Codruța Cernea | Interview
We had the chance to talk to Romanian artist Codruța Cernea, following her participation in the 11172014 project at Art Yourself Gallery. Learn more in our exclusive interview.
We want to start with your work for the ‘Black Swan/ Highly Unexpected’ exhibition at Art Yourself Gallery, part of the project 11172014. We were impressed by what inspired you for ‘The Observer’. The work focuses on the image of the Hubble telescope and the knowledge it helped humans gain. Among other revelations, you mentioned quantum physics experiments, saying that the viewer creates reality. What do you think? Does man create his own reality?
Since the beginning, some aspects and results of quantum mechanics have provoked many interpretations. Because the telescope is our way of observing the Universe, I considered the theory that says that observation not only disturbs what has to be measured, but it can influence the result. In other words, the world is not completely independent of our observation.
‘The Observer’, 2014
The nature of reality was always a source of great debate and conflict for philosophers and physicists. Opposed to materialism which states that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, stays the belief of idealism philosophy saying that reality, or reality as we know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. The British scientist Sir James Jeans brilliantly said that “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.”
But to answer your question, let’s just think of how much time each of us are actually present in the moment and experience it fully with all our senses. Almost never. Most of the time we live in our own mental constructions, worrying, analyzing, making plans. Or when we are in a conversation with someone. How much we really listen and how much we get distracted or anticipate and prepare our reply. It’s really hard being present. We mostly live in our mind. And we believe what our mind is telling us. How we choose to see things, our reactions, pretty much determines our reality, makes up our perception of the “real”.
Because with the rise of technology, “real” is anticipated to become one of the most relative words we’ll have [as John Perry Barlow put it], the final line from David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ comes as a good conclusion: “Hey, tell me the truth… are we still in the game?”.
‘Nostalgia’, 2014 / Part of ‘Nostalgia Dawn’ exhibition
What about the realities created by you as an artist? Is your art the reflection of your reality, an introspective process, or a way to observe and highlight certain aspects of life?
In the beginning, I paid very close attention to my emotional experiences, my inner changes, to what my aspirations were. And in this emotional space most of my ideas were born.
Now, I am trying to better understand painting as a medium and why I still use it. I think of it as a structure, both enabling and limiting at the same time. That’s the paradox of every structure we encounter. I am also questioning how this medium influences my creative choices and the way I evaluate my ideas.
Well, actually, this work proposes a dialog between the traditional oppositions of line versus color, abstraction versus representation, figure versus ground. I cannot say I have much interest in contrasts… not even when it comes to colors, as I never use black and white. I rather prefer to reveal the subtle tension and deep inner struggles that can live under a calm appearance.
‘Versus’ [side view], 2014
We already mentioned two artworks part of the project 11172014 at Art Yourself Gallery. What do you like most about this initiative and in what way do you feel your participation in the project helped you so far?
I liked the idea of creating a context, a structure for 17 artists to work within. The most daring and particular aspects of this initiative are its length and events frequency.
11 exhibitions in one year is quite a commitment for both, the gallery and the artists. It’s like an extensive experiment that can offer a lot of valuable information to everybody involved.
Being part of the 11172014 project helped me to better understand my creative process, my patterns, to see how I act or react under the pressure of monthly events and to set a constant and more productive working pace.
Untitled, 2014 / Part of ‘Impressed & Depressed’ exhibition
The state of dream, the struggles of the mind, certain obsessions and the recurring memories of your characters (or are they personal?) seem to be a focus. In this regard, do you want to represent what is, what could have been or what could be? Do your characters feel regret, do they feel powerless or on the contrary?
Solitude is necessary sometimes. It’s a human need. It can have a protective role allowing us to better understand the reasons behind our actions and fears. So, a lot of my paintings depict the very private moments of awareness and the extended time of self-absorption. They offer a visual experience infused with a sense of fragility, subtle tension, silence, reflexivity and sometimes sadness. My characters are trying to metabolize their inner changes in order to be ready and open for new possibilities.
‘The Boat’, 2013
You have a work called ‘Together Alone’. Extending the theme and context of this work, do you think that people feel more isolated within a group? With the rise of technology, do you believe that we are able to better connect with each other and the universe around us or are we heading towards disconnection and absolute silence?
We have always had this fear of change and what it will bring. Print, serial novels, telephones, video games, even writing were held to be worrisome for the human wellbeing.
But we have always somehow coexisted with our tools and technologies. On the positive side, we have used them to transcend our limitations, expand our human experience, capture the fleeting moment or express ourselves creatively.
Now, our ideas can spread and mutate faster than ever because of the internet. Our connections are unbound by space and time limitations and this creates a place for great innovation.
On the negative side, there is the privacy fear. Not being free to choose when we are seen and by whom. Or the fear that we’ll lose real connection with ourselves and others.
‘Pool landscape’, 2014 / Part of ‘Possible Landscapes’ exhibition
But there is another aspect I just came to realize. This summer I had the chance to make a one day trip to the mountain. I enjoyed every aspect of it. Being in nature, free of unnecessary things, gestures and words, felt amazing and almost magical. And I wonder if this experience wasn’t highlighted by the very different experiences I have most of the time living in the city and being glued to my computer several hours every day… Like if you push very hard in one direction, at some point, the opposite will hit you back just as hard.
So, in times when social norms are being redefined, ideally, we should stay conscious and become wise coauthors of our lives and common future.
‘Windskate sail’, 2014 / Part of ‘Vivid Light’ exhibition
What is your biggest challenge right now as an artist?
Let go of what I’ve done before, loose of my ego, clean my mental space of unnecessary clutter, take risks and accept possible failure…
All images © Codruța Cernea & Art Yourself Gallery