Gheorghe Craciun

On Ion Dumitriu’s Painting In 1089 Words

Naturally, by the visual and tactile obsessions conditioning its emergence, Ion Dumitriu’s painting is organized in a number of thematic cycles: the stray, the barn, the joist-head and, lately, the natural shadow. Given this area of interest, constantly asserted by always other sequences of hypostatization, the other motifs (the tree, the landscape, the germinated potatoes, the apples) acquire the role of those temporarily relaunching to the multiplicity of the real. Systematically investigated, the concrete the artist discovers is eventually reduced to essential constant shapes. Regarded in their strict contingency, as existing independently, Ion Dumitriu’s theme-objects are not spectacular or unusual. They belong to a world that one can immediately recognize, are the stereotyped emblems of the universe of the peasant world. Nevertheless, the painter’s pictures surprise us, challenge us, as if it were for the first time we discovered some things we had considered well known for a long time. Ion Dumitriu’s art teaches us to see also what we only used to recognize.

I recall the contents of the last three exhibitions at Simeza Gallery and I notice the fact that, starting 1982, Ion Dumitriu deliberately subjected his painting to an approach of restraining to the detail and of particularizing the objects shown. The grass field of older landscapes turned into hay. And hay means a rick, a loaded cart, an inside of a barn, an entrance to the attic or simply an abstract surface in a landscape style, in order to become an inside, a shelter, a gate, a door or a wicket, a wall, a board surface, the beam structure, the joist-head. It is like a zoom that follows, through a sequence of photograms, the drawing close to a certain
part, considered as significant, of an object of vast size. This is also about a pars pro toto principle, but not only. The looking from very close of a surface is of a nature to reveal us its fascinating "monstrosity" (the notion has nothing frightening in itself, as etymologically speaking, the word "monster" comes from the Latin "monstro" – to show), that is its peculiar appearance, unnatural, extra-ordinary. When looking at Ion Dumitriu’s paintings, the on-looker feels as if invaded by the perplexity of discovering the unusual into the usual. One may experience such feelings when confronted with the poetry or theatre of Bertolt Brecht, author of a theory of "detachment" as a source of aesthetic freshness. Further on, the German writer’s view is not far from the famous "ostranenie" (the seclusion technique), as it was described by the Russian formalists and analyzed by Victor Sklovski in relationship with Tolstoi’s prose.

I shall try to present further on three of the possibilities seclusion has in painting, which the artist makes use of with an amazing availability. The first of them is the result of being acquainted with the technique and the space frames of taking pictures through telescopic lens. The object (usually a barn or a tree) is snatched to its own place of being, and the depth of focus is annihilated. Exempted from the presence of the surrounding elements, the barn, for instance, is pointed out in all its particular, empiric and geometric visibility. Opposite, as a background, a vivid uniform and decorative color is used. The second way of being detached from the usual is a natural consequence of the convention of the framed sight. This time is about unexpected cutting outs, also involving a disappearance of the concrete mark that may help to the reconstitution of the object. This is a sample technique. Nevertheless, the artist is not interested in changing the surface of his motif into a quite abstract plan, but to maintain it into the real plan. Either by the board or wattle walls, or the peeled off side of a frontage, close to the fragment of a stone foundation, the painter never forgets about the grass or, sometimes, the sky. By such methods, the on-looker’s perplexity, who hesitates between figurative-nonfigurative in interpreting the image in front of him/her, is maintained undamaged. In the joist-heads cycle, the cutting out technique pushes to its ultimate consequences, where the fact that the object belongs to the real is almost ignored. This time, the stake is on what Roger Caillois used to call "the fantastic of the reality". The painter shows us there is not only a fantastic of the stone, but also one of the old piece of wood, Sun-ripen, split, dote, crumbled by deathwatches, chromatically ennobled by its own degradation.

However, seclusion is also possible by cultivating analogy, a formal homology. Extracting the element represented from its original context or a pictorial analysis made on parts of surfaces are the consequences of a phenomenology of the space demarcation. Still, the objects can sometimes be depicted as if they were something else. Germinated potatoes may sometimes look like some coral reefs or some thorny marine animals. The ruined walls, peeled off, may appear to be clouded areas. The hayricks may be interpreted as a feminine torso, the wood of a yoke suggests velvet-like skin, and the meadowland a path crosses becomes a huge leaf. In turn, joist heads look like trees, pointed arches, labyrinths, domes, shells, amours, fingerprints. A horizontal joist packed with nails turns into a strip of parchment covered with the signs of an unknown alphabet.

Seclusion reaches its climax in the "shadows" cycle (of which the artist has never exhibited a painting so far). Neither the space cutting off, nor the way of treating the object through the technique of "as if" is unexpected here, but the physical presence of the motif itself. All the things gathered in the frame have the sole role of rendering the shadow visible. In addition, this one, the shadow of a person, of a chair, of a tree, projected on a fence, on a hayrick or on a barn gate, has the capacity to turn everything into the purest metaphysics. It is with the help of the shadow that Ion Dumitriu manages to confer a new dimension to the self-portrait. The dark projection of a hatted head is a start in marking the objects the artist simply represented so far, ignoring evidence that he is the one looking at them. The on-looker’s shadow now turns to be higher, getting hold of the motifs that used to belong to him by right and lifting to the power of concrete the abstract significance of the author’s signature. By this, Ion Dumitriu’s painting becomes self-reflective.
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