A Professor Tulp of Glass, Adrian Guta, 2010


Mihai Topescu, by the movie directed by Bogdan-Cristian Dragan, offers access to the laboratory of a noble art of fire: glass. As observers, we follow a process, as live as possible, even incandescent, which is the difference from “cold” Anatomy Lesson…painted by Rembrandt. The film is an essay, not a mere documentary, and the link with the Dutch master is visually created more at the level of the effects of chiaroscuro, obtained by the cinematographer by dint of the subtle modulation of the relation between light and shade in the images taken during work inside the studio, and by the artist himself by the density of the tint compared to the candescent surfaces, in the drawings engraved in the surface of glass.

The series of work and the movie Glass Anatomy singularizes as objects and presents through moving images a new stage in the work of Mihai Topescu, a stage in whose universe a new innovative technique triggers a particular encounter of the art of glass, sculpture, drawing and etching.

Mihai Topescu is a complex artist, dedicated from his very beginnings as a glass artist, yet always adding, this material and its “vocabulary”, other materials and techniques, thus installing harmonious and fertile dialogues of the modalities of expression. Each chapter of his work brings new things, by dint of an experimental tension which boosts the author’s approach. Restless seeking is obtained – a major aspect – with a respect keeping in mind Brancusi and the specificity of the materials. Behind each series, each work, in their substance, there is consuming labour, many hours of work, but, finally, the visible fruitage, the piece of art offered our eyes, expresses only aesthetic accomplishment and a shared happiness of creating, the whole effort is falling on a second place, invisible to the receiver.

The Glass Anatomy represents yet another expression of the full artistic maturity of Mihai Topescu, doubled by that of his technique, the latter, in this case, with the statue of a pioneering one. The converge of the two “quality certificates” confirms the really competitive position of the Romanian artist worldwide in glass art.

For anyone that has been approaching, on a long term, artistic thought and diligently studies the working process from the ides sketch to the finite product, it becomes clear that Mihai Topescu is manifest in his wish and pleasure to metamorphose the reality surrounding us into an artistic sign and the ineffable construction into a multitude of visual crystallisations, caught between drawing and sculpting (as generic terms). On the same line of thought, line, form and colour have a compatible importance in his “discourse”.

Glass Anatomy, in terms of the iconography captive under the layer of glass, starts from the drawings of the artist, accumulated in time. The idea of the movie, on the other hand, speculates, in a postmodern way, on a classical landmark of world painting which gives weight, as a referential support, to the intention of the contemporary author, yet, at the same time, it justifies the synthetic cinematographic narrative in its quality “witness” of the stages of the creative process and of the importance of the teamwork under the master’s leadership spirit; the pedagogical nuance is not rigidly imposed, being rhythmed by a playful spirit. It is as if were in the workshop of a modern Hephaestus, when the working piece comes and goes near or deep in the fire of the furnace.

The works, ovoid as essential shape and plane on one side where some kind of “stalactites” were applied (also made of glass, like the whole volume), offer our eyes, on the other side, portrait-like images or composition, whose making bears the mark of a new technique. The engraving is swiftly executed, on the hot; at different stages there is an operation of paintings on wood. The colours, black, gold, red, green, white, make up the chromatic register of the images.

Portraits of men, women, troubadours and scenes of carnival, Shakespearean themes freely and allusively interpreted, sequences of inner views, the presence of fabulous composite animals, as a metaphorical references to our contemporary Babylonian world, the self-portrait that gives proof of the artist’s noble yet full of responsibility condition, would be the landmarks that confer an ideating identity to the works that form the series that constitutes the subject of the present notes. The anthropomorphic structures are simplified, often in a primitive way, sometimes vitalized with (neo)expressionistic energy, figures particularized with mere strokes, with an elegant line, almost oriental, are presented to us seen from the front, profile or half profile. A sense of the decorative, at the level of the linear trajectories and of the chromatic relations, imposes itself in several examples. We should not forget the expressive force of the “magnetic field lines” of the tint, creating chiaroscuro and atmosphere and which make us think back to Rembrandt again, especially his etching. The Romanian artist, given the particular shape and type of surface on which the image develop, adapts himself, in the compositions with several characters, to the requirements of what we call, since the art of the Antiquity, “the frame rule”.

It can easily be noticed, even from the way in which this commentary was structured, that the works from which I started are, as I have already pointed out, by an artist that starts from the raw material which is glass to make a sculpture, associated to drawing and etching. It is a synthesis that helps Mihai Topescu demonstrates, once again, that he is among those for whom the art of the fire represents a territory of a major artistic discourse.