Roman Tolici – superlative figurative

The end of 2016 marked the launch of the comprehensive art album that covers painter Roman Tolici’s entire career, a special event that took place at the Mobius gallery in Amzei Square. One can easily recognize the square from the album’s cover: the same architecture, same quaint little shops and a giant dying heart blocking the traffic and spewing blood all over the place. “Accident in Amzei Square” was exhibited for a week at the gallery, together with other works never before seen by the public.

Roman Tolici is well known throughout the local and international art scene for almost 20 years now. He is part of the famous 2000s generation of painters but he stands out from the rest of his colleagues due to his easy-going style and an accessible registry of images. Seeing as contemporary art is becoming more and more hermetic, almost exclusively addressing the elites, and even a classic medium of expression like painting is difficult to understand without specialized studies, Tolici appears to be veritable polyglot. Even local rap star Puya felt at ease during the artist’s MNAC solo show, It could happen tomorrow: “This is a nice surprise, I thought it was gonna be more abstract”.

Roman Tolici is an artist who is less interested in non-figurative forms and pure creation. He does not wish to show the viewer something unparalleled because he thinks that the world’s existing representations still speak out. So he dedicated his career collecting images of all kinds, testing them with his personal filters, analyzing all their sides and angles, revealing in the end a new facet for something you’d previously thought as being familiar.

Born in the Republic of Moldova into a family that supported his artistic endeavors, young Roman would copy drawings from his mother’s books without even guessing that this will eventually transform into an extremely recognizable personal style. He arrives in Bucharest with an art scholarship and begins to explore the figurative side of painting, even though modern times deemed it old and abandoned it. But the artist stayed true to himself.

Nowadays, it’s difficult not to recognize one of his works. Tolici’s paintings are graphical, flat and brightly colored, reminding one of comic strips or photographs – a realist artist who stubbornly does not want to let go of photographic representations. It is often hard to tell if you’re looking at a painting or a stylized picture. But it certainly catches your fancy. His works have a laid-back vibe, they’re unpretentious, there is no hidden meaning for you to decipher, just a beautifully executed slice of life with great attention to details and technique.

The themes he dwells on are classic: death, childhood, the urban space, religion or sexuality which he illustrates using irony and humor but without being overly critical, all done in a hyper-realistic manner. Tolici works first and foremost to please himself, he was never influenced by trends and continued to focus on his visual cliches and obsessions which he dissected and rearranged until he managed to broaden their horizons. He urges you to take a closer look at an apparently banal image and focus on the details because you’re bound to have missed something. His paintings are not meant to be contemplated, one only has to patiently and curiously view them; and one’s curiosity is always satisfied.

Sometimes transgressive and violent, other times warm and playful, Roman Tolici has never been afraid to walk already trodden paths. Meanwhile, figurative painting has come back in style. But a lot of people approach it the wrong way, thinking that it is enough to take a picture or use one found online and transpose it onto the canvas using a projector. Tolici has never used the help of projecting images, which adds more value to his work. Descriptive yet versatile, the artist’s oeuvre is very rich and addresses almost any subject: portraits of children, skulls and organs, photo-realistic urban landscapes, impossible architecture.

All of these art works have been gathered into a single artist book which also features short but beautiful texts in Romanian, English and French by Pascal Bruckner, Matt Price and Oana Tănase in discussion with the artist. The hybrid book launch / art show/ party was as unpretentious and cool as any of Tolici’s paintings, with a carefully selected music playlist by Bucharest DJ Scoro. Kudos to the artist who was open to any inquires about his work, while almost 1000 guests had the opportunity to flick through and/or purchase the book.


The catalogue was edited by Pandora M/Trei Editorial Group
Project coordinator: Roxana Gamarț
Texts: Pascal Bruckner, Matt Price, Oana Tănase
Photos: Adi Bulboacă, Bogdan Andrei Bordeianu, Roman Tolici, Dragoș Trăistaru
Graphic concept: Corina Gabriela Duma


Marina Oprea

Marina Oprea (b.1989) lives and works in Bucharest and is the current editor of the online edition of Revista ARTA. She graduated The National University of Fine Arts in Bucharest, with a background i...

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