Pavel Susara

From Ethnology To Metaphysics

The terms around which we could build a definition for Ion Dumitriu are: order, reflexivity and vocation for friendship. Without any histrionic temptation, his image fits into a register full of paradoxes; his external rigor and the meticulousness of the daily gestures cohabit with the voluptuousness of artistic expression, his day cordiality hides a meditative character and his austere presence in public spaces dissimulates an imperative need for communication and human solidarity.

Objects saved from a hypothetical village. Apparently, Ion Dumitriu is a painter of the village and, by extension, of the rural landscape. A brief inventory of the objects he sets in the canvas’ memory would almost entirely exhaust the shapes, images and tools of traditional communities. From the barn – to the fence board, from the skin set out to dry – to the carding comb, from the riddle – to the yoke, from the green hill – to the hayrick, from the potato – to the apple, from the shadow of an invisible character – to the beet, everything recuperates a space at the same time familiar and spectacular.

Represented with that accuracy that, most of the times, goes far beyond the intentions of identification, these objects seem to have been collected in an obscure impulse of ethnologist, specialist in museography or archivist. Like the endangered species, pathetically represented by some exemplars, Dumitriu’s shapes have in themselves the pathos of the last exemplar. With an aggressive layout, torn away from any context, they suggest, like the relics, abyssal realities, vague narrations and extinct worlds. As traces of an archaic humanity, passed long ago from history to myth, Dumitriu’s images metonymically recover a much ampler image, that the viewer is urged to recognize, to understand and to make its own.

From image to notion. But this speech with (and about) saved objects is nothing but a trap. Dumitriu’s painting has nothing of a documentary or of a denotation. It does not invoke contexts, or extinct worlds, and, nonetheless, sociological realities. The objects chosen as models, with maximum attention and highest sensitivity, are themselves shapes with an immense expressive potential. By identifying them, the painter does nothing else but to move them from their anodyne reality, associated to a utility without any ambiguity, to a field with symbolical significations, whose major dominant is gratuity itself. The common image, the predictable tool and the shape determined strictly by its function suddenly acquire the prerogative of the absolute object. By its monumentality, by the fact that it is drawn out of its utilitarian context and by the voluptuousness of the plastic description, the representation suddenly acquires an exponential value. The daily experience imperceptibly becomes exemplary and in its recently validate image we start to recover the category it belongs to. The artistical sign becomes a notion, as objects themselves become a kind of mental standards; the carding comb turns into Carding Comb, the riddle turns into Riddle, the yoke turns into Yoke and the barn into Barn. Translated from their precarious space into the conventional space of the canvas, these objects ultimately change the mechanisms of perception themselves. Instead of reading their use and of evaluating them consequently, the eye perceives shapes, deciphers structures, weighs densities, vibrates tactilely and jubilates festively, as in front of a great show.

Between convention and metaphysics. But Ion Dumitriu does not stay at this level either. The clearness and sobriety of notions slowly melt into ambiguity and mystery. An enormous feeling of solitude embraces everything and the vapors of melancholy settle in the image. Beyond the language’s conventions and rigors, the objects animate until they acquire the psychology of characters with a bizarre status. Across a landscape or on the vibrating texture of the fence board, hardly perceivable, appears, as a shadow, the figure of a human body who can be the painter himself, or the viewer who, by the practice of contemplation, gets directly involved in the structures of the composition. Even the element of the still lives, especially those related to the earth’s vitality – potato or beet –, are surprised in an equivocal moment, and linked both to extinction and regeneration. By isolation and out sizing, by hyper realistic treatment of the shape and by placement on neutral backgrounds, Dumitriu’s objects are surprised in that existential wholeness which can be followed only by the state of crisis. The painter has recently modified his language, but the major data of his paintings have not changed. The opening of the palette up to white, the playful transparencies, the brief comments where irony almost imperceptibly mixes with a touch of tenderness, did nothing but consolidated the formerly stated characteristics of this painting. Even though they seem stock-still and timeless, set in a stylistic perspective closer to the classical models, Dumitriu’s images show a strong existential fervor and a consciousness as apparently calm as tensed in its depths.

Avantaje, July 1998

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