The glorification of amnesia

Gloria Painting exhibition catalog, May 2008

The option for the insistence on the foggy zones of memory, as well as the seduction exercised by the historicity and appropriation of the photography seem to comprise more and more the actual Romanian painting. It expresses formally through the courageous option for the usage of the painting as a sign, testing the discourse force and the significance of the tradition of historical painting, and Gerhard Richter’s influence covers an entire generation. How could this seduction be explained, beyond the imminent and obvious danger of a successful brand, especially when at stake is the amnesia which operates with our perception of the everyday present? If the German neo-expressionism seems to have resulted from a historical traumatizing identity, in the former east-European bloc, its suspicion and European fatalism seem to be an answer to a traumatic post-communist condition for recent unguided generations, trapped in an eternal transition which no longer has meaning.
This seems to be the discourse area in which Dragos Burlacu proposes a pictorial project of socio-historical, coagulated around a national identity, or better said, autochthonous, mythical, and uncertain. The temporality of its images is suspended between the re-signification of the lost “origin” and its cruel persistency under the form of a precarious social condition in a still rural country, marked by surrealistic fusions between urban and traditional, but also by monstrous discrepancies as far as social condition is concerned.
Exposing the myth of national identity and of “eternity born at the countryside” to an insidious and cynical criticism, myth understood as a form of retrograde addiction to the past, which is blind to the surrounding reality and to the need of real reform of a deeply ill society, his projects translate into painting a photo-journalistic analysis of the Romanian post communist social present through the comment of its historical past and its re-signification contextually compared to a banal atrocious present. Its inconvenient character comes from the superposition, often in the same frame, of the “innate” historical past, framed by the aura of authenticity and by an external political signature (the national flag with the three colours), a void mark of identity, and a patriotic sign whose force of communal coagulation is overused and, seemingly, irremediably eroded. This fact is visually treated with irony, as the mark of a brand, aestheticizing the political aspect with the sign of pop package. And this emphasizes even more its abstract autonomy to any concrete content, its sliding into an unintelligible impersonal history, exterior to the individual.
The goal of his actual project seems to be that of historical derision through the subtle consumptive counterfeit of the image, obtained by means of the continuous sliding of the two reference levels (document-reality, past-present) which lack anchorage to the concrete and are unable to find a common bind besides their simple superficiality, unable to keep the living significance of the lived life. Through a false historical-modern opposition, the photograph would be cold, transparent, objective, neutral, suitable for the recording of the immediate, and the painting – warm, expressive (and, thus, with a degree of opacity bigger than its mimetic source), subjective, committed, suitable for its commemoration.The technique often used in Dragos Burlacu’s paintings, borrowed from Gerhard Richter, pictorially obstructs, however, the “transparency” of the photograph, thus pointing out the historical, discursive and subjective construct which has been impregnating the supposedly-documentary image since ever. From Luc Tuymans, he borrows the same detachment of the press image from its propagandist potential through trivialization, offering them a vague familiarity, floating, with no intimacy or immediacy, within the space of an impure collective conscience, which his pop interventions only comment ideologically.
It could be concluded that the enormous social discrepancies visible in today’s Romania are, in the artist’s opinion, the effect – or the cause – of an inconsistency of the historical discourse and of his own collective memory and of an uncertain placement into the present.
It is only clear that, for the artist, the simple documentary certification of the imbalances of the present is, in all fairness, the insufficiency of restoring the daily amnesia and of getting us out of indifference. What is not clear is if the social malady exposed and ironized by the artist has some kind of an imprecise localization, or it only constitutes for the artist the sign of a precarious general condition; and, as a solution, if he suggests the designer’s ironical-cosmopolitan detachment from the brand, or the social engagement of the investigation journalist, who, as a matter of fact, sometimes risks pathos or reformist utopia. Indecisive, his critical attitude thus risks being outdistanced by the grandiose scale to which Dragos Burlacu institutes the process of the accusation which surpasses way too much the limits of the immediate present, without losing sight of it. However, at this scale, the critical artist often changes, imperceptibly, his role of prosecutor for that of helpless judge who silently consoles himself with the failure of historicity as a critical category, (falsely) suing History itself. He finally becomes an easy target for his (even involuntary) cataloguing as the instance of another pictorial successful brand – reflexive and aware of the possibilities of critical expression of this environment, but re-produced in Romania under the license of the occupant…

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