In Vain

In life and art we are surrounded by light, it emphasizes all features, without it everything seems dull and lifeless. Light is energy, it can lift our spirits capturing imaginations, it defines the world. The human connection has become dependent on it, a result of complex forces, pre-determined by the way we perceive the no longer opposing powers of brightness and darkness.

In Vain could be the title of the 21st century. In vain have scientists been warning us for more than 40 years now of environmental dangers, in vain has Greta Thunberg tried to rouse the people from their apathy, in vain have curators been talking about the necessary existence of art beyond commercial usability, in vain have artists been crying for more resources, in vain have we depicted the precarious living conditions of artists, refugees, single mothers, sweatshop workers and so on.

The stars in the sky. In Vain. is the title of an exhibition curated by Mirela Vlăduți / Meta Spațiu at 12-14 contemporary in Vienna in early 2020. The title refers to a poem by Jack Kerouac. In his poem, this particular phrase is used to emphasize how society has lost its meaning, while simultaneously yearning for progress and change at that time. Nothing has a value unless we give it one, this directly relates to Kerouac´s perception on how society often values unworthy things. The poem is a critique of the times we live in and demonstrates how the Beat Generation rejected their respective social norms. However, this attitude has been recurring as an actuality in our times, questioning not only society, but economy, climate change and last but not least the future of coming generations.

Under these harsh circumstances, why are we still creating art and exhibitions? Perhaps because it is as in vain as the stars in the sky, the sun and the moon, the light falling over us – or perhaps because nothing can ever truly be in vain. But let us also consider the need of aesthetic determination that guides us into the intimate universes created by four artists linked by the same reclusive, displacive quest towards an immutable luminescence.

The show The stars in the sky. In Vain is a compilation of photographs, paintings, sculpture and videos. The intersection of different media of contemporary art enrich each of the works and gives depth as well as variety to the show. The juxtaposition of different approaches and themes creates a universe of light and shadow, of calm and turmoil, of natural beauty. The artists’ discourses form at once a dialogue about the things we have forgotten in the shadows, that must now resurface once more.

Silvia Moldovan lives in a construction trailer, has a modest living, saves sick animals and makes great works of art. I saw her work for the first time in Timișoara and was magically drawn to the blackness, the depth. The pictures literally suck in the viewer. The velvet darkness characteristic of her works might represent beginnings and endings in a post-apocalyptic modernity in which individuals have lost their roots or anchors. The compositions of Silvia Moldovan are latent – revealed as the eye of the viewers is accommodated with the low tones arranged in multiple parallel planes with a continuity in the field of imaginary depth. For her, the abyss seems to be a component of sublime nature, transferred into the exhibition space. The multiple layers of paintings or braidings mirror her complex attitude towards society, economy, the environment and their mutual influence.

Josepha Blanchet, a French photographer and filmmaker, living in Timișoara for more than 2 years, intertwines light and dark in a continuous flux of interior and exterior movement. In her photo works and videos, she superimposes up to 10 photos or films to reveal her own visions on bodies, nature or objects. She uses photography and film as a medium for a poetic transference of brightness and darkness, of shapes and lines, of body and nature. For Blanchet, light is an aesthetic sign, a sense and consensus of unity between material and physical substance. She also redefines the artistic style characterized by the conjugation of details or the idealization of human beauty. She expresses her attitude in a defiance to the assumptions of a contemporary clichéd society with a floating lightness but a profound inner strength. The visual metaphor is potentiated by the artistic talent and the technique of transposition which the young artist masterfully interweaves.

The sculptor Daniel Dan works with archaic methods, fetches shapes from rough marble, which do not appear as if they were man-made. The soft curves, the smooth surfaces have something feminine and gentle, pure and formerly untouched, through the use of artistic symbols, eternal forms which echo into a powerful connection with the ancestral. Despite his classic expression, the artist’s white sculpture fits perfectly into the framework of the exhibition. The rings circle and intertwine like parts of an orbit.

For Cătălin Petrișor, the topic of light accompanies his career and has been a predominant preoccupation of his, like in his 2018 films, Sunless Orbits and C´est one pipe pur lime de monsieur Van Gogh, or in Path of Pain in Light of Attention (2017), where he tried to visualize different approaches to pain in connection to light. In the case of this exhibition, he mostly chooses a spiritual approach as well as a poetic expression and uses light as a connecting element of the universe. His practice develops structures which redefine the limits of a canvas, forms sticking out on romantic paintings, graphite drawings growing from within the canvas, struggling outwards. Petrișor is a multidisciplinary artist who favors the field of painting. His works has been purchased for the permanent collection of the Czech National Gallery, the Nederlandsche Bank´s Art Collection and his work has been exhibited in France, USA, Austria, Russia and China.

Mirela Stoeac-Vlăduți, the curator of the show, is the director of META Spațiu contemporary art gallery, based in Timișoara. She focuses on developing art exhibitions that deal with important themes that gathers artists from various aesthetic and conceptual fields. By bringing these seemingly different artists under the common theme of luminescence, Mirela Stoeac-Vlăduți puts this notion forward not just as an aesthetic tool, but also as a lens through which the world seems brighter. In the midst of the social, political and existential turmoil of nowadays, where art becomes just another commodity, The stars in the Sky. In Vain. proposes an uplifting perspective. With its apolitical approach to contemporary apathy, the exhibition poses an aesthetic release, a visualization of tranquility outside the current paradigm. It suggests that meaning can be glimpsed in the most meaningless of places, and though the stars in the sky might shine in vain, their tireless glimmer breaks through the never-ending darkness.


The exhibition The stars in the Sky. In Vain. took place at 12-14 contemporary, Vienna, with the support of AU Strom, during the 10th – 25th of January, 2020.
Artists: Josepha Blanchet, Silvia Moldovan, Cătălin Petrișor, Daniel Dan
Curator: Mirela Stoeac-Vlăduți


Denise Parizek

Denise is art historian and curator. She directs Schleifmuehlgasse 12-14 in Vienna, where for over 5 years she has been curating international projects....

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