Pavel Susara

Ion Dumitriu, Between Earth And Sky

It’s been more than seven years since Ion Dumitriu left us and the presence of its painting in the public space is still very pale. Neither the exhibition halls nor the art market have the reactions equal to the consistency and importance of a creation taken to the end, despite the premature death of the painter, and of an artistic message rigorously defined. On March 1st, he would have turned 62, but the circumstances of posterity require an additional question. Who is, in fact, Ion Dumitriu? The answer could start like this: far from being a painter of the objects, of substances and of materiality as it is generally conceived, Dumitriu is permanently a hermeneutist in the field of concepts and a tireless creator of plastic notions. He does not negotiate with the immanent data of his models, but tries to create categories, to propose absolute models where one can find all possible concrete options. And, from this point of view, even if the painter vibrates spiritually and sits in an ambiguous metaphysical space, like all our artists in the seventies, from the point of view of form construction strategy and as type of language assumed, he is essentially a member of the eighties generation. The world becomes real and consistent not due to the painter’s mimetic skillfulness, by his fidelity to a pre-existing reference, but by the reading frames to which it is submitted, which explicitly means that it is born and validated exclusively in the formulation process. The object exists in his painting as long as the expression conventions, the science of codification and the capacity to reactivate the mechanisms of memory intend to accept and circulate this existence. The moment the interests of communication change, by a re-evaluation of the language and by giving the text new significations, the reality itself changes its nature and cleans its physiognomy. As the textualists of the eighties display their auctoriality and leave the reader the entire freedom to directly perceive the narrator’s voice, Dumitriu self-reflects in his own compositions not only as a moral presence and as a psychological portrait, but purely and simply as a somatic presence, slightly equivocal, by outlining the shadow. But only after carefully tracking the entire trajectory Ion Dumitriu followed until now and after patiently reading his texts about art, can we normally understand, as a fact of intimate continuity, what seems, at a certain moment, from the expressive and stylistic points of view, a breach. Because Ion Dumitriu is a lucid creator of images, one who thinks about them and, in no case, a slave of the visible world.

For thirty years, Ion Dumitriu painted the land. The rough land, the fertile land, the land in full germinating jubilation, and the metaphysical land, trembling with melancholies and the presentiment of extinction and emptiness. From a gloomy existence and an abstract principle, as the earth is in the order of direct reality and in the old cosmogonist reveries, Ion Dumitriu made a polymorphic world, a continuous show and a huge matrix in which are created all those living and lifeless, on which the eye rests shyly or voluptuously. The ploughman’s land and the shepherd’s land, with all their specific attributes and their entire inventory, have stood still on the artist’s paintings and, as they have found a symbolic space, they have left the profane time. In these images, monumental in proportions and hieratical in their feeling of a high solitude, in the absolute of a space redeemed by the power of dreaming and the joy of feeling, the conflicts have allayed, the immemorial adversities have stopped for a moment, the seed’s corner has reconciled with the fruit’s decay, the wicked Cain has embraced the angelic Abel and life itself throbs without spasms in the nearness of death. The insatiable universe of earth comprises everything: sensual and cold vegetation, the light’s shiver, the rhythms of some beam wall, the hot framework of some desert houses, the cart with hay, the barn and the hayrack, the potatoes, the beet, the ripen cherries and all the objects of a bizarre ethnography preserved only by the collective memory and the moist half darkness of the village museum. Ion Dumitriu wrote in beautiful signs this endless overflow of land, this tireless defiance of the amorphous and of stereotypy, with the discretion, tenacity and exactitude of an evangelist. He is the witness of an incredible adventure of existence, in which everything is born from the same source, grows under the same horizon and procreates according to the same infallible rules. Under his eyes, grass has sprung up from the earth, has blossomed, has become a hayrack, the tree has become a beam and the beam has procreated to become a wall, the skin let out to dry has become a riddle, the rotten fruit have scattered their seeds and the seeds have started all over again. All that is missing from this script of birth and death, of impetuous growth and latent erosion is the arrogant and narcissist presence of man, the sufficient argument of his show off face. But, essentially, man is present permanently and scattered everywhere. Without a face, he is the active consciousness, the ordering force of all those on the surface and the source of numberless melancholies underneath.

From time to time, a shadow drops out of the painting; a transparency coagulates from the vibration of the grass vibration or the granulation of the wall. The consciousness spontaneously gets the weight of vapor and the consistency of a wind blow; the artist’s consciousness? The viewer’s consciousness? Or, purely and simply, just an accident of the light?

The poetry of rustic spaces, the vibration in front of their density, the joy of touching, with your eyes, the humid elements or the burning shapes of the landscape are, through Dumitriu’s painting, definitely won, but also unique in our contemporary art. Unique by their formal nature, by their distinct expression, which, in time, has become a style and, especially, by the perfect cohabitation of clearness with mystery and of rational order with metaphysical shiver. But, when everything seemed forever set in the rigors of a vision that had already acquired its consecration and in a moral perspective that nothing could have broken up, Dumitriu rose in revolt. He left the earth, he abandoned the heavy colors and the voluptuous forms and he opened a window to the sky. He abruptly discovered the power of fascination of the air and the hidden aspiration of any mass to fight gravitation for the benefit of absolute freedom promised by the experience of imponderability. Even though, broadly speaking, he kept his iconographical motifs and his compositional structures, a radical change took place inside. For his world of consistent, strong and precisely circumscribed shapes, he needed an infinite, luminous space, without density. And this could only be the sky. But up there shapes disperse, the infinity bites the contour of things, bodies become mere schemes, and the void absorbs irrepressibly, like the whirlwind of a black hole. Death surprised Ion Dumitriu here, in this transition space, divided between two realities equally imperative: between Earth and Sky, between dusk and light, between cold and hot, between standing still and levitating. Maybe this change, arrived so late in his art, is not a complete stranger to the dull, insidious summons of death. Looking towards the zenith, Ion Dumitriu was slowly breaking loose from the final determinations of an earth that he had been rebuilding, for a lifetime, by the irrepressible power of art.

Romania Literara # 5, February 8-14, 2006

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