Mihai Topescu and His Lesson of Glass “Anatomy”

The artist’s present cycle of works, entitled Anatomy of Glass is constructed around the idea of an ironic retort to Rembrandt’s celebrated painting, Anatomy Lesson. Starting from that, Mihai Topescu together with director Cristian Bogdan Dragan produce an artistic movie where, the artist and the director reveal the mysteries embound in the “body” of glass, catching, with a refined sensitivity, the moment of birth.

In an expressive scenario, with the artist, having the main part, and prentices, the glass bowers, dressed up in epoch costumes similar to those in the Rembrandtian masterpiece, Mihai Topescu creates, live, his objects, the director having the role to catch and give potential to this very ineffable moment in time when the work in born.

Cristian Bogdan Dragan, discretely gambling on this similitude, managed to seize, with expressiveness and coherence, the artistic journey of a unique experience – and, in the end, unrepeatable – representing the moment of creation. The dynamism of the images keenly caught, the repeated references to the dissection of the human body, normally taking the vanishing point towards the purifying incandescence of the furnace where the artist, a nowadays Hephaestus, is “baking” this work, turn this film of “Auteurs” into a privileged moment of creation.

The film, a short movie, is a preface to the most recent cycle conceived by the artist in these last two years.

The 22 works together with the movie had been seen at the Art Museum in Craiova for the first time. For many years, we could say that it has been part of the tradition for him to be presenting his latest works there, during the International Shakespeare Festival.

It has been Mihai Topescu’s long term decision to be acting in a space highly integrated into everyday life, where glass cohabits with performance and, as we have already mentioned, with the movie, thus trying to democratize the borders of a domain otherwise quite rigid and, by its nature, die-hard.

For this purpose, I would identify two of the major lines that are making his universe now. One of these might be, on a conceptual level, the implication of this art genre in a quite manifest contemporaneity, which is atypical to such approach. The artist creates, in glass, sometimes combined with wood, metal or stone, characters inspired from our immediate referencing more or less obviously to our everyday life. The epic character, so atypical to the art of glass, constitutes his deliberate attempt to break thought patterns, such as glass having a signally decorative role or, more recently, also existing in a zone of symbolist expressiveness, yet nowise in that of a habitual, prosaic reality.

Another characteristic, that we would like to bring out, is the more and more defined attempt, from one exhibition to another, to invest glass with a plastic value specific to painting and graphics. That is chromatically and graphically worked in the “flesh” of glass, with an accuracy and force of expression equal to the one obtained on a traditional medium, specific to those techniques.

The idea of transposing in an atypical material the virtues of the line and colour is explained by his long suppressed wish to paint. The painter hidden behind the glass artist is now revealed, bringing to light not only this long awaited “opening up”, yet the very essence if his untold creed that the artistic substance is one and, consequently, it can cross borders, seemingly difficult to overcome. But, to materialize such a road needs a lifetime’s patience and experience. Under this aspect, the force of expression of the material, the epic charge of the object and even its aesthetics references, to some extent, become, inevitably, a “secondary play” of the demonstration that it is in and not on the glass that pictures similar to paintings may be realized. They are conceived like settings, propose a discourse and await a reaction of the public.

The sensation that this latest cycle leaves is that of a unifying framework where the écriture is materialized in a coherent ensemble that highlights creator’s stylistic matrix.  It is also felt the hand of the “narrateur” that gives birth to the characters acting according to a well-structured scenario.

We could better introduce ourselves into the intimacy of this discourse also with the help of the film that reveals the laboratory of creation where the matter is wrought live, using the traditional blowing technique or with a free and tempered hand, due to the proposed innovation, that of creating figurative pictures, colorful portraits in the body of glass, by successive baking.  It is his wish to capture the reflection of reality, of the portrait, in this case, which, yet, implies, behind the stage effects, often spectacular, labour, knowledge, in short, a deep understanding of the matter in which he expresses himself.

By aiming at such an exploratory approach, in both substance and the properties of the glass, Mihai Topescu triggered, because of the “daring” of his plastic vision, a challenge against the limits of our own understanding managing to transfer us some of the tension and restlessness of the one who, always pryingly, tries to “evaluate” the new frontiers.

Wavering between the appellatives “glass artist”, “painter” “graphic artist”, I am trying to express what Topescu really is in his most recent works, starting from elements and gestures, apparently contradictory or not exactly conventional, he reaches totally ineffable results.

Indefatigable seeker in hid elected field of activity – glass – Mihai Topescu manages, with these works as well, to better define his particular discourse and, especially, technique to offer a “sample” of artistic contemporaneity.

Catalin Davidescu

Art Critic