Essay | Memory Maps by Dr Shireen Huda
CRISTINA POPOVICI: MEMORY MAPS
There is a strong performative aspect to Cristina Popovici’s art making. Motion and emotion infuse her compelling and unrestrained body of abstract expressionist work. Born and trained in Romania, Popovici obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts – Painting from the Academy of Visual Arts in Cluj in 1995 and has held numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally since 1989.
Popovici and her family lived in New Zealand (Christchurch and later Auckland) from 2000 until 2009, when she moved to Melbourne. She achieved sustained commercial success in New Zealand, winning the CoCA Artist of the Year Award in 2003 and was a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards in 2008. Her work is represented in public, corporate and private collections in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi.
Popovici’s bold paintings, mixed media and three-dimensional pieces are created with passion, vigour and spontaneity. As such, she does not undertake preparatory sketches or studies, preferring to allow the energy and emotion she has processed internally to erupt unfettered onto the canvas. She also acknowledges that the ‘paint is the subject’ and that she is “driven by the techniques and how...[she] can change an image”, as well as continually challenging herself technically. This processing of thoughts, memories and emotions is of paramount importance to Popovici and is embodied in her works.
The passion for her craft and the physicality of the artistic process are both strikingly evident and intertwined. In the larger and more recent action paintings, such as The Bloom, she describes her body as the ‘brush’. Popovici has experimented with abrupt brush strokes and slow motion pouring. She reveals that “In some artworks, motion is used to disrupt the flowing of the paint and create intensity through lines. In others I have allowed paint to settle and seep into calming rhythms.”
Just as Popovici has explored different media throughout her career (perspex, PVC, fibreglass, metal stencils and canvas), so too has she used a wide range of paints (industrial, glass, ink, plaster, acrylic, spray and oils). She has also recently been creating works within works; that is, a painting which is framed by a painting.
In this exhibition, Memory Maps, Popovici “depicts past experiences in a new light through dual entities - the presence and absence of colour through the use of silver leaf. Colour has always been a key visual element which is challenged in this exhibition. Contrasting bright tones, marks coated in silver leaf create a moody atmosphere. Light is a key component that adds impact to the bi-dimensional gestures; the dimmer the tones and the less light present, the more life the mark embodies. There is no narrative in my pieces, instead, each work embodies a specific emotion, presented in raw and expressive gestures.”
- Dr Shireen Huda