Tales of Entropy and Light

26 October – 24 November 2017

00COV_Tales of Entropy and Light - exhibition view

Artist: Alexandra Șerban

Location: Sector 1 Gallery

Cluj based artist Alexandra Șerban reveals herself, in the works featured in Tales of Light and Entropy exhibition, to be a “pure breed” painter, for whom painting is a complex, complete and expressively rich medium of artistic production, which she approaches with a seemingly inexhaustible enthusiasm. Her exhibited works come in a variety of sizes and formats, yet they possess a remarkable unity of semantic content and an unmistakable coherence of painterly style, namely a gestural and vigorous approach of the surface, aimed at producing delightfully unctuous representation of fragments of reality. Watching Șerban’s works from the last three years or so, one is almost unavoidably lead to the realization of the fact that gender stereotypes regarding painting are largely deceiving and useless. Thus, the manner of painting that she chooses to deploy has been often associated with male artists belonging to historical eras ranging from the Baroque to Romanticism to the historical avant-garde. This spectacular painterly approach has thus either been praised as liberating by means of its inner dynamics or criticized as a mark of an oppressive, elitist, male dominated and exclusive culture. However, though such a stylistic approach can be easily misconstrued as macho and rhetorically avant-gardist, in the case of Șerban, it is nothing more (or less) than a skilfully mastered means to reach a refined, quite specific and personal aesthetic goal.
Alexandra Șerban is in search of beauty attained by the eruption of a sensuousness that is inherent in the textures and hues of the oil paint, regardless of motif or size; the pigment is applied on the surface of the canvas with energetic gestures, without hesitations and the perspective from which landscape or architecture elements are viewed always offers them a surplus of dynamicity and contributes essentially to the overall atmosphere of each image. If, in cases like many of the gestural or abstract expressionist paintings of the forties and fifties, the impetuosity of the painterly gesture was almost in a compulsory way accompanied by large sizes, in Șerban’s case, size is of less importance in itself, as marker of heroic or emphatic grandeur, as she is remarkably able to endow her large paintings with delicate elegance and her small works with unintimidating monumentality. Building on this savoury features, the paintings in the show – which mostly depict deserted, fragmentary landscapes and / or derelict architectural elements– are dominated by exuberance, but also infused by overtones of nostalgia; they all also retain a charmingly tactile quality. Besides representation, the underlying topics of Șerban’s paintings since 2015 on are more fundamentally visual and perhaps as old as (oil) painting itself: light, perspective and texture. Her works in the show at Sector 1 seemingly have the ambition of proving that exploring such basic expressive means never goes out of fashion, that the magic by which painting can translate and transfigure reality into spectacular images can be perennially fascinating. The fragments of the world that she frames and paints are not random, yet they are not necessarily spectacular in themselves. It is the angle in which they are viewed by the painter and the lushness of the paint that is deployed that award them a dreamlike quality and imbue them with a subtle melancholia, while at the same time offering them an uncannily fresh appearance. All in all, there are underlying tensions that are of the essence in the process by which her paintings elicit an aesthetic experience and induce sensory pleasure. Firstly, in Șerban’s paintings from Tales of Light and Entropy, the semantics of vanitas implausibly, yet fascinatingly combine with the feeling of an impetuous joi de vivre, which is almost impossible not to be semantically and almost somatically inferred from the energizing and liberating joy of painting that is so emphatically present in all of them. Secondly, visual pleasure is derived from the contrast between the carefully thought and constructed structures of her compositions, in which perspective plays an essential, theatrical role, on one hand, and the richness of texture and carefree sensuousness of the pigment, on the other hand. The apparent messiness of the painted surfaces is deceiving: a more attentive eye will discover that angles and lighting are skilfully used in order to tame the apparent crudeness of the impasto. Thus, geometry and light are pitched against the recalcitrant messiness of matter and the tyranny of time, and thrilling beauty is revealed to dwell in the abysses of entropy.

Installation views

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