The Architecture of Transparency – a few assumptions

 

It has been long since there was a difference between “high” and “low” art. Nowadays, the concept of “visual arts” is large enough to cautiously contain an open, vivid reality which vibrates in the rhythm of so many facets of a culture and civilization proclaimed tolerant.

Through many examples of artists and works of art, glass has overcome its condition. It is no longer a mere formal – optic spectacular, rather facile and conscious of its limits. There are many examples of this kind in Romania, substantiated with those from sculpture and ceramics.

Mihai Topescu’s work merges with this direction. He is the artist who belongs to the intense “eighties generation” of Romanian contemporary art. He is the craftsman to whose creative exploration, glass, this difficult art of fire, has gradually surrendered its secrets.

Currently, Mihai Topescu is far from the spectacular “trompe l’oeil” with its multiple mirrors that create illusory interior spaces conferred by speculating the qualities of the optical glass. The artist approaches the colored glass directly, and correlates its volumes to the carved stone. There is a Brancusi like connection between the work and its stand, determining a double, complementary volume affiliation, which constitutes the whole of a sculpture.

The recurrent themes are ‘’The Gate” and “The Window” – seen as tunnels to the World Beyond (which is not an abyss, but a higher, purified world of the spirit, where the very essence of shapes  “ draw” aspirations, conclusions, openings). The transcendental aspiration that gave life to his works position some of them as attributes of sacred space. Such shapes, marking threshold/the passage, borrow something of the imagery of the “royal gates” of the orthodox iconography. “The windows” may be filters that symbolically color (in nuances of green and blue) the light, seen as the divine coming down on earth.

Therefore, his work is a fusion of sculpture with architectural suggestions, all transposed in this material with multiple optic – semantic properties, that range from the crystal clear concrete to mystery. Mihai Topescu imposes the rigorous classical prescription to glass, which is an ideal for the baroque spirit. Through the corporeal substance, archeological, fragment like suggestions of the stone, of the sculpture, the stands that hold the works of glass, imply a kind of baroque rebellion; in spite of the fact that they are shaped more like simple archaic Greek columns. There are a number of things in Mihai Topescu’s works that point towards the rich and tolerant eclecticism. As I have mentioned already, there are architectonic suggestions ascetic Greek, from the stone in which are engraved or from which erupt gothic forms, or Roman-Byzantine, roman-renascence. The shapes “drawn” firmly in glass conceal volumes that vibrate in their inner material through transparency diversions (an enchained turmoil). The “vision” offered to sight by glass, inviting to a deeper look beyond its cold “skin”, is balanced by the “impenetrable” carved stone, however, warm, humanized through the very trace left by the chisel, by the creative gesture.

In other words, through his “Windows” and “Gates”, Mihai Topescu uses three discourses specific to the glass artist, to the sculptor and the architect. Sometimes, his works contain the thought of the monument or even that of an ample set. Other times, moments in the history of architecture join in suggesting a selective history of civilization, the creative effort. The materials, opposites in “definition”, consistency and plastic implications, combine to prove that from the tumult of the material emerges something far beyond it.

I should also mention the fact that Mihai Topescu, although aspires to and reaches the attributes of a complex artist, does not ignore the (still) traditional value of the art of glass – the “decorative” side, the beauty of an object which brightens a space. And it is very good that it is so, as long as Mihai Topescu associates shape with spirit.

 

 

ADRIAN GUTA

ART CRITIC