feeder insider w/ Roman Tolici [en]
He slips by unremarked on the street, always prepared to find amazement in the ordinary and to capture its authentic moments; in the art world however he is impossible to pass unnoticed. Through his meaningful works sparked by profound observation and analysis, spiced up with an equally playful and tragic character, Roman Tolici has gained local and international acclaim, exploring themes such as death, religion, identity, the social and political backdrop and autobiographical elements as well. Born in 1974 in the Ghetlova village of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova and settled in post-December Romania as a stipendiary of the Romanian state where he took animation and graphics courses, Roman Tolici highlights various aspects of life in Eastern Europe in his works while reflecting on universal questions. The 8th of October brings another personal exhibition of the artist at the Mobius Gallery and we took this opportunity to bring into discussion his artistic journey, his way of perceiving reality and the relationship between modern man and art.
keywords: hyperrealism, detail, East, analytical, bunny
I’m an avid consumer of… water.
The first thing I notice about a person… depends on the person. For some people what catches my attention are the eyes, for other, the shoes etc.
I miss… everything. All the time.
My favorite street in Bucharest… Victoriei Street.
Mondays… can be wonderful if you’re vacationing, on the seashore, enjoying the end of the weekend commotion.
I like being surrounded by… the Universe.
The last dream I had… is impossible to share.
My favorite color… all of them.
3 promising Romanian artists… Brâncuși, Tzara, Bârlădeanu.
Violeta Năzare: Hello, Roman, nice to meet you! We’re anxious about your next exhibition, „Simulacrum”, which marks the opening of the Mobius Gallery. What can you tell us about the works you’ll be presenting on this occasion?
Roman Tolici: Hello Violeta, hello Feeder! “Simulacrum”, the exhibition which marks the opening of the Mobius Gallery, is comprised of a new series of works tackling essential concepts which form the framework for our everyday life: present, past, future, time, death, life, love, space and nonspace, truth and its nuanced perceptions. I poetized the images near the end, placing them in a purged space of surrealistic persuasion, distorting the notions represented on a pictorial as well as conceptual level, I tried to objectively express subjective perceptions. Throughout the entire series I used the negative for naming, as a means of affirmation, but also interrogation – There is no time. There is no death. There is no love and so forth.
We live in an age where we are subjected to simulacra in all aspects of life, in communication, in ideology, in the economy, in the media and the environment, in nutrition, in emotion, in art. Simulacra so present and persistent, which succeed in imitating the original to such an extent that we perceive them as original and authentic. I tried to express this new truth of the post-modern age, which is that there is no truth.
V.N.: It’s been 13 years since your first personal exhibition at Galeria DeInterese in Bucharest. What are your memories of this experience? How did it influence you and how does it compare to your current exhibitions?
R.T.: It was an experience and an exhibition which paved the way to who I am today, towards a responsible and professional approach to art. I was given the chance to work with the first post-revolutionary gallery, which (finally!) appeared 10 years after the revolution and set the tone for the return of painting as an artistic product integrated in a capitalistic economic circuit. Although the possibilities and the resources at the time were different, I treated the exhibition itself with the same dedication I apply to my current exhibits.
V.N.: Referring to the situation pertaining art in Moldova, you were saying in an interview that artists should create their own mediums of exposition, look for alternative venues where they can showcase their works. How do you think the perception of art is affected by the space in which it is presented? Does the fact that more and more exhibitions are being held in unconventional settings facilitate the public’s approach to art or, on the contrary, does it trivialize our relationship with art?
R.T.: Moldova is finding itself in the same situation Romania was in at the end of the ’90s and the beginning of the year 2000, when the lack of galleries was keeping artists and art in general at a standstill. Galeria DeInterese was created back then by us artists as a medium of exhibition, the natural alternative to the official venues belonging exclusively to the UAP. We transformed a random space into a place that was solely reserved to art.
I don’t believe in exhibitions thrown together in spaces designed for other purposes than art. I don’t believe in sidewalk, bar, restaurant, hotel lobby or city hall exhibitions. Such venues don’t bring the public closer to art, they alienate it, they create the impression that art is something detached from life and its necessities, that its purpose is merely decorative or entertaining.
V.N.: What’s your view on street art? Where do you place it in the artistic context?
R.T.: It’s important to differentiate the concept of street art from the exhibition of art in alternative spaces which we were previously referring to. It’s an anarchic form of art, tempting to many people precisely because of its formal illegality, wherein the environment itself is the base for artistic creation. Unfortunately, since it’s accessible to all and more often than not anonymous, it breeds a lot of bullshit which can’t be sanctioned in any way.
V.N.: You’re inseparable from your camera, a valuable instrument in documenting your work. Did it ever happen to you, on reviewing your photos, to notice details you hadn’t been aware of when you were taking the shot and captured involuntarily? Do you use certain pictures as a model for your paintings or do you combine elements from different pictures to create a setting or character? What inspires you and how do you complete the journey from idea to finished product?
R.T.: Indeed, I always have my camera on me, not as a piece of luggage I take out when I see something worth photographing, but hanging by the neck, always prepared for triggering, as an instrument of my visual memory. I often don’t even look through the viewfinder, owing to autofocus and the digital capacity of storage, I simply take a shot, capturing life almost at random, actually discovering thereafter details that had been overlooked when taking the picture, discovering that beauty exists whether we notice it or not when we pass by it. And when it comes to painting I don’t replicate good shots, instead I use photographs as a reference base for convincingly creating and recreating worlds, visions.
I’m inspired by the world, its seen and unseen image, the experiences lived by myself or others, the ideas shared by the people of today and of yore, my own ideas which take shape through my interaction with the world, through understanding or being bewildered by it. And the journey from idea to finished product is a cognitive adventure, of enjoying creation.
V.N.: Your preferred means of expression is oil painting on canvas, but you’ve also done works in ink, watercolor, acrylic or markers. What determines the choice of a particular technique?
Painting is queen. It’s the most tried, the most opportune, the most expressive, the most hallucinatory but also the most difficult technique and artistic environment.
In my artistic studies painting was always present, but having been in the Graphics department at the Arts Academy and the Animation section at the Tonitza high school, I mostly did drawing, my actual oil painting studies consisting of the 2 years I spent at art school in Chișinău, where there were no departments and where everyone began by studying watercolors, then oil painting. All these exercises developed skills which enabled me to alternate various techniques and the choice of technique on any given work depends on the symbolistic charge, the complexity of vision or simply my internal state.
V.N.: You experimented with prose and poetry – what drew you towards writing? Where there times when you felt the need to add words for a painting to fully convey its message? And when it comes to your creative process, the inspiration and mood required to create, are there any differences between writing and painting?
My friend Mitoș Micleușanu, a confirmed polyvalent, encouraged me to write, telling me that talent is a generalized gift and if you possess it you can make use of it in any field.
It was after graduating college and I was working as an illustrator in an advertising agency, where I wasn’t being kept very busy, so I began to write. In time I gathered a bunch of short stories and bits of flash fiction, minimal poems, or very long ones. Some of them not bad. I gave a few readings at the Euridice literary circle, held by Marin Mincu at the Museum of Literature, the Tomis magazine in Constanța actually published a few, even awarded me a literary debut prize. Maybe Mitoș had a point but somewhere along the line I decided I had to make a choice and that’s when painting started taking up more and more time. At the moment I only write casual journal entries or the occasional poem. I don’t think there are any radical differences concerning inspiration or state of mind whether I’m painting or writing, not even in terms of creative process. Both instances strive for aestheticism of ideation. I did integrate words in some of my paintings, especially in the beginning, but I usually avoid them, as painting has the advantage of lending itself to understanding without the need to be translated into another language.
V.N.: Your last exhibition, „MILK. HONEY. BLOOD.”, reunites two series of oil paintings on canvas with a set of objects made of epoxy resin which seem to continue the imagery of „The Gospel According to Santa Claus”. What made you represent the divine in association with the image of the bunny? Why choose sculpture over painting for the MILK series?
R.T.: The story behind the association between the bunny and divinity started from my own confusion towards the Easter bunny, in reference to „The Gospel According to Santa Claus”. The symbolic interpretation of the rabbit starting from the Middle Ages and all the way to our time is so rich that choosing it as a representative for divinity seemed justifiable. In the „Gospel” as well as in „Milk” the bunny isn’t an animal, it’s a toy, thus making it easier both for me and the public to approach divinity with a childlike attitude. As religion functions within a magical vision of the world, I associated it with the stage in human development known as childhood, when we all function within the same paradigm of magic. With „Milk” I wanted to further this exploration, embodying the gods and prophets of humanity’s main religions in toy bunnies, in a germinal state, encasing them in transparent spheres of epoxy resin.
The result was a Pantheon of the world’s religions, a system of small planets, of frozen and illusive worlds, from which a toy-embryo-god looks upon us, one which we can in turn see three-dimensionally but which we can’t touch.
By choosing sculpture I intended to separate the two series more clearly, as a challenge for myself, since sculpture wasn’t my habitual means of expression… It was a difficult and fascinating experiment, wherein I felt like an alchemist.
V.N.: Of all your paintings, surely there are a few favorites you don’t want to part with: which are they and why?
R.T.: I get very attached to my works as I’m making them. I wake up thinking about them and I go to bed with the same line of thought. But once they’re completed my interest and attachment are transferred onto the next piece. I’m not indifferent, but I’m neither truly attached to my works. In a sense they take on their own life and I can rest assured when we part ways, as if bidding farewell to a well-raised child who you can confidently send off into the world once he’s reached adulthood.
V.N.: It’s been 11 years since feeder.ro functions as “the news agency for the alternative nation”. What was Roman Tolici doing 11 years ago and where does he see himself in another 11?
R.T.: 11 years ago I was at the dawn of my career. I was full of hope and plans and new works. I think I evolved quite a lot over the past 11 years, I covered important areas in the journey I chose. Each step naturally leads to the next and for the next 11 years all I wish for is to continue my journey. It’s what I wish you too.