George Anghelescu | Interview

We recently had the opportunity to meet and talk to artist George Anghelescu, whose solo show “Dulce et Decorum” hosted by H’art Gallery is open until the 8th of November, 2014. Find out more in our exclusive interview.

George Anghelescu by Franz Galo, 2013

George Anghelescu, photo by Franz Galo, 2013

We’ve visited “Dulce et Decorum”, your solo show at H’art Gallery, running from October 3rd till the 8th of November, 2014. In this exhibition, you highlight certain aspects. Some works seem to approach issues of a lost innocence, the death of a natural state of being, an image of power and authority which is mostly masculine and destructive, as well as a reflection of the self, of the artist. We also feel that there is a lot of tension in most works, where we often sense a relationship of victim-oppressor, with mixed emotions of fear, deceit, resignation. These are just a few thoughts when we first saw the works. Please tell us more about the themes you want to bring to the public’s attention and about the show.

I wish this collection of images can work for everybody in a manner similar to the one you’re describing, accessing each and everyone’s potential of critical thinking and empathic feeling; as a sort of stimulus for active participation in demystifying the semiotics of life. Thus, the themes I approach are not direct propositions for an audience, but incidental paths I take in my process of understanding. They all lead to a common source, that being my attempt of subtracting (through art) from the story we share the evil and its agents; which, though hidden in the impersonal banality of their nature (and Nature in general, lacking intent and higher purpose), impede the fulfillment of our human potential.

MORI, 2014, oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 x 70 cm

George Anghelescu, MORI, 2014, oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 x 70 cm

Dulce et Decorum

“Dulce et Decorum” exhibition, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, 2014

We would also like to know more about the process, we know that you’ve been working on this show for a few months, and we are interested to find out what were the influences, what made you decide to choose this approach.

I’ve spent one year and a half preparing these works, but their content goes further back in time. The process is a simple one: the filter that empowers my choice of subjects and helps me relate to my characters is empathy. I start from a kernel, a strong story that forms the epicenter for my conceptual construct, and in a simple way of adding-on layers and elements that cover all the possibilities of meaning I can grasp, I obtain a sort of collage that reveals new directions of interpretation and, at the same time, covers the tracks of my reasoning. In order to regain freedom of understanding in the imagination of the viewer, I try to keep the ambiguity that derives from this stratification; and also, I like that it accentuates certain feelings that come with my subjects.

Dulce et Decorum

“Dulce et Decorum” exhibition, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, 2014

As for the influences, I tried to immerse all my imagery in a faux-baroque atmosphere, citing and invoking in several works one of the greatest masters of religious propaganda, Bernini. I hijacked this historical filter, because it was best suited in conveying to a higher degree the gravitas that I always felt should be granted to these subjects (that deal with matters of human suffering, exploitation and alienation, of violence and death, etc.)

Dulce et Decorum

“Dulce et Decorum” exhibition, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, 2014

You describe painting as a distorted copy of your personal reality, a sort of mirror that reflects and traps your fears and desires. What are your fears, what are your desires and how deeply are they influenced by the environment where you live, and by the reality/ realities of others?

Art has become a second language for me; over time and through practice, using a more specific and subjective visual code of conveying meaning, I arrived at a point where it’s easier to use images when trying to look for sense in the life and the world I inhabit. It is just as with writing, falling back on education, culture, common knowledge and more, on all the fantasies and anxieties we all share, I try to put in the spotlight those aspects that should unite us on this journey.

Dulce et Decorum

“Dulce et Decorum” exhibition, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, 2014

Art has also a therapeutic function, when giving a dimension to the unknown, the capricious and apparently malevolent character of the universe and its arbitrary intrusions that limit our potential. This naming of the hidden takes away its power of awe, evil is castrated when knowledge puts fixed dimensions on it; so even if it still remains pointless it does get in a way exorcised, freeing me/us from superstition.

Dulce et Decorum

“Dulce et Decorum” exhibition, H’art Gallery, Bucharest, 2014

IMPERMANENCE, 2013, oil and scalpel on vinyl banner, 120 x 180 cm

George Anghelescu, IMPERMANENCE, 2013, oil and scalpel on vinyl banner, 120 x 180 cm

In your work, you are more than a simple observer, you rather criticize the consumerist society, political figures. Why so and why do you believe it is important to show people an alternative to what they are usually told? And at this point, also tell us how you see the artist in today’s local and international context. What is his/ her role? And is it necessary that art has a meaning, should art also ‘think’ of its public, not only of its creator? What happens when people do not understand the message you try to convey as an artist?

It’s rather self-criticism as a partaker in this state of affairs. I can’t put myself outside the order of things, I unwillingly endorse it for I am as everybody else trapped in my condition. But I don’t want to forget the wrongs of life, I have the need to always recapitulate them and to acknowledge through my means of expression those less fortunate: the victim, the captive, the oppressed and the destitute, the martyr and the exploited, my analogue and my relevant other. So, I don’t propose alternatives because I’m not a political theoretician or a social engineer. It’s the world reflecting in me, reflecting in my work.

UNFINISHED SYMPATHY, 2013, oil and scalpel on vinyl banner, 120 x 180 cm

George Anghelescu, UNFINISHED SYMPATHY, 2013, oil and scalpel on vinyl banner, 120 x 180 cm

The artist has no specific role; I don’t think he’s a catalyst of social change but rather a person who, at his best, can capture the spirit of the time he lives in. Art has the only obligation to be honest and true to its maker, and through the expectations set out by the factor of reciprocity it should try to be as best as it can possibly be made.

THE GENIE, 2014, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

George Anghelescu, THE GENIE, 2014, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

How do you relate, as an artist and a human, to ‘the other’, in the context of a social, economic and political system based on conflict and competition?

To explain my relation to ‘the other’ I’ll continue the answer from the first question.

The goal of preserving the aforementioned potentiality intact, works within the frame of a ‘human project’ type of concept, where, to be sure one lives in the anecdotal ‘Best of all possible worlds’, an effort of reaching the highest mutual good achievable is required. This leads directly to a greater degree of being and living and indirectly towards an improved self-perception within ‘the other’, who will thus inevitably reflect in the greater social fabric a better image of the self of his ‘other’, of my self.

AUX GRANDS HOMMES, 2014, oil and acrylic on canvas , 60 x 60 cm

George Anghelescu, AUX GRANDS HOMMES, 2014, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

INVISIBLE TO EVERYONE, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm

George Anghelescu, INVISIBLE TO EVERYONE, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm

The preservation of the other’s human capital in all its integrity is needed precisely in the process of justification of the self through reciprocity. So, it seems to be just a form of delayed egoism, which I think is quite normal. Throughout history, those who went all the way in their altruism, authentically never relying on this unconscious and abstract investment, were severely penalized by the status quo, all being suicidal saints and revolutionaries. And in the end, allowing the loss of ‘the other’ as an agent of reaffirming one’s own identity is direct fratricide and indirect self-immolation (Prop A).

PROP A, 2013, collage, charcoal on paper, 70 x 100 cm

George Anghelescu, PROP A, 2013, collage, charcoal on paper, 70 x 100 cm

In this ‘post-revolutions’ era, I feel that one of the last functional principles of improving society is the rule of common-sense, where the ideological ‘Big Other’ will be replaced by ‘the smaller other’, your equal and reciprocal, your fellow human being. He is the only one who can cure the modern anxiety that flows from the disappearing reflection of the self in the real, our alienation.

PROP C, 2014, charcoal on paper, 70 x 100 cm

George Anghelescu, PROP C, 2014, charcoal on paper, 70 x 100 cm

You once said that “Violence and Death are the only truths”. Why is that? And in this case, is violence a synonym for life?

It was in the context of two sets of diptychs exhibited in a previous show at H’art Gallery (Monolith 2, Castration 1 – view below). When I described Violence and Death as truths I meant that their nature is true, immovable, they’re unavoidable facts of life and happen regardless of our wish; so the best action is to try to come to terms with them. That was what I was trying to do, to recognize them for what they are and abandon the fear that comes from the lack of knowledge. For me, making art is an important exercise of cognition.

KALI, 2014, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm

George Anghelescu, KALI, 2014, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm

George Anghelescu, ELISABETA, 2011-2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm

George Anghelescu, ELISABETA, 2011-2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm

There’s a sense of disappointment in your paintings, in the themes you choose, in the irony itself, in the aggressiveness of colors, of contexts or juxtaposition of elements, situations, characters. Would there be something that would make you feel otherwise? Did you find examples of solutions to what you consider wrong, incorrect, untruthful?

The disappointment is just on the surface of my works, their goal in the end is to keep my optimism alive. In my method of expression form doesn’t follow directly the contour of its function, that’s because I’m not a moralist. It’s a way of self-questioning and it searches connections from myself to ‘the other’ by means of metaphor. It’s the only way I can access the stories of my peers, alluding to them and not arrogantly describing in a direct way their inaccessible condition. As such, my use of extreme colors and geometry in the figurative environments represents a lowering of the resolution of understanding, a metaphor for my limits of insight.

Practicing art has become a part of my identity and it gives me purpose, so, for the moment this is the solution that works best for me.

MONOLITH 2, 2012, oil and acrylic on volumetric installation of triangular planes (wood), with integrated light system, 147 x 147 x 27 cm

George Anghelescu, MONOLITH 2, 2012, oil and acrylic on volumetric installation of triangular planes (wood), with integrated light system, 147 x 147 x 27 cm

CASTRATION 1, 2012, oil on canvas, 55 x 70 cm

George Anghelescu, CASTRATION 1, 2012, oil on canvas, 55 x 70 cm

Where to? What are your future plans? Also, if we missed something, feel free to share.

I don’t know, it works one day at a time.

Thank you!

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First image © Franz Galo / Images of artworks and from the exhibition “Dulce et Decorum” © George Anghelescu.

Find out more about the artist on his website.

More info about H’art Gallery on their website and Facebook page.