Vulnerable, but not a victim, Ecaterina Vrana is not a typical instance of art related art, directed by chance related life. Since her early years as an art student, the people around her (professors and fellow students as well) realized that something was wrong (or conversely, right) with her: she could not, under any circumstances, assimilate even the basic elements of the trade, neither the purely technical ones nor the more pervasive, cultural idiom currently associated with being an artist. Her vocation was so deep, personal, compelling and wildly overwhelming that, despite undergoing the teaching as if a routine surgery, she survived almost unsoiled by it. Day by day she grew more naïve, more inexperienced. Education made her savage. She read no art journals, visited no museums, assisted to no art talks. Instead of developing common skills she developed subjective roughness. Her exams were a calamity she could not render a given theme and was unable to talk about a given (famous) artist, local or international, living or dead. Artistic trends remained a mystery to her, as well as criticism and social engagement. In a time of extreme historical and political turmoil, Ecaterina Vrana remained one sided: her sided.
Her living was riveted by desire, trauma and death: coffins, crosses, rats, doctors and priests were regular occurrences in her anguish fattening paintings. If trying to see and understand through her work something about current Romanian matters, one would be severely frustrated there is nothing about Romanian Revolution in her work, nothing about Communism, strikes and social unrest, nothing about Orthodox belief, nothing about discrimination and manipulation of any kind, nothing about social hopes, ideals, and crisis. Seen through the dis looking glass of her canvases, culture seems a dead end, history an absence, and society a mere shadow.
Still, there is something to be seen in her work a perpetual crisis and fervor generated by only three elementary (and everlasting) milestones: Life, Love, and Death. One would reasonably argue that the three words have nothing conceptual, that they are totally mystified by cultural constructions. One would justifiably claim that embracing them shows a total mental captivity and an exposed infantile reification of socially driven abstractions. Yet the paintings of Ecaterina Vrana are not unaware of the tricky, consumerist nature of funny witty storytelling.
They are much more than girlish they are indeed uplifting, as they are maybe the most cheerful depictions of grief available.
The crux of her canvases is neither the story, nor the sorrow, but the painting itself as the ultimate, authentic tactile presence. The fleshy, sparkling body of paint is so overpowering as a substance that it assimilates and digests everything trauma, pain, insecurity, desolation or loneliness, bringing in a certain, idiosyncratic experience of redemption. Though adamantly figurative, her painting is not representational, but rather haptic. A matter of spiritual transference, her work is not a representation of the lust for life, but the lust for life in itself: a viscid lump of scintillating agony.
Text by Erwin Kessler.
Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles
Through July 16