Bogdan Rața | Interview
Following our visit to Bogdan Rața’s solo show ‘Superstitions’ (review), presented by Nasui collection & gallery at the Postmodernism Museum, we had the opportunity to interview the artist about his recent body of work.
What do you consider to be your first work of art?
My first important work is Curly (2007). It is the first work from which we draw conclusions and also is the work that freed me from school as assimilation stage. During that time, Irina Protopopescu, director of New York Slag Gallery, contacted me and proposed me to work with them. It was an important moment for my later artistic trajectory. It was the first time when someone gave me confidence in what I do, and this confidence was coming from outside (especially because I tried to expose my works in several galleries in Bucharest and I had been refused everywhere).
Do you believe change is a significant factor in determining artistic evolution? Is there something that should never change – perhaps the honesty of the artwork, as you once said?
The change brings new reports compared to your work. In the case of my work, there were never radical changes. Rather they functioned as a system for settling personal ideas about sculpture, about man, about life. The change is still required and must be consistent in what you are doing. I cannot say the same about the honesty with which you work. Honesty defines you as personality. It should never change. You must remain sincere regardless of the changes of discourse or ideas. I think that when you lost your honesty, you lost yourself as an artist.
Bogdan Rața – ‘Scream’, polyester, synthetic resin, metal, paint, 2008, 57x46x34 cm, courtesy of Slag Gallery / Photocredit: Andrei Jecza
Your artistic reality is focused on the fragment, which you consider to have a more powerful visual and emotional impact than the whole. You are also interested in the relationship between the body and the environment, in how social pressure distorts the individual generating anxiety, frustration, fear, shame, guilt, often revealed through a grotesque metamorphosis resulting in new and sometimes absurd forms. Does contemporary society have the potential to also produce positive transformation?
I never considered that the changes that society produces in our human structure are only negative and neither had I focused my work to analyze this part of the social. On the contrary, fear or frustration can occur and you can feel them just in the idea that you can lose the happiness or the beautiful parts of life that provide the contemporary society. There is always a reverse of these feelings, when you are happy – you’re afraid not to lose this status; when you have a hard time – you try to find a state of general well-being. Thus, the viewer of my works can sometimes feel these conflicting states working on their very self.
The work The Pressure (2015) speaks most loudly about these things. The rock, which presses a torso that follows the ideals of classical beauty, I have not chosen by chance. On the contrary, I searched for the most beautiful one; this is about beauty pressure that can crush us sometimes. I’m still not clear if the torso’s beauty is superior to the rock’s beauty. I never thought that the rock will be perceived as a negative element, but as I said, I like the audience to come up with their own interpretation of stories in my works.
Bogdan Rața – ‘The Pressure’, 2015, fibre, river stone, 66x42x27 cm, edition of 1, courtesy of Nasui collection & gallery and the artist
You often attribute gestures specific to a body part to another – hand-foot, for example, and in some cases you use size to highlight or amplify certain aspects of your work, especially when considering your interventions in the public space. How can a finger be stronger than a rifle, an ear more frustrating than an interrogation? Do you believe that in lack of human presence an object fails to generate emotion and meaning? At the same time, your approach intends to trigger an immediate reaction. What do you expect this reaction to be? How do you build your relationship with the viewer and what have you noticed in how your art is interpreted?
The anatomic fragment has a much stronger presence than the whole. Rodin was the first to become aware of this reality. Of course, he would not have been able to draw this conclusion without the accidental amputation of classical Greek sculpture, but he was the first who felt that a fragment can transmit everything. In the case of my works, joining two or more fragments, only amplifies the concept. That is why this anatomical construction has an immediate effect and direct impression. The same emotional state or even of discomfort produces also the anatomical oversize and undersize. The important thing is how to dose these things and where you stop them. I have always tried to downplay the elements that build an idea, which is probably why my works have and keep a classical aura. When you go out with a sculpture in the public space, the presence of human fragment has another landmark in addition to which you have to report, the abstract presence of the architecture of that place. I like to place this oversize near buildings that were designed to overwhelm by their size. Here, the oversized fragment acts as an element which makes the visual transition between the viewer and architecture.
Bogdan Rața – ‘The Middle Way’, 2014, polystyrene, paint, metal, 350×150×60 cm, courtesy of Nasui collection & gallery, placed in front of St. George’s Hall within Independents Liverpool Biennial 2014.
I felt this most when I exhibited Hand Gun / 1990 Project towards MNAC. Though the hand-foot was much oversized compared to the people’s house has become little and more “human” as presence. The effect that I saw on viewers was that it urges you to come near.
We recently visited your solo show “Superstitions” presented by Nasui collection & gallery. What we noticed was a subtle transition towards what seems to be a new phase in your work through the use of raw elements instead of synthetic materials and of organic colors, we saw reinterpretations of classic works of art – ‘Deposition’ (After Rogier Van Der Weyden), a new approach regarding the body and the human condition, yet maintaining a connection with previous artistic experiments – ‘The Lake’ (2015) and ‘Trying to Keep Life’ (2012). Can you walk us through the exhibition and discuss the new artworks and the themes you explore?
I like to think my works for places that I know. Superstitions was one of the shows that I thought specifically for the Nasui gallery space. I worked together with Oana and Cosmin Nasui in many projects, but this is the first fully thought for their location in Bucharest. I presented works there that function together as a whole, as a facility built on a conceptual path that connects the entire exhibition; they speak about misconceptions and somewhat relative ideas as beauty, eternity or perishable, fine border between life and death, or questionable ideal of human image. The natural elements introduced in the works (water, stones, earth and salt) not only reinforce the idea of transience of mankind. Deposition. After Rogier Van Der Weyden (2015), for instance, takes the classic image of the end but also of the beginning of a new era. I just ran imaginatively the biblical action of Van Der Weyden’s Descent until the burial, just to interview the appearance of the place (which is missing from the work), and where the future begins. The Resurrection takes place in every moment of our existence.
Bogdan Rața – ‘Deposition (After Rogier Van Der Weyden)’, 2015, polyester, resin, fibre, metal, pastel, fabric, 160x105x66 cm, edition of 1, courtesy of Nasui collection & gallery and the artist
Bogdan Rața – ‘The Lake’, 2015, polyester, resin, fibre, water, paint, craion, 136x37x35 cm, courtesy of Nasui collection & gallery and the artist
You had your second solo show in France in 2015 at Farideh Cadot, in Paris. Can you share a few insights about your recent experiences exhibiting abroad?
The two exhibitions from Farideh Cadot, in Paris, were both conceived as summaries of my concerns in recent years. They enjoyed much success in the Parisian press, there were articles about them in magazines like Art Press or Liberation, and my works appeared in some of the most important collections (Antoine de Galbert, La maison rouge) in Europe. These things are very important and also natural in the career of an artist; things that make you keep saying what you think, keep you connected and report your work to what happens in the world. I think that we past the moment when the Romanian artist thinks like a master perched in its tower of ivory. When you exhibit in an important international context, you can only stay grounded.
What are your future projects?
My most important project for the future is to remain in the workshop, focused on my work.
Bogdan Rața – ‘Self to the Wall’, 2008, polyester, synthetic resin, metal, paint, 68×58×24 cm, courtesy of Nasui collection & gallery and the artist
Bogdan Rața is represented by Nasui collection & gallery. Images courtesy of the gallery.