The important point, for me, resumes at before and after 1989, a turning point in the Romanian history, a year which marked the official break down of communism in the country.
For those who didn’t live the 80s in Romania, for those strangers to Romania who cannot imagine what “darkness” we lived in, I can say that even now, after more than 20 years, I still notice the same thing: the degree of ignorance and isolation the authorities kept us in. I do not refer to the material deprivations, but most of all to the spiritual and cultural ones. It was an ignorance of contemporaneousness, of information, of everything that happens in the free world. There is much to discuss about this subject and maybe it is well-known what the communist propaganda and politics meant, but I am referring to the inner moral support of my defense in front of this invasion, menacingly to the escape in nature (a still powerful and yet slightly altered nature, by the modern man) and to the deepening in the freedom offered by books. Returning to art, I well remember all the pleasures offered by the well-structured library of the fine arts school and especially of the Art Institute to a young high-school boy , the biographies I read, the painting in plein air, in the impressionist manner. In fact, the whole art history stopped for us in the 40s’. Everything that succeeded to reach us from outside were the few magazines, out of which we could vaguely create some opinions, without being able to draw any conclusions though.
It is only now that I realize the tragedies lived by the elder artists, the helplessness independent of their will, due to the fact that they were on the unwanted side of the curtain and could not travel free, the barriers, the jury and the existent censorship.
The psychosis of “running-away” in the Occident comes from those times, and it is felt acutely up to now, many times from the same reasons as then, including the helplessness of the place we live in. A distinction should be made here between the Romanian totalitarian art from its different periods and the art of the other communist countries. They shouldn’t be regarded as a whole, as each of them has its own individual identity.
There are three main periods to be noticed in Romania: the first one, realist-totalitarian of the 50s – 60s (the socialist regime applied for us, too), followed by an official art. An alternative art appears beside this official art and it develops in the second level, oriented towards the Occident arts and the neo-avant-garde of the post-war arts.
The 70s were full of the visions of the same conglomerate. This dualist situation continues in the third period, at the end of the 70s and 80s-90s. when the antagonisms already existent between the official and subversive, independent painting, deepen.
For us, the young ones, the opening offered by the “revolution” was welcome; it was like a new breath. The contacts with all that represented contemporary Occidental art became more powerful, we could “escape” to see live works and museums which we only knew from books or albums. The 90s were the “pioneer” years, I could say, when we learned everything on the fly and entirely without the help of the state and its instruments.
These were years when we searched for levers of support and promotion. The same almost taboo vision still remains today upon galleries and gallery owners who “make” artists by promoting and selling them at higher and higher quotations.
The Romanian art scene still stays behind, it struggles behind an emergent economy and a generalized lack of interest. Most of the artists, at least those who want to create and tell their story, are themselves curators, managers and gallery owners. The private system, still developing, supports too little the art, even if there are a few who sustain artists or cultural non-governmental associations. Unfortunately, the state is still far away from this, even if there are some changes in attitude. In fact, and this is the most important thing, the attitude and the mentality of those on board of the art institutions, is quite poor.
Romanian society today is changing, or at least trying. There are a lot of things to be mentioned here about mentality, our way of being, but also about a certain helplessness in recovering in a short time a viable and sustainable assertion systems. It all resumes at the economic and financial national power, at the galleries and museums which consecrate, at the collectors who purchase the artistic product.
We still live in an individualist stage of small groups who have succeeded in making a breach in the system and have become international in some parts of the country. In Romania, unfortunately, the artist remains the main actor or pawn, a soldier on this chess table which is called the art scene, without any other “officers” to help him, a kind of Don Quixote of nowadays, or maybe since always.