Interiors is about an interior space that is both physical – i.e. my studio -, and psychic –the artist’s inner space, in general. Hence, the plural. (Arantxa Etcheverria)
Arantxa Etcheverria’s Interiors invite to a subtle and metaphorical journey into the space of her studio itself and the metaphysical realm of the artist’s self alike. Room by room, the itinerant structure of the exhibition unveils and deconstructs the stylistic rapport between Etcheverria and space and spatiality. She graduated from the department of scenography and history of costumes at the National Theatre of Strasbourg after she had previously completed her studies in visual arts at the famous Villa Arson in Nice. Etcheverria had worked as a set-designer in France before she moved to Romania 11 years ago. To accustom herself to Bucharest, she started documenting its architectural details photographically building personal archives while wandering the city streets and neighbourhoods. The old doors and window grills in modernist style exerted a special fascination. This perpetual exercise of framing the reality led to a particular interest in frames – which became a recurrent motif in her artworks.
The show opens with an image of the artist’s studio – printed on plexiglas – in two overlapping layers, representing a sort of a mini-sketch of varying temporality, like a place that has seen many people while being gazed at in its turn by many. Plexiglas means transparency. The painted windows of the studio help form a rappel, a memento, a relation with the materiality of that space – which allows for transparency and two strata bonding. The plexiglas is a recurring support for several works placed throughout the gallery representing both the very building where the studio is and buildings situated in its vicinity. The semi-matte surface of this peculiar material is a direct reference to the studio’s sanded-glass windows.
The studio is hosted by a genuine architectural icon – a modernist villa designed by the famous architect Marcel Iancu. The splendid, uncluttered, sparsely furnished interiors, the atypical geometry of certain rooms, the sinuous line of the staircase, the minimalist linearity of the contours, the plenitude of windows find their place in the iconography of Etcheverria’s practice – in her paintings, in the plexiglas prints, in the tri-dimensional constructs made of furniture pieces, frames, window grills. Spread on canvases of considerable size are images cropped from the actuality of the studio, of its building, of the modernist key-pieces that furnish it sporadically, in a collage reminiscent of the medieval representational techniques – which rendered space and time in a flat manner lacking perspective.
This year I started painting again after a period of experimenting with tri-dimensional mediums which painting opposes. I choose the painting technique called à-plat. The studio resonates with these compositions en ligne claire. Same with the exterior of the building. There is a focus on certain furniture items from the studio. Nevertheless, there is a lack of spatiality, because the images are not ordered in a commonly-perceived system. The interior and the exterior oppose each other. There are several different layers.
The door is another element returning obstinately in her works. Par excellence, doors are symbols of the act of crossing, of the passage, and also represent the full vs. empty duality. Most of the doors are reproductions of the ones Etcheverria photographed when she documented the architectural details of Bucharest. The door is a visual component that also confers a tempo, a cadence to the artwork – the alternance of full and empty … It is an opening towards something else.
A propos of the interior of the house and, by extension, of the inner human being, a crucial aspect of studio practice is that it is similar to meditation, repetition, introspection. There is a level of tranquility and focus that can be reached. Similar to crossing a threshold, the works reveal themselves to us just like passing through a door.
In some rooms, the pieces of furniture or decor forming the installations were brought in from the studio and relocated in the gallery where they shift their discursive dimension. A frame – suggestive of a door, and, symbolically, of the artist’s work – leans on the back of a chair, in a precarious equilibrium. It also suggests a more intimate, domestic area – a space often transited by close friends and acquaintances who leave their imprint on the place.
The use of muted, pastel colours on the majority of the paintings is not fortuitous. They complement the theme of interiors by suggesting an atmosphere that is intimate, calm, introspective, meditative. The painting surface – apparently flat – gains discreet volume – noticeable at a closer look – by over-layering the images. Starting from an initial idea, the artist would add on stratum upon stratum while further ideas were contouring.
The idea of the intimate, domestic spare is reiterated in the series of diptych works made on composite materials, which remind of tapestries. Weaving was one of the activities that women would do in the past and it is closely related to the domestic space. It is also an automatic, repetitive gesture. The initial drawing was inspired by a model Etcheverria discovered somewhere in Bucharest – a traditional Romanian tapestry design. Even though they appear to be simple, these pieces required an enormous amount of meticulous work. They are based on drawings made by the artist beforehand.
It is very repetitive studio work. It is closer to manual work. The repetitive gesture is another type of dynamics. There are moments when you confront such dynamics. You express something else.
The architectural, visual and stylistic valences of the exhibits are caught in a scenographic dance with a space which – albeit apparently malleable- had to be seduced by Etcheverria who follows her artistic endeavours with utmost diligence and confidence.
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Arantxa Etcheverria (b. 1975, France) studied visual arts at Villa Arson, Nice, and scenography and history of costume at the National Theatre, Strasbourg. Since 2006 she has lived and worked in Bucharest, Romania. She has had solo shows in Bucharest at Atelier 35 Galleries, Alert Studio, MNAC Annex, in Timisoara at Calina Gallery and in Cluj at Baril Gallery. She has exhibited in group shows in Rome, Cluj, Vienna, Marseille, etc. In 2005 she was the artistic director of the movie “The Treasure” (Comoara) directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, winner of the Un Certain Talent Award within the section Un Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival. She is represented by Baril Gallery, Cluj – winner of the Guido Carbone New Entries Award at the International Contemporary Art Fair Artissima, 2014, Torino. The exhibition INTERIORS (Sept. – Oct. 2017) at Victoria ArtCenter Gallery, Bucharest was organised with the support of Baril Gallery.
Text ✒ ADINA SHOLLENBARGER
Photo © OVIDIU CĂLIN