Friday, April 17, 2009

Elena Surdu Stanescu: Sculpture deeper than face value

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Thu, 04/16/2009 12:43 PM | People

(JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)(JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

Elena Surdu Stanescu likes to speak of her mind. The debut of her work in the country is not the only reason why this Romanian sculptor is thrilled to be in Indonesia.

She is excited by the country’s rich tradition of sculpture, which she refers to as a personal “spring of inspiration.” But, at the same time, she laments the poor preservation and development of the country’s artistic heritage.

With just a few days in the country, the 67-year-old artist and art critic has noticed the Indonesia’s diverse and rich wooden sculptures, which although probably familiar to many people, go unnoticed.

“There are lots of symbols and a variety of traditions. A huge cultural background has been imported into the sculpture tradition here but I believe that Indonesia fails to explain its own cultural heritage to the world…,” she said. “You have a lot more to show.”

Stanescu said that before she came to Indonesia for her exhibition, she visited the Indonesian embassy in Bucharest to find information about Indonesian art - but to no avail. “They had just held a tourist exhibition and ran out of books about Indonesia.”

The prominent Romanian artist, who has had more than 50 solo exhibitions around the world, said the main problem with the development of Indonesian art is not its substance but its management.

“I saw a lack of cultural management and there use to be the same problem in Romania after the fall of Communism. Financial problems and lack of knowledge on how to do a cultural event, how to promote or represent an artist at an international level is a main cause,” said the woman, who was once a director general of The Romanian Ministry of Education’s art department.

Stanescu said Romania solved their problem relatively easily as they had the great fortune of being able to learn much from their European counterparts.

“It was quite easier for us because Europe is much more interconnected and the distance is not that big,” she explained. “But Southeast Asia is not that much integrated.”

What Indonesia needs to do, she said, is simply to improve cultural management. “Because the substance is there, the artists are there, they just need to get better management.”
Stanescu praised the existence of the puppet museum but she said the knowledge of how to make puppets should also be preserved.

“It’s a pity that the wooden carving was not given the same treatment. Where is the wood museum, craft museum? Indonesia has a very strong and very rich tradition of wood sculpture but there is no museum of traditional working techniques, especially in wood.”

The woman, who organized an international art competition in Bucharest between 1992 and 2000 also criticized Indonesian’s museums, as she says that while they are beautiful and have large halls, many of the rooms are empty.

“I have been to a fine art and ceramic museum recently and three big rooms there are just empty. It can be better if you rearrange them,” said the woman who owns Bucharest’s Fundatia Culturala Elena Surdu Stanescu, a cultural foundation which organizes exhibitions and cultural exchanges between French, Italian and Romanian artists.

Born in Bucharest on Sept. 15, 1942, Stanescu finished her study in fine art at the Institute of Pedagogy’s faculty of fine art in Bucharest in 1965 and then became a teacher of sculpture, a position she held until 2000.

In 1980 she studied sculpture at the Nicolae Grigorescu Fine Arts Academy in Bucharest and ten years later became a full member of the Romanian Union of Plastic Artists.

She has also been a member of the International Society of Artistic Education Teachers of Insea-Unesco since 1970 and is the founding member of the “Elena Teodorini” Foundation.
Her works have become part of private collections in France, Italy, Malta, Switzerland, The United States, Hungary, Romania and Ireland.

Her works of art – in clay, wood, bronze and marble – with titles like Taking Flight, The Art of Conversation, Moment’s Thought and Erosion of the Thought, always come out of deep meditation and love and point to the multi-faceted nature of the human mind.

“I’ve always loved watching human faces, the emotions and the expressions. They form the basis of my craft,” she explains.

Stanescu said Romanian artist Constatine Brancusi influenced the modernity seen in her work, which is combined with a strong influence from classical Egyptian and Greek art.

From the age of 20, she has traveled extensively throughout the world and this experience has
created what she calls an “interior laboratory.”

“All the images that linger in my head are the most influential in my life than the other antique or classical influences. They are reminiscent of me. If I see a beautiful legs or beautiful hand, or beautiful idea, they do not immediately translate into a work of art but they will eventually come up later.”

Stanescu says her works are always personal.

“I’m getting the idea from one side or the other but I decide my own path. What lies ahead, I don’t know, but what always matters to me is to express my true feelings.”

“It’s the only way you can communicate with the public. If you try to create an art work that does not express your thoughts or your feelings, the public and the critics will eventually realize that it is something fake and that you are not connected with it.”

From Romania with love

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 04/16/2009 2:17 PM | Lifestyle

With more than 45 years of artistic endeavors under her belt, Romanian artist Elena Surdu Stanescu decides to play with universal symbols of love, affection and spirituality for her Jakarta exhibition.

The artist's works have been displayed in major galleries in Romania and abroad - from Asia to North America - but this is her first exhibition in Jakarta, and in Southeast Asia.

A series of torsos of man and woman in deep love and affection titled Couple, a series of torsos titled Beach and a series of graphics titled Birds, as well as bird sculptures, and windows with curtains are on display at the exhibition titled "Soul & Light", and have been brought all the way from Bucharest, Romania.

Like most of her works, the recurring motifs in Stanescu's pieces at the exhibition, held in cooperation between the Romanian Embassy and the French Cultural Centre, are human emotions.

"My works deal with life and love," she says, pointing to sculptures depicting couples in various moods.

Stanescu plays with universal symbols of love, affection and spirituality through the form and material of her works.

Her use of birds symbolizes the departure from the real world into a spiritual dimension; windows also symbolize communication or transcending to another dimension, while man and woman symbolize love.

"Nudity is a universal symbol of beauty; birds are general symbols of departure throughout the whole history of art. Birds are also symbols of silence and purity," Elena says, citing Pablo Picasso's Dove of Peace as an example.

"Woman and man are natural representations of love. It's easy to observe, which makes my art more accessible. Audiences will easily realize men and women mean love. Of course, there are other symbols of love but you can't make it any more obvious than men and women.

"If we symbolized love with man and man that would not necessarily be a symbol of love. It could be a symbol of sexual freedom, or of human rights, but it would not focus on love as a general symbol and as a normal way of perpetuating the species."

Stanescu's human figures never have complete bodies. The removal of some volume in sculpture is influenced by Greek sculptural elements.

"In sculpture, you talk of volume. The cutting off of some volume also represents a detachment from the real world. The idea is that the body is not eternal but the emotions are eternal. That's why you can easily cut some part of it. It doesn't matter, it will disappear anyway, but the sentiment will always be there. It sends the message that they don't have to look at the body to understand the soul, to understand what is behind it."

Stanescu emphasized that dimension of spirituality has been missing from the cheap, commercial presentation of art.

"Apparently some works of our contemporary artists tend to circle the same idea of sex. While they present embraces, the author endows it with an interpretation that does not deny sensuality but orientates toward tenderness, and to spiritual living," she says, quoting a well known Romanian artist and art critic, Adina Nano.

In some of her Couple torsos, Stanescu used silver as the material for man, symbolizing moonlight and creation, while using bronze as the material for woman, symbolizing warmth and life.

While mixed materials have their own meaning for the sculptures, Stanescu has always included what she refers to as "graphics" in her exhibition. Stanescu feels sculptures and graphics perfectly complement each other. She says graphics should be included because they are part of the process.

"It is the beginning of an idea. It's very difficult for me to separate them as art works. I always make a sculpture by referring to a graphic," she explains.

Like in many of her works, Stanescu's collection of the Couple torsos has a strong connection to her personal life. Since her husband died of illness at the age of 75, four years ago, she mostly creates human figures in couples.

"He was the love of my life and our 54 years of marriage were the best years of my life," Stanescu recalls.

Stanescu's artworks are not only a self-expression but also have taught her about life. Art has become a spiritual process for her, as deep as the commitment she brings to it. All her experiences feed her art.

"Soul and Light"

A Sculpture and Graphic Exhibition
By Romanian Artist Elena Surdu Stanescu
April 7 to 20, 2009
French Cultural Center
Jl. Salemba Raya 25 Central Jakarta.