A review of 2020

Looking back on this year I realize that there were too many identical days and it seems that 2020 was like a day that lasted 12 months. The world around us grew very quiet at the start of the total lockdown period. It was like the first day of the new year when everyone is at home minus the celebratory aspect. In January I started reading a very instructive book on how to unblock creativity which kept me afloat until September when I finished it. It’s called “The Artist’s Way” and it was written by Julia Cameron. It involves keeping a journal and a lot of introspection and awareness enhancing exercises. I will keep recommending it from now on.

In February I went on a short trip to Berlin and I managed to drag out the post-travel euphoria until March. At first, when the pandemic hit, I wasn’t able to make art but when I realized that things were not going to change very soon I went back to work. I started an oil painting of an indigenous child from the Amazonian rainforest, one of the places that were hardest hit by the pandemic, and I simultaneously worked on the Bessarabia project based on the accounts of my grandmother who had to flee her home overnight with her family from the Russian army during World War II. When the images of trains filled with refugees became unbearable I went back to painting and that’s how I managed to keep working. Three months after finishing the portrait of the indigenous child I covered it with non-toxic varnish but it was much too soon (you have to wait at least 6 months before varnishing an oil painting). Unable to intervene I watched in horror as the oil paint came loose from the canvas. However, many months after that event, the painting looks okay, it’s only slightly textured. After this mistake, I went on to remake the portrait in watercolor pencils on a paper four times smaller than the initial canvas. I exhibited the artwork in October during my first group exhibition and I sold it to a nice young family in Sibiu.

Locked inside, I missed traveling very much so my next artwork was created after reading about the Islamic art of Andalusia which is very well represented by the Mosque cathedral of Cordoba. I drew the hypostyle prayer hall in which a ballerina with a hijab is dancing with a smile on her face, free of the constraints imposed by Islam. It took me 6 months to finish it. At the same time I started painting on a large canvas with acrylics using a method I had not used in a long time, surrealist automatism which consists of letting the lines flow out of my brush without any idea of what I am about to paint. The result was “Confrontation”, a landscape from a hypothetical future about the increasing lack of resources and the fight for territory among the species of plants and animals. In the background, human civilization, represented by a tower of civilizations, is collapsing. The “tower of civilizations” is a reference to one of my previous artworks, “Sanctuary” (2014). I finished the piece in 7 months.

In July, the Develop Association started a new community project - the Urban Garden - meant to revitalize a square in a neighborhood of Sibiu which was in a really poor shape. While the urban gardeners were reconfiguring the alleys, planting new seedlings and constructing a wooden platform, I also contributed by adding my art on a street pole, covering the bad graffiti and adding colorful bugs and ants. The Urban Garden is currently being used for cultural events and meetings between friends and we hope that the project will be replicated in other parts of Sibiu.

I like to listen to podcasts or music while I work. Not always. But when I have a clear idea of what I will be working on, if there’s a background I need to paint, details from nature or something that I know I can do well, I like to work while listening to pieces of knowledge. This year I listened to the Great Women Artists podcast produced by curator Katy Hessel about the surprising lives of women artists and The Women’s War, a podcast by Robert Evans about the Kurdish women in Syria fighting in the YPJ (allies of the democratic Syrian Forces).

I did not expect to get any commissions or projects all summer and I didn’t really try to get any. I managed to finish all the projects I started, I learned the discipline of creativity which I wasn’t accustomed to and I did not let myself be dragged down by bad days. I finally felt that I was able to approach an artistic career in a rational and calculating manner.

At the end of September I was invited to take part in my first group exhibition which coincided with my first participation at the White Night of the Galleries, a three-day nationwide event for contemporary art lovers. I was delighted to be invited by Ioana Pasc to exhibit at NOOK, a co-working space in Sibiu, I handled the graphic design for the event and I got the most precious reward: meeting the art lovers of Sibiu, generous and beautiful people. During the same event we celebrated the opening of a new exhibition space in Sibiu: Artă.Nonstop Gallery.

In October I was invited by A.L.E.G. (Association of Gender Freedom and Equality) to talk to artist Dan Perjovschi about gender (in)equality in the art world. I was very nervous but I got over it when I got to our meeting place, Perjovschi’s Horizontal Newspaper, a public art piece which always fills me with the desire to fix the injustices of the world. The subject of our discussion was a personal one; I had faced gender inequality so many times in my life and I was eager to talk about it.

In the last weeks of November, Sibiu was put under a strict lockdown again so I decided to do one drawing a day to practice, to get my mind off isolation and to make a habit out of drawing more often. In December I had to quit because we got a foster dog and I was busy taking care of it.

In last year’s review I wrote that 2020 was going to be one hell of a year and so it was in creative terms. I had a lot of time to dedicate to art making and it kept me focused on research and experimentation. I learned how to make art with no inspiration and I think that isolation had its rewards. However, I cannot wait to get vaccinated!

Thank you for your support this year! If you want to see TOM artworks in 2021, go visit NOOK on 22 Victoriei Bvd, first floor. “The Mother Ship”, “Plastic Ocean” and “The Mosque of Cordoba” are still exhibited there.

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