feeder insider w/ Suzana Dan
I’ve known Suzana Dan since 2007 when she took part in the collective skateboard art exhibition “Ne Placă Ce Faci”. Back then I was completely fascinated with her amusing style of painting, garishly coloured and harmlessly shocking. By attending her exhibitions and a myriad of other events she was involved in, I found out along the way just how responsible she is for the smooth progress of Romanian contemporary art. Suzana graduated from the painting department of the National University of Arts in Bucharest in 1999 and aside from her personal or collective exhibitions, together with the Ephemair Association, she initiated and produced several major events on the contemporary art scene in Romania like Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor / NAG (The White Night of the Galleries), Art on Display and Bucharest Art Weekend. Now, I have the honor of interviewing her, so “here it goes!” and the rest is in the book…
keywords: color, contemporary art, self-irony
Hello, Suzi! This is what feeder would like to know about you (please, fill in the blanks):
Lately, I’ve been very… happy.
Living in Bucharest, I feel as if… I’m living in a Tom and Jerry episode.
First thing in the morning… I look for my coffee. It’s essential to starting a normal day.
I recently got the impression that… I’ve lost my immunity and I say this obsessively, much to the exasperation of my friends.
I can’t get enough of the colour… of euphoria. It’s a rainbow and it engulfs me in my love of everything that exists in colour, irrespective of its shade.
Along with the digital age… we turn the lights off later but I’m not so sure we’ve become more enlightened.
When I bump into a friend… I’m glad and frustrated at the same time because (more often than not) we live in the same city and yet we barely see each other as if we were worlds apart.
I love painting the most when… I don’t see it as procrastinating compared to the rest of the things I do.
Shoot a pigeon and… see where it goes.
Because I … enjoy it, it… gives me a headache.
3 artists and their works that spring to mind…
Vittore Carpaccio, San Giorgio e il dragono
Duane Michals, A letter from my father
Pierre Klossowski and Jean-Paul Reti, Diane et Actéon
Neon: Nice to see you! Is it true that Suzana Dan has always been busy and mysterious?
Suzana: Nice to see you too! Busy, yes, mysterious, no. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that I’m not the mysterious type and I’m succeeding in a “The Ray Bradbury Theater” sort of sense, where everything seems terribly normal and isn’t, in fact, the least bit so.
N: What triggered your first artistic revelation and how did it manifest so that you ended up staying in the art world?
Suzana @ studio
S: It wasn’t a revelation, it was a natural outcome of my professional training and of the personal experiences I’d had up to that point. I realized that this revelation you speak of doesn’t actually exist and that a sudden switch in your professional life can change your status but it won’t ever change your structure as a person/ inner workings. I tried it twice, once when I was working for two years at the Atomic Physics Platform in Măgurele and had I stayed there I would have become a specialist in the use of lasers and other optoelectronic methods of investigation and restauration of artworks. I’m not doing reenactments for Star Wars as an artist, but I have gained tremendously as a cultural manager because I learned how to build a project and nurture it in every sense (idea, organization, financial aspects, communication). The second time was when I went on a “sabbatical” for a few years, during which I put a huge amount of physical effort in mountain marathons and mountain bike races, trying to find balance within. It was with great joy that I discovered climbing, an extremely beautiful sport which feels like playing chess with your muscles and I discovered and also got pretty close to attending a balloon flight school because I was utterly obsessed with flying and these incredible structures.
All these years’ experience helped the human inside but it also helped me learn to relate to people in a more respectful and compassionate way.
And I remained an artist because I had an extraordinary childhood from which I keep extensive visual memories in my brain and also the experiences I had along the years and the support I received from the teachers I was lucky to learn from early on (the first being my father) convinced me that this is the way.
N: How did you choose your particular style of painting and what did forming it mean to you? I liked how you integrate neon colours and banter seemingly simple things in life…
S: As I was saying before, the style and content of my work are closely connected to my life. I don’t necessarily work with neon colours, on the contrary, I paint with normal colours (I do have a few fluorescent ones but I rarely use them because their contrast is quite difficult to balance even in the most imbalanced situations) and the resulting contrast between them has more to do with the experience acquired in my school years and the painting technology I learned. It’s like an alphabet you learn without being enslaved by it, you “forget” it but in fact in stays within you and functions as an aiding instrument in what you do. I do banter but I ridicule myself more. I prefer the so-called simple things in life because I consider them to be in fact essential to our structure as human beings.
Love, hate, fear and happiness have become “easy” subjects because everyone is “afflicted” by them. The sensational and the alleged uniqueness are the most sought after things but it’s hilarious how we reinvent the wheel every day.
And this is not something that I noticed and that I’m bragging about now, it’s, unfortunately, something noticed by enlightened minds we should be listening to.
N: It all begins with a blank surface and an idea. What is your approach at a conceptual and technical level?
S: I usually have the image in my head. It’s as if I had a script before me. If I were a director I probably wouldn’t be able to work with a rigid script because there are all sorts of situations and details which change in the process and which greatly alter the final aspect of a piece of work. But they never radically change it (if I know I’m painting a poodle, I’ll paint a poodle even if I start with a pink poodle and arrive at a flaming one).
“When in doubt, freak them out”, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 190 cm, 2014 @ Aiurart
N: It’s not so hard to obtain the resources for creating a piece as it is to gain its acknowledgment. What’s the recipe for success or at least something in its vicinity? What’s your advice to young students or to those who want to pursue an artistic career?
S: I think there are currently a number of “recipes for success”. It all hinges on each person’s decision regarding what it is that he first and foremost wants to be as a human. Do you want to compromise in your life or not? Are you willing to accept it? After that’s been sorted out, let’s proceed:
There’s a multitude of recipes being disseminated on social media as well – “how to become a successful contemporary artist” – that are shockingly true and 100% effective, casting aside the irony of it all. On the other hand, you can be honest with yourself and fight with this issue. Believe in what you want to do and especially enjoy what it is you’re doing. And last but not least be aware of the fact that you’ll never be loved by everybody. It would be weird and unhealthy. (10 years later I still pride myself on my title of “manelistă of painting”)
“How deep is your love?” installation, 2014 @ Aiurart
N: What does the UAP do nowadays for contemporary art? Is their involvement of substance or is it the private sector that’s prevalent?
S: The UAP changed a great deal in recent years in terms of its leadership’s functional structure as well as its vision. They don’t have the resources that they used to have, a lot of people imagine that the UAP holds boundless funds and resources, but unfortunately that’s not the case. But the organization has an infrastructure with the potential to become not only a place where its tens of branches justify its existence but also a structure where new artists can be included and have a chance at becoming active members in the cultural life. With regard to its financial involvement, you can’t speak of the UAP as a financier. From the outset, the UAP offers assistance only to its members, if at all. But there are other state institutions which are dedicated to this field: ArcuB, the Ministry of Culture, AFCN etc. and in order to access the funds, they provide you need only be an artist with a tax code and debt free towards the state to be instantly deemed eligible to apply.
The private sector is undoubtedly important in financing cultural projects. Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor has found in Raiffeisen Bank a stable partner for quite a few years. Likewise, with the other major events in Bucharest and the country, if you take a look at their partners you’ll see that the majority are from the private sector.
N: Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor is already a tradition in Bucharest. How did you manage to bring the project to this level and what should we expect for the ninth edition next year? Also, considering the scale of the event, who is providing the necessary support to see it through?
S: NAG is a project which (I can honestly say) played a rather important role in the development of contemporary art scene in Bucharest and beyond. The few of us who work to organize it, we loved it from the very beginning and we fought to keep it as righteous and uncompromising as possible.
Of course, we made a lot of mistakes and we hope that we managed to fix them as we went so that we were all happy. We hope that for the 9th edition of Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor we can afford to produce even more projects of the same caliber as the “Passage” exhibition at Anexa MNAC, which was the most successful exhibition we’ve produced so far. As I was saying, we’ve had a stable partner for the last few editions, Raiffeisen Bank, whose assistance we hope we can count on for the next editions as well and maybe the other two projects of the Ephemair Association: Art on Display and Bucharest Art Weekend, which we wish will become as popular as NAG.
“Nu mă supăr să dispar”, acrylic on canvas, 155 x 160 cm, 2014 @ Aiurart
N: Will you tell us about the new projects you’ve had this year, Bucharest Art Weekend and Art On Display?
S: Art on Display is an idea which excited me from the outset and I’m very happy it received befitting feedback from both the public and its participants. It’s a visual invasion of the public space without reducing the pedestrian perimeter which is already constricted by the thoroughfares. Art on Display creates a visual image whose contents offers a radically different discourse from the bombardment of seductively commercial imagery. Passing by such a display, the onlooker on the street will have a “break” in his daily visual trajectory. Without altering his course, without going into a gallery, the passer-by will be confronted in the street with the message of a work of art rather than a shop window. This is what I dreamed of and this is exactly how it happened on the first edition of Art on Display. I witnessed firsthand people who regardless of the time would stop in the street and look at these displays. Touché!
Bucharest Art Weekend is a natural successor of Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor twice in the same year, we decided to have it in May and schedule Bucharest Art Weekend for October. Moreover, aside from the event’s daytime program, this time we wish to map out only the contemporary art galleries, excluding other alternative spaces (another group whose development we’ve been supporting ever since NAG’s first edition and which has already become a very potent structure) because it’s good to have an event which exclusively outlines a map of permanent locations dedicated to the promotion of contemporary visual art.
N: You’ve just had the opening of a new personal exhibition. What’s it called and what other lunacies have you been up to?
S: The exhibition is called “Playground” and I was granted the support and involvement of Erwin Kessler, the event’s curator, plus the extraordinary people of the Aiurart gallery. I’m not going to spill the beans, so to say, you’re welcome to see for yourselves on the scene what we’ve been up to, until January 24th 2015. And I can’t finish my presentation of this exhibition without (forever) thanking a long list of friends who helped me tremendously to wrap up this project!
“Grava amenințare”, installation of 50 bunnies, 2014 @ Aiurart
N: What do you think feeder.ro has done for the Romanian contemporary art movement in its 10 years of existence?
S: Feeder is like Igu, the initiator of this project. Whoever knows Igu knows what I’m talking about 🙂 Back when there were no other means to find out what’s going on in the city, feeder was the only source of information. It’s the early 2000’s that I’m talking about! In those days, nettime-ro, Începem and Feeder were the only active platforms for broadcasting and discussing contemporary and international art events after the great schism of the Syndicate platform, Spectre list was just getting started and E-flux was still functioning in an apartment room in New York. So feeder.ro was one of the pioneers, of course, it had some ups and downs, we all have them, but I hope it will continue as lovely and uncompromisingly as in the beginning.
N: Many thanks for everything! Take care!
S: Thank you!
photos by feeder.ro
Feeder Insider explores the universe surrounding music and visual arts through open conversations with local and international artists. Join us here on our weekly crossing of the border between human and technological. An editorial project co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN).