NAG#10 in Cluj

The White Night of the Galleries in Cluj marked one of the first more consistent art events of early autumn, comprising a series of exhibition projects at The Paintbrush Factory and an incognito artist open studio type exhibition announced at the last minute, at the Launloc alternative space.

In October 2016, The Paintbrush Factory celebrated 7 years of existence by organizing a series of artistic events in the span of 7 days. The 7 years, 7 spaces, 7 days program made its debut on Friday, September 30th 2016, with The White Night of the Galleries, which the Federation of Galleries and Artists of The Paintbrush Factory (FGAPF) organizes for the first time in Cluj, in collaboration with the Ephemair Association from Bucharest. 7 art spaces were therefore open to the public until after midnight.

From the very beginning, in terms of consistency and approach, The White Night of the Galleries in Cluj asserted itself as a relatively timid and quiet cultural event, though with some notable sights. The events that unfolded were: Hard Candy” – Irina Dumitrașcu-Măgurean & Ioana Iacob, curated by Voica Pușcașiu – Irina M. Workshop; “Architectures– Arantxa Etcheverria – Baril; “Zsolt Berszan. New Works” – Bazis; “Construction Time Again” – Csiki Szifianna, curated by Gabriel Marian – Nano Gallery; “SPAȚIU INTACT” – a selection of works from the gallery’s collection; “Belong anywhere. Meat floating job position” – Pepo Salazar, Sabot Gallery; and “Club Papuchoby Maciej Parzydło, Aleksandra Sadulska and Stefano Calligaro, marking the inauguration of non+ULTRA, a new space within The Paintbrush Factory for artists born after 1989.

“Hard Candy” presented itself as an inciting visual dialogue between two strapping young artists of the same caliber in two distinct visual media: photography (Irina Dumitrașcu-Măgurean) and painting (Ioana Iacob). The graphic discourse dealt with the subject of female sexuality as seen through the photographic and the pictorial filters, visually configured like an installation, with works interconnected both formally and conceptually. Ioana Iacob and Irina Dumitrașcu do not make use of the same type of image but of the same type of atmosphere. Ioana’s constructed figuratism alongside Irina’s cropped, deconstructed figuratism, form an extremely feminine thread of perception of the feminine in essence. What hits the viewer the hardest is the refinement with which the artists approach topic that is presented most of the time in a trenchant, pornographic manner. Even the title of the project, conceived ironically, a mélange which I see as a fusion between the notions of hard core and eye candy, underlines this fact. What impressed me was the coherence of the project, which, despite being one of the smallest in terms of space of the WNG events, was professionally presented and supported conceptually by Voica Pușcașiu’s curatorial statement.

Another immaculately conceived and presented exhibition, in my view, was “Architectures -Arantxa Etcheverria at Baril, a project laid out as an installation with multiple key-works acting as centers of interest. With a clean, minimalist aspect, and almost mathematically displayed, the artist’s works related to one another like details in a complex architectural ensemble. Arantxa Etcheverria plays in an extremely elaborate yet simple as aesthetic finality formula with the basic components of visual language (point, line, stain) and of volume to create a new, particular space, materialized through the filtration and reconfiguration of certain familiar spaces: Bucharest’s art deco houses. Architectureswas one of the most coherent and impactful projects seen at WNG Cluj, unveiling a very clear and concise vision of reality and its metamorphosis, belonging to an artist with a unique artistic démarche in the Romanian contemporary art scene.

Regarding the event at Bazis, I admit that when seeing an exhibition entitled “New Works”, I find it a slightly shallow and expeditious manner of titling an artist’s new series of works, even if these are only in an incipient stage. To me this is a subtle way of hinting at the fact that the artist no longer needs an introduction or, the eternal cliché, that the works “speak for themselves”. One needs words to put forth, maybe even only for the press or for those who have not yet encountered the works of Zsolt Berszan, not what the works represent, but what Zsolt Berszan’s visual inquiry represents and how his identity as an artist is outlined. His new series of works moves forward, in a more synthetic manner, his inquiry into the organic and matter, through works that fit both into the two-dimensional as well as the three-dimensional. Always juggling with the spectacular in textures, in the splitting and reorganizing of matter, Zsolt Berszan coagulates an intense exhibition, with graphic affectations and at the same time with an air of minimalism through the manner in which the works are displayed in the exhibition.

Construction Time Again” by Csiki Szifianna, at Nano Gallery was an exhibition that enticed through the technical spectacularity of the works, assembled with the meticulousness of a female artist. In the intimate space of the gallery, the works attracted the visitor’s eye and curiosity through the multitude of details that composed the objects. The artist deconstructs and reconstructs shapes using parts of old timepieces and electrical supplies. The project aspired to be a visual analysis of artificial spaces by proposing miniature architectural models of possible worlds. The grace and elegance with which the artist crafted those jewelry-objects points to an interesting approach to form and its reconfiguration. It was the kind of exhibition that impressed me through its technicality but failed to prompt me to reflection. Usually, after seeing an exhibition, I have moments in which I recall it or I think about the works after exiting the exhibition space, in the most banal of contexts. In the case of this exhibition, that didn’t happen, the experience of perception in its entirety happened only in the gallery, because, in essence, I did not see anything there apart from the pretty forms of the objects.

INTACT SPACE displayed a very good painting exhibition, excellently arranged, with works from the gallery’s collection belonging to a new generation of artists from Cluj in dialogue with a work by Cornel Brudașcu. What I liked was the feeling that I was entering a family’s exhibition, the works relating harmoniously with one another, the master (Brudașcu) even appearing in a work belonging to one of the young artists (Alin Bozbiciu) – entitled simply “Brudi”. It is not about the master-apprentice relationship, the eternal teacher/pupil cliché, but rather some good painting from a number of artists nurtured in the same environment, in different stages of their lives. A simple, clean exhibition, with chromatically refined works, and which presented the essentialized preocupations of artists Alin Bozbiciu, Radu Băieș, Cornel Brudașcu, Mircea But, Lucian Popăilă, Oana Năstăsache.

The event that truly surprised me, and about which I think even now, was Pepo Salazar’s exhibition “Belong anywhere. Meat floating job position”, at Sabot Gallery. The artist represented Spain at the 2015 Venice Biennale and his works have been exhibited at prestigious institutions such as Upstream Gallery, ARTIUM (Spain), Palais Tokyo (Paris), Kunstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Art in General (New York), TRAFO Museum (Singapore), Fundacion Tapies (Barcelona), and Guggenheim (Bilbao). Pepo Salazar’s installations are spectacular, intriguing in their adjoining of different materials, which is conceptually inspired by Dada. He visually combines hi-tech plasma displays with shower mixers, playing on them 360-degree images of pilots in flight; he creates installations contrasting the organic with the inorganic, between a huge plant and a display showing an image of a car crash in a supermarket etc. I see a slightly ironic, occasionally playful visual discourse directed at consumer society, the situational and contextual absurdity that is implicit in contemporary society. The atmosphere in the exhibition was extremely lively, the artist incorporating music in the visual background of the show. Pepo Salazar seems to me the kind of artist for which the phrase “the sky is the limit” is a kind of daily mantra, in the sense that he always highjacks the function of the object and the limits of its materiality in order to put his punk-rebel-dada-surrealist ideas into practice. He is the type of artist who defies any traditional conception of what art represents or how it should look like. And what he achieves is downright theatrical; the visitor goes from a state of confusion to bobbing his head to the beat of the (very cool) music and to the curiosity of coming closer and seeing how the shower is mounted on the plasma display panel, what is displayed on the mannequin’s phone, what lines the characters on a panel in a fish tank mounted on the ceiling deliver, or if the door of the washing machine can be touched and opened. It doesn’t touch upon a serious subject, it doesn’t express solemnity, it only offers an extremely intense “now”, a dada/punk reconfiguration of a reality we all confront.

To synthesize the periplus that was The White Night of the Galleries in 2016, it was an experience of complementary sensations, an event evidently intensely prepared, whose stake was to inscribe the artistic scene in Cluj into the practice of this type of nocturnal cultural marathon. This year’s exhibitions outlined a series of particular approaches, which challenged both the sensory and the rational sides of the viewer in the act of apprehending the work of art.


WNG Cluj was on 30 September 2016 at The Paintbrush Factory.


Translated by Rareș Grozea.


Ada Muntean

Ada is a Graduate of University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca and has a PhD in Visual Arts (2019), conceiving a research thesis entitled "The Human Body as Image and Instrument in Contemporary Art....

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