To align oneself with nature is not merely an amiable gesture in the conventional sense; rather, it necessitates a form of self-imposed constraint, filtering the world through the prism of subjective experience of a place and through representation. Central to this representation of nature are the complementary spaces of ‘the landscape’ and ‘the garden’ – the latter often a mandala representation of the former: a tamer, often controlled environment, dependant on space, economy, trade and the taste prevalent to certain times. Socially, within the vastness of the landscape an urban setting is often a refugium, what the garden is to the vastness of urbanised spaces. Both terms encompass a plurality of meanings as varied and multifaceted as the diverse representations constructed by individuals or societies. The employment of each of the two terms – landscape and garden – implies oscillating between an acknowledgment of the concerning deterioration of global ecosystems, envisioning alternative futures, and acknowledging their role in seeking refuge from a world where it is increasingly more challenging to live.

Andrei Ciurdărescu’s preoccupation for the materiality and the transformation of the artwork’s surface is deeply rooted in his early childhood memories, growing up in a household of furriers. The ritualistic excarnation which is part of the preparation of furs, informs nowadays a repetitive, almost ritualistic process of deconstructing the material in order to ‘reveal’ the finished composition. In a sort of alchemic exercise, the artist is developing a work’s locality and materiality, adding colour, washing it away, drying, ironing the paper; this process is repeated until the finished work is made visible. The resulting works are usually modular, and can be assembled and re-interpreted in multiple ways. The understanding of space is, thus, a product of subjective experience, and can change according to different assembly modes as a result of a momentary logic. Central in the artworks displayed in the gallery is the garden, oftentimes suggested by focusing on certain details. An object of wonder and admiration in the artists everyday practice, the garden becomes a reactionary space, marking the tensions that arise from the mere act of living. It is, thus, an arena, where forces collide not only in the battle for survival in the plant reign, but also between human and divine intervention.

Andrea Nagy uses oil colour and pencil drawing to depict large-scale pristine natural habitats, untouched for the most part by destructive forces. The landscape vastness is overwhelming, and unravels unapologetically before our eyes. The perspective is, more often than not, non-human. In the work Perpetuo, the aerial perspective is emphasizing the spatial immensity, while the paper scroll suggests a hypothetical continuity of the subject matter as the drawing keeps unravelling before our eyes. Oftentimes in Andrea Nagy’s works, the perspective functions as a delineation of visibility and invisibility, discernibility and indiscernibility, interiority and exteriority; it is only by reaching the horizon line that this construct encounters its limits. In the work Extindere [Expansion], while the eye searches for this comfortable line in the logic of the painting, a new realisation occurs: although conferring the appearance of clarity, the horizon represents a locus of indistinctness, a threshold where differentiation loses significance. Continuously traversed yet perpetually distant, it signifies a boundary where earthly objects dissolve into an ethereal unity. It is solely through the lens of perspective that objects emerge and attain visibility. The horizon thus assumes an otherworldly semblance, where conventional spatial orientations are inverted. Central to the artistic process is the investigation of the dialogue which is formed as a consequence of experiencing nature and exploring its memory at a later date, within the confines of the artist’s studio. Sometimes, the carefully painted surface is washed away as part of the creative process, revealing a compositional essence where different painted strata are now converging.

For Maia-Ștefana Oprea, the boundaries between her everyday life in a rural area and the artistic practice are often blurred, and merge together. The works are situated at the convergence between the exploration of the spatial resilience of the garden, characterised by cyclicality, and the celebration of the perpetuity of the pictorial space par excellence. The artist tactfully intervenes in pre-existing paintings, which originally span the years 2007 to 2012, through a diverse array of materials including acrylic, oil, encaustic, fragments from older paintings intricately sewn onto new canvases, plastic threads sourced from packaging, and textile diapers. Both the spaces – the ‘lived’ and the painterly one – are actually in a state of eternal renewal, the artist meticulously observing and illustrating respectively the nuanced transformations transpiring within these spaces across seasons. The triptych in the series from the Inotești Garden draws inspiration from the artist's immersive four-year engagement with gardening, a consequence of the family’s relocation to a rural area in the South of Romania. Another focal point in the artistic inquiry is the preoccupation for rectangularity, observed in the harmonious geometry of the garden beds, which the artist constructs from repurposed wood and braided twigs or branches, and which are then transposed on the painted surface. The paintings depicting plant varieties that have yielded seeds capable of propagation, an annual cycle of perpetuation and consumption. The series Plans for Building a House are realised on recycled paper and mounted on the gallery walls with twigs used in the construction of the garden beds – moving on from constructing protections for plant beds, to constructing protections for humans – the attempt of imagining, projecting and building of a house. The areal perspective utilized on both series testifies to a scrutinising eye, which complements plein-air pictorial observations.

The interplay between the intimate experiences lived by each of the artists while gardening, contemplating landscapes, or working in the studio and the dynamic process of creation is manifested through a visual narrative that encapsulates the essence of this cultivated landscape (the garden) in contrast to the overwhelming vastness of nature of which we are also a part, giving viewers a stratified experience of the temporal and spatial dimensions inherent in the world around us, and so present within the approach of each of the three artists.

Curator: Iris Ordean