Interview | Cristina Popovici
Q1. Has moving to Melbourne affected your practice in any way?
The move to Melbourne had an affect on my artistic practice in the sense that it shifted my mentality from painting for an upcoming exhibition, to painting as a continuity of reinventing myself. Before moving to Melbourne, being represented by three different galleries in New Zealand meant that I always had an exhibition to work towards. Each one-man show consisted of a different concept and body of works, taking into consideration the space and working with it.
However this all changed after relocating to Melbourne, where, for a portion of time I was not represented by a gallery. The first year or so was a very difficult time for my family and I, and the constant rejection from Melbourne based galleries began to diminish my positive spirits. But I never stopped painting, regardless how little of the future I could envision, not knowing when my next exhibition would be, and how little support I had received.
I was reminded of life as an art student, where every painting was made for the sake of making art. This aided me in shifting my focus away from the search of a gallery and more so towards discovering what exactly would push me as an artist and find my strength. In this search, a passion for very large, monumental works grew, where I was able to express a large variety of artistic vocabulary at once, and created marks so large that the brushes and tools themselves were a continuity of my body.
Throughout my artistic career, I have always essentially painted for myself, though this break from the influence of curators and galleries allowed me to centre my attention more towards what I could bring to the core of my practice.
Q2. How do past experiences inform or inspire your practice?
Experiences, whether present or past, are essential for me as an artist. I have always valued memories charged with visual and emotional stimuli, they are the source of my art and the inspiration for my works.
I react very emotionally to events and tend to accumulate the evoked feelings from a given experience until I release it through my work; this charge brings life to brush strokes, and poured gestures.
However, past experiences has been used differently in ‘Memory Maps’. This body of works represents recollecting and provoking memories, shown through the use of textures and colour. Colour has always been a prominent visual component due to its strong visual impact; in this exhibition, it exposes the journey through past events. The earlier works resemble fresher recollections, with an Australian Spring influence on the palette, and as the concept was taken further, tones of European Autumns and Winters emerged.
In works such as Illumination, the use of silver leaf in coating bi-dimensional marks gives an imprinted effect, as if these marks were the storage of memories beginning to resurface. Not all is recalled, and therefore a neutral, reflective grey has been prominently used.
Q.3 Do you see your paintings as the articulation of memories?
As my works do not contain a narrative element, it would be impossible to confirm that the paintings enclose a certain memory. There is no literal connection between memories and works in ‘Memory Maps’, but instead there are elements in each artwork that may stimulate a certain sensation, emotion or memory, and therefore may be used as a tool to articulate memories.
My works are very subjective, the frequency they emit and the atmosphere they create through motion in marks, may affect people differently. Even the way they are viewed is in constant alteration, as the silver leaf and metal sheets react with the light, the way light is absorbed and reflected can create different connections with the works themselves.
Q4. How do different media and materials allow you to achieve different aims?
Materials and different mediums can be very inspiring to work with if their properties are understood. Non-absorbent mediums such as metals, Perspex, PVC, fibreglass and glass produce a certain crispness in line and colour that contrast’s canvas’s absorbent properties.
Working with fibreglass for example, is quite demanding, it requires a certain technique used for painting icons on glass, something I learnt during my schooling. Paint has to be applied in reverse, starting with the foreground and ending with the background, the outcome can only be seen once the object has set and is complete; therefore there is no room for error.
Acrylic on another hand is versatile in its reaction. Thick pours of acrylic have a delayed response, allowing me to interfere with the drying process.
A material that I love for its uniqueness is glass paint. Its transparency allows me to create depth through glazing and pouring, I can create my own colours and level of vibrancy. The numerous tones, textures, and richness create so much diversity that I know my paintings can’t be replicated. Sure, major components such as shapes in the composition can be, however the motion interjected in the shapes, the details and the energy charge I use to create dynamics cannot be. Even if I tried, I couldn’t create the same painting twice.
Silver leaf found its place through the idea of bringing neutral/alternative space to an artwork. As it is a reflective material, an interesting relationship is created between the light and the painting. Depending on the light, the background could illuminate and act as the central focus, or the foreground could burst out even more.
Using a range of mediums and materials gives me the opportunity to explore a certain method with an array of different properties. I strive to always reveal something new and push the capabilities of materials; this may either lead to overworking a painting, or unleashing a new and exciting discovery.
Q5. Could you talk a little about your works on metal and how they differ from your other paintings?
Silver leaf sparked the idea of using reflective materials in my work, leading to the use of non-absorbent metal sheets. Though neutral in colour, they have the property of altering the tones of glass paint applied on its surface, with the inclination of removing the element of brightness. Even the brightest of yellows converts to a cooler green tone.
Generally, colour has always played a key role in my works, and was one of the most important elements I used to create life and motion; but I chose to combat this with aluminium. The use of more toned down palette provides harmony with works on canvas, as oppose to the two divergent projects competing.
The use of cool metal adds a more organic and atmospheric ambience. The light constantly reflecting from the work in different areas creates a variation of interpretations, a quality I find quite special.
Determining whether a work was finished or not was a little challenging, I had to clarify what lighting to take into consideration as each angle altered the composition. This decision resulted in a way that allowed the works to be non-conclusive, either establishing a great presence or blending into their surroundings depending on how the light interacts with them.
The juxtaposition between colour and silver leaf on the metal works could be interpreted as the memory itself, and the imprint or neurological storage of the given memory. Coloured marks, vibrant and crisp, may be perceived as the flash back of a past event. Where the recollection feels real and present, while the marks covered in silver leaf resemble the storage of the memory itself (as mentioned previously).
This new direction is very inspiring and allows me to apply accumulated knowledge of methods to new mediums.
Q6. What is the significance of colour in your paintings?
Colour plays a great role in art, it is a vessel for self-expression, igniting emotions and creating an atmosphere. I believe that each person has their own relationship with colours and tones, how they relate to and perceive certain colour combinations is very subjective. Before I had learnt of Kandinsky’s theory of colours, I had already established my own connection with colour.
Through experimenting with colour as a child and student, I had created a sense of consolidation with certain colours, and established what I was less inspired by. Initially, darker colours attracted me and resulted in the neglection of reds and oranges; though through challenging myself in later years to experiment with all colour combinations, I discovered that context is a crucial element to what is perceived as amiable or not.
Context is the essential element that dictates what one finds appealing, not so much the aversion to a certain tone. Therefore as a professional painter, ensuring that any variable of a material (such as the transparency of paint, the colour of the medium used) works with the colours used is crucial.
Q7. Have you always worked in an abstract expressionist style/what attracts you to it?
Being in art schools from a young age exposed me to many styles and art forms, yet I always gravitated towards abstract and abstract expressionism. I found it as the ultimate way to encode artistic communication.
Working with my whole body to create an artwork, making the process personal and raw, I allow the process to guide me: it’s about how rather than what to paint.
What attracts me to abstract expressionism is the fact that it brings me in touch with my emotions and feelings, being connected to the universal qualities of a human: pain, passion, empathy. Through this style, I feel as though I am adding a physical presence to these universal qualities, allowing them to be felt and understood without the need of words or explanations.
Words are a struggle for me as I have spent the majority of my time developing my visual vocabulary. I didn’t learn painting through words, but through seeing and this is my strength.