The Romanian Cultural Institute in London is hosting, for the second consecutive year, The Annual Salon of UK-based Romanian Artists. The theme is the celebration of Shakespeare’s life and work, 400 years after his death. This year’s artists are different from last year’s but the format stays the same: an exhibition-cum-sale.
The artists – Anna Ravliuc, Emanuela Marcu, Diana Buzoianu, Daiana Stanescu, Marina Battista and Catinca Malaimare – explore, in different media, major Shakespearean themes: transience, disguise, identity, fate, and love – in all their universality and immediacy.
Anna Ravliuc’s ‘Vanitas’ is a bold reflection on the brevity of life and the futility of resistance. Her Yorick series, a clever composition with bright colours, sees death as a jest played on us all, a last laugh we don’t get to share.
Diana Buzoianu’s photography brings Shakespeare into the everyday. Her Ophelia, where a young woman faces her own reflection in water, suggests an accessibility that is still enduring. If a young woman’s face alludes to Shakespeare then he is everywhere, relevant and immediate.
Marina Debattista’s drawings and collages use Shakespearean verses for titles adding something more substantial to an otherwise purely aesthetic interpretation. There’s something about Shakespeare in the written word that seems solid and indestructible, a universal truth – different from the volatility of theatre or the possible ambiguity in other media.
Whether deliberate or not, the artists stay clear of controversy and national affinities and this raises the question of artistic identity and the role of art today. There is a lot happening both in UK and Europe – not to mention further afield – and these works seem to retreat into a poetic bubble.
Then again, it could be argued that dipping into social or political activism has become commonplace and even expected. In this day and age, art for art’s sake is an indulgence only reserved for the bard.
Overall, a tame selection of works that are nevertheless interesting, and definitely worth a visit.
The Annual Salon of UK-Based Romanian Artists runs till 21 October at the Romanian Cultural Institute, London.