Geta Brătescu has always revealed a remarkable complexity in the way she has tackled an extremely varied range of materials and media of expression: drawing, collage, objects, engraving, photography, experimental film, happenings, tapestry, etc. To these can be added her texts, which can be viewed in conjunction with her art, but which also have an autonomous identity of their own. The two dimensions of Geta Brătescu’s art, the textual and the visual, are read together in the exhibition. Not only in the sense of clarifying some actions it is important to correlate the texts with the works (especially when there is a direct link between the two), but also because certain works acquire a semantic extension through a parallel reading of their content expressed in words. What is thus highlighted is an astonishing capacity to modulate meaning through a play of signifiers that ceaselessly slide toward/into one another, caught up in a narrative (an ‘interior monologue’) which the visual unfolding of the work does not capture in its entirety, and nor does it seek to capture, because it does not seek to establish itself as a narrative illustration. The work environments constitute the backbone of this exhibition: the studio, the industrial space (the boiler factory, the printing house), and, in a more expanded understanding, the topography of the Mediterranean space – which represents a primary source for the Medea series. These environments/”worlds,” as she names them, circumscribe Geta Brătescu’s activity. She colonises them by means of her presence and at the same time allows herself to be contaminated/shaped by them, one of the end results of which is her drawing fragments of reality into the orbit of her art.
The constellation of works around the theme of the studio reveal the artist’s inclination to reflect on the sphere of art in an almost literal way, producing works that interrogate the conventions, tools, and setting of art, as well as her own involvement in this process. The self-reflexivity towards the circumstances in which the artistic act arises is sometimes expressed by recourse to the emblematic figure of Aesop from ancient fables, who is simultaneously an imaginary character and an alter ego. Aesop’s actions, when described verbally, reveal to us the fact that the mechanism of creation incorporates a ludic dimension, and the artist is simultaneously a participant and an observer of the way in which the continuum of artistic production coagulates and disintegrates in successive stages. Art no longer exists (only) as an object or form, but primarily as a process. Like Aesop, Pafnutie is one of the artist’s alter egos; he derives from Aesop, but he has a number of features that differentiate him. It might be said that Pafnutie is a lowly incarnation of Aesop. Whereas Aesop is responsible for setting in motion the flux of creation, Pafnutie manifests himself at a lower level, carrying out a task devoid of any apparent purpose. His creations are not intended for anybody, they have no audience or receptor: they are “for nobody.” One example in the exhibition that
corresponds quite convincingly with the profile of Pafnutie is provided by a series of collages called Vestiges (1978), comprising scraps of textiles picked from a sack of odds and ends that had belonged to the artist’s mother. Not only the memory of the artist’s mother is actively invoked through the ‘weave’ of the composition and the stitching together of the patches she once touched and worked with, but also the entire conglomerate of imaginary constructs that played an essential role in the way in which the artist’s subjectivity has formed: the mythical, fabulous realm of the Balkans and Mediterranean (where Aesop and Pafnutie come from), the picturesque hustle and bustle of Ploiesti, her native city, and the poetry and sensuality of decadent Bucharest, as it is described in Mateiu Caragiale’s novel The Kings of the Old Court (1929).
Her presence in the boiler factory (during the period when members of the Union of Artists were required to spend time sketching in industrial settings) triggered a meditation on the circle, extracted from the outline of the boilers, a form that Geta Brătescu would subsequently explore in various series that tackled the geometry of the circle, associating it with a constellation of other meanings. In charge of the graphic design of Secolul 20 magazine and thus required to visit the printing press frequently, Geta Brătescu grew close to this working environment, becoming attentive to its parameters, just as she conceptualised and tackled the studio space as a subject in itself, transforming it into a meta-artistic entity over time. She photographed objects from the printing house, “parts of printing presses” or containers for ink, which acquired, by virtue of being photographed, the quality of portraits. “The object,” she says, “meets you with a fixed and persistent gaze.” The idea of anthropomorphising and personalising the objects around her – imbued with their own dynamism, as is the case with her works on the magnets – emphasizes the dissolution of subject and object. In Geta Brătescu’s practice, the physical, real space fuses with the private/interior space, forming a composite that enters the field of art.
The exhibition Geta Bratescu: the Artist’s Studios will be presented in an extended form at MUSAC – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (Spania) in the period March 9 – June 9, 2013.
The exhibition is organised by MNAC, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, in collaboration with MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (Spain). This collaboration was made possible with the support provided by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Madrid.
The design of the exhibition space in Bucharest was conceived in collaboration with Attila Kim.
Special thanks to: Ivan Gallery