order to heal that which is felt like a painful fracture. Their work is trying to build bridges, to establish connections – the more and the more diverse the better – between the religious and the artistic realms, which had been at some point united. A utopian aspiration, but it gives strength and pregnancy to the images, and it tensions the elaborate constructions of their exhibitions.
The prophetic side, which is extra-esthetic of their work, does not at all exclude an anchoring in the most up-to-date artistic problems. Their utopist focusing on the past does not refuse anything from the arsenal of contemporary art. We witness a programmatic eclecticism, of a dazzling agglutination of dispersed figurative elements (which many times seem incompatible with each other, the result being symbolically overloaded, filled with significations,), which intersect and assault each other and thus offer strength to one another. It is a sort of original plenitude that should offer arguments to all hopes. The Zidarus clearly do not agree with the favorite saying of many of modernity’s currents, according to which “little is much”.
That is why any techniques, any means of expression are welcome, but not to obsessively and sterilely use them for themselves, not to use them only for their formal virtues, but the techniques are used to serve a very well defined purpose, which is outside them. The Zidarus prove to have inexhaustible verve and imagination, ranging from acknowledged techniques of sculpture – woodcarving (that makes implicit references to the archaic times, that brings with it an exaltation of the value of gesture and of usage of the hands – both for its authenticity, but also for its moral value), and modeling (with its infinite possibilities of multiplication), to tackling objects of an artisanal nature (rustic ready-made that are manufactured at the Orthodox Creation Workshops in Targoviste,) and to reutilization of materials or even of older works (dismembered and reconfigured). And finally, the repertoire of materials (which have to be as rough as possible, and which awake the tactile sensibility and heighten the perceptions,) intensifies the tension between the mental and the material. Convinced that we are living a special moment, Marian Zidaru said in an older interview that “each act of man is a symbolic one, and each object that man makes becomes an object with a voice”. This conviction sustains their didactic vocation and their concerted efforts.
There has been a justified discussion in connection to Marian and Victoria Zidaru about a “complete artistic program”, in the sense that its propagandistic and pedagogical dimensions have no complexes in using strategies of the most diverse kinds. A certain social echo, their capacity to coagulate around them a small community of young men and women that work in the creation workshops, the production of icons whose prototypes belong to the Zidarus – all these are elements of a project that goes beyond the individual scale, project that has been seen mostly as an avatar of the neo-traditionalist direction of Romanian postmodernism. However, another scenario with the same number of arguments is possible. It’s difficult not to think of the obscure or explicit religiosity that was present with a number of symbolist artists around the 1900s almost everywhere in Europe, or not to think of the spiritual vanguardism from the beginning of the 20th century that found support in theosophy. If we are to stay in the perimeter of the Romanian art, I find it appropriate to also evoke the variant of the local constructivism – the integralism, along with its utopist view that was not centered on the past, but on the future, and with its will to remain in the social scene, to go down in life. It is true that the historic integralism of the ’20s appealed in a much greater respect to the artistic community, trying to draw it into its project. At the beginning of their activity, Marian and Victoria, too, tried to gather around them a series of artists with similar convictions, thus repeating, at least through their intentions, a model that has obsessed the 19th century and the beginning of the next one.
In the present exhibition, painting in oil on canvas of big dimensions coexists with sculpture, installation, photography, video image, rustic artifacts, vegetal sowing (leaves, branches). The raw matter that is taken directly from the nature and exhibited in its entire natural and organic state certifies for the Zidarus a sui generis naturalism. This naturalism is, in its essence, related with, for instance, the naturalism of the English Pre-Raphaelites of the 19th century. They anchored their religiosity in the most banal reality and in the perfect reproduction of nature up to its most insignificant details. The more recent naturalism of the painting of some of the members of the autochthon Prolog group was also religiously motivated.
New in this latest exhibition is the cycle of photographs that are computer enhanced. The praise of manual work, of the complicity between hand, tool and matter, which is so obvious in all of Marian and Victoria Zidaru’s works, is joined, paradoxically, with the appeal to the newest possibilities of enhancing the visual under the intention of exorcizing the “evil genius” of technology. Too aggressive to be ignored, technology has to be known, domesticated, and “misled” from its evil essence. The photos represent the tiny garden (a sample of a “personal use” paradise) that is in front of the workshop of the two artists – an effort of “good” utilization of photographic image. Another photo represents Unirii Plaza, which is invaded by huge ads that disfigure all Bucharest. This is a direct denounce of the abuse of images, of the intoxication with images, of the “bad” use of technological progress.
Photography is used to shed light on a contrast. A photography that appeared in the mass media is adjoined to the painting that refers to the recent tragedy from Beslan. Zidaru conceives the image of membra disjecta in likeness to an old drawing from an anatomic treatise; this image is deliberately purged of the violence and the tragedy of the event (out of the conviction that the representation of violence creates violence), tragedy that is assumed with serenity as a condition of existence for humanity. This image is also the latest incarnation of the massacre of the innocents, which comes from a personal iconography that began to be constituted two decades ago. This theme appears obsessively and premonitory – the Zidarus believe in premonition and are not the only ones to believe so (did not Victor Brauner believe as well?) – since 1985. In that year, in one of the houses from the Village Museum, the exhibition “Bloody Christmas” was the first, I believe, to explicitly propose a type of theological-artistic intervention that is fully developing today. It is too early to evaluate the consequences of this program, but it is passionate and legitimate to follow it in all its hypostases.
Ioana Vlasiu, art historian