This September, the ICR is hosting ‘The London Salon of Romanian Art’, as part of a new permanent programme. It’s different from previous art displays: the five names on show – Florin Ungureanu, Cristian Luchian, Monica Madas, Ioana Pioaru and Viniciu Les – are young Romanians coming not from Romania but living and working in London.The exhibition offers art in diverse media, from painting and collage to ceramics, at affordable prices.
The title of the show begs the question of what exactly Romanian art is, and what makes art Romanian: the nationality of the artists or the place where it’s created? So far it’s been the case that Romanian artists revert to those quintessential elements that make up a Romanian story: most typically, folklore or the grim years under Communism. Fortunately this exhibition only briefly touches on either.
Florin Ungureanu is an artist who manipulates space and time. His ‘Communist Cell’ or image of a Skoda bearing the title ‘Nostalgia’ are part of an album of memories. The cold hues allude to a social album, hazy memories better forgotten but nevertheless strong and relevant.
Next on the wall comes Cristian Luchian whose boldness and choice of media contrast with the uniformity of Ungureanu’s paintings. One of his pieces, ‘Living in between’, an assemblage made of the artist’s grandmother ‘s craftwork and weaving tool under a metallic pattern, seems to place tradition in the cold world of industrialism, and have us caught between the two worlds.
Monica Madas’ drawings are wonderful. In an urban dance of wit and romance, she tells stories of people and cities. Their romance ends where the Pioaru’s geometric drawings and industrial collages begin.
In the middle of the room, Les’s ceramics with their marine strangeness punctuate the rhythm of the exhibition with the awkwardness of a surreal object. They’re as beautifully odd as a coral reef but a good reminder that we need colour and mystery to bind everything together.
Going back to the question of Romanian art, this exhibition offers two answers: Romanian art’s like any other Western art, just as diverse and preoccupied with broader questions; also, that there’s no such thing as national art – only personal narratives and interpretations. Either way, a visit is a must.
The London Salon of Romanian Art can be seen at the Romanian Cultural Institute, Belgrave Square, until October 2nd 2015.