NOIMA... What is this group and what keeps its members together? As its very name suggests (“meaning”), I think their main aim is that of finding the meaning of painting and their own role, as painters, in this world and in this age. If noimă (“meaning”) is a common word, mostly used pejoratively, this group conveys a new dimension to it: the avid search for the way, for the encounter, essential when trying to validate and promote life for the sake of painting and other beautiful things. A serious search, which is, also, self-confident. NOIMA (founded in 2003) stemmed from fertile soil, as Timişoara has a quite old and rich tradition of groups of “visual artists” (who used to be called, in Romanian, plastic artists). There were two outstanding such groups in the late 1960s, years of openness and effervescence: „111” (1966) and „Sigma”(1969), which grew into legends. A decade later, in harder political circumstances, two exhibitions are worth mentioning: „Study I” (1978) and „Study II” (1981), which were, in act, groups themselves (at least in terms of their view on the act of painting). All these events were the result of an avid search for meaning, a search which could be more successful if performed by like-minded people, who then gave precious, reliable evidence (to other artists and the public) about the experience of the Art of living. All these events were remarkably attended by a man who made a real difference -
Constantin Flondor. This is all the more important to mention, since NOIMA is made up of Constantin Flondor’s most hardworking and endowed apprentices. They are Andrei Rosetti (Deva, b. 1974), Ciprian Bodea (Timişoara, b. 1979), Dan Gherman (Lipova, b. 1980), Sorin Neamţu (Arad, b. 1977), Sorin Scurtulescu (Timişoara, b. 1979). 5 men from 4 towns. Some of them were workshop mates at the university, some had previously graduated from other universities (especially the polytechnic school: Andrei Rosetti, Sorin Neamţu). But this group seems to be closer to another one, “Prolog”, based in Bucharest, but whose founding member was the same wonderful man, Constantin Flondor.
To grasp the importance of such experiences – both life and art experiences – here are some of Constantin Flondor’s impressions after joining the above-mentioned groups: • 1984: „painting becomes my primeval magma” (in 1965-1966 he had given up the “oil paintings”) • 1986: „to paint observantly” • 1987: „painting is a moral act before it is an aesthetic one” • 1987: „I am attempting a prayer-painting” • 2000-2001: „painting is a staircase, a means, a vertical channel between God and the painter, it is contemplation”. All this, the result of lengthy meditation, of mystical and intense experiences, must have been passed on to his attentive students, not necessarily in a didactic manner, but more implicitly, in an osmotic way.
It was a gift from God that these (still young) artists were the disciples of Professor Constantin Flondor. Their contribution was the fact that they were aware of this gift. Their bond with their mentor consists of love, admiration, gratitude. It is, thus, worth looking at the things the students owe their Teacher. There are quite a few things: • the way they relate themselves to painting, with full responsibility towards themselves, towards their addressees, and, moreover, towards God, Who paid the talants; • the attention paid to the detail of life; • the attention paid to Creation, to nature (with its species), time – minutely observed, since it is regarded as a concrete and materialized dimension); • the exploration of a subject or a theme (which is not given up until as many of its visual and iconic dimensions have been caught as the artist is able to); • a certain diversity of their means of artistic expression (they also tackle photography and film etc.); • the exploration of colours, sometimes by means of their endless shades (the colours are intense and alive in themselves, but, upon the artist’s touch, they become traces of a feeling or a state of mind); • the involvement and high degree of responsibility, which is entailed by each pictorial gesture. Sometimes, there are also influences identified in the technical or literary details of the painting: • a certain way of applying touches; • a certain composition and colouring; • imprints in the field of painting, embedded in the painting, etc. What I find remarkable in this sense is that, if, in terms of basic elements of craftsmanship, they have been internalized and followed by all of them, in terms of representation (in and with the painting), each artist seems to have borrowed something else from their mentor, according to their own personality. That is why the members of this group are similar, but different. At the same time, they inherit the artistic silence and restlessness of their mentor... We also learn from them, despite their discretion, what it is like to walk away from the Teacher in such a way as to remain close to him in everything (in terms of structural similarities). That is why there is no one who can refer better and more accurately to NOIMA as a group and to each of its members than their Teacher.
An interesting exercise would be that of looking at what members of other groups had in common (in Constantin Flondor’s view) and what connects the members of today’s NOIMA (in Sorin Neamţu’s view).
The „111” group (1966): • Common principles and lots of affinities • They were different “in detail”, in their ideas and visual sensitiveness.
The „Sigma” group (1969): • The contact with mathematics and physics • A rationalabstract approach.
The „Prolog” group (1985): • „What brings us together is friendship and a bit of otherness” • „the painting is not the main reason why we maintain our bond” • „here is where we learnt the meaning of being together, cleanness, simplicity, the fact that nothing exists in itself.”
NOIMA (2003): • „We were brought together by mutual fondness and a common appreciation of art.” • „We don’t have a manifesto which would announce that the world is to be turned upside down.” • „Sometimes, we feel we are walking against the current. (...) We are even defensive (through our faith in painting).” • „We want to become good painters.” • „Most of us are searching. (...) To be sure, we are painting, in a way, searching for answers.”
To sum up, for NOIMA: common beliefs as painters (• „painting is a way of investing emotion”; • „painting stays alive and expressive when the painter is good”; • „painting is not a morally obsolete art”) and friendship, sincere friendship. The public workshops, the meetings with other painters (more often than not, in their own flats – which reminds me of Kieslovski’s Decalogue, where you could see how many exceptional things, from wonders to tragedies, can happen around blocks of flats and inside blocks of flats: real life!), the group exhibitions are all special occasions to meet, to talk and work together, with the raw matter of their craftsmanship. (The same spirit of adventure, for the sake of learning together, has characterized a recent, spontaneous and enthusiastic trip to Budapest, to see an exceptional van Gogh exhibition). Another element to be taken into account is their assumed, non-ideologized belonging to the Church, their life in its luminous shade. One can see and feel these things and be transported by them. The NOIMA members make up a spiritual family and a guild (craft is more important for them than any ideology). Together, they are stronger, so they can stick to genuine painting more successfully. At the same time, however, each member goes on his own way, his world being the reflection of the Creator’s same world. Each member is searching for his own place. The search is the genuine artist’s natural state, as he hates to follow prescriptions. But their ways meet, due to their seriousness, aspirations, human qualities. Each of them oscillates between the “warehouse” of his personal painting and the space of exhibiting in the middle of his community. Meeting them and watching them together are such beautiful, encouraging and optimistic experiences!
What can I tell them, while they are still at the beginning of their career? We are always tempted by competition. Sometimes, this is a harmless temptation, because it stems from a natural need to relate to hierarchies, to reach the top in a field of study (the top, which is felt to be closer to God!), to get there as fast as possible. But maybe there are moments, just as important, when classifications should be left aside, in order to make way for simple and pure satisfactions. To make way for comparisons, which are not so much about value, as they are about the contents – the visual contents in this particular case. Maybe what characterizes really good painting is beyond comparison. But if we learn to enjoy each little flower, then we can look at paintings as flowers, created by man with God’s help. The painting is ineffable, with its bidimensional and fragile nature… The painter is a “seer”, Octav Grigorescu wrote in a letter. So are the poets, the composers, even the performers, who see, or, more precisely, hyper-see. They hyper-see the “crystal structure” (Krzysztof Zanussi). However, the painter is the only artist who gives back what he has hyper-seen, by means of sight, for better and more profound knowledge. With the painter’s help, we can all hyper-see with our own eyes.
They are all very good painters. “Good” is the feature which occurs at the beginning of the artist’s career, a quality which should be always nursed and nurtured. That is why their (correct!) confession is this: „We want to become good painters!” Let their painting be, from now on, a confession, a (self-) sacrifice, a hyper-vision, a wondrous discovery, a recovery, a returned gift, and, above all, glory… The most important thing is to have something to say. This is why they are all so wonderful. If they are also patient and hardworking, the rest will come naturally. They all deserve our congratulations. And our attention. And their canvases should reach us as closely and intimately as possible, in our homes, to make us rejoice. In a painting, its quality is less important than one’s personal relationship with it, the way in which a rapport is established between the painting and the viewer (or owner), a relationship which may turn into friendship.
Horia Bernea used to quote Father Justin Pârvu (Petru Vodă Monastery)’s idea, which he was very fond of: „Painting is the younger sister of mystics”. I believe this is where the circle formed by the painting condition becomes full: it is an appropriate discoverer and presenter of God’s mysteries and His Creation.
Will there be painting in Heaven? I believe so! Anyway, I am sure there will be many painters there. Will they still be painting? I don’t know. I hope I shall find out!