Notices for the Frac-Artothèque Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Radu Comșa

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  Après le disco, 2017 Curtain of threads, acrylic paints for textile 3 curtains of 245 x 90 cm each, that is 245 x 270 cm. Unique
Inv. : 201918 © Radu Comșa
Photos : view of the show, galerie Emmanuel Hervé, credit : YAP Studio

   Body-Paintingfree-standing cylinder and Larousse], 2017   Medium density polyurethane foam (30 kg/m3), patchwork (cotton hooded sweatshirt), “Dictionnaire de l'art contemporain” (Larousse, 1965)
120 x Ø 30 cm. Unique 
Inv. : 201919 © Radu Comșa
Photo : Frédérique Avril

A Romanian artist born in Sibiu in 1975, Radu Comșa studied in Cluj-Napoca where he became involved in the city's artistic and cultural life. He is one of the founders in 2009 of Fabrica de Pensule, an alternative space born thanks to a group of artists and cultural professionals driven by the certainty that contemporary creation has an impact on the community. In this vast space are gathered about thirty entities (workshops, galleries, cultural organizations ...) active in the visual arts, contemporary dance and theater. Radu Comșa will have his studio there for several years.
Born under Ceaușescu's dictatorship, this generation, which deliberately chose not to leave for the capital nor to expatriate, is working on a new idea of the post-communist collective. The young painters form what will be called "L’École de Cluj" [The School of Cluj], around the figures of Adrian Ghenie or Florin Stefan. The dynamics and the emulation make the city an essential place for contemporary art in the 2000s.
Radu Comșa's early works testify to his connection to the other and the collective. He focuses on representing the style of artists who are dear to him, masters such as Gerhard Richter, Josef Albers or Charles Biederman, but also his partners in the Fabrica. He also looks at his country's past and is one of those who rehabilitate painting, long rejected because it was associated with the totalitarian power in place. The subjects of his paintings refer to his childhood, to factories, landscapes and field work, and also to politics when he paints on communist newspaper clippings or evokes the rallies and speeches of the "genius of the Karpates".

In 2010, Radu Comșa abandons the figurative, he directs his practice towards a more conceptual painting and develops an abstract pictoriality. Inspired by the history of the medium, aesthetic treatises, artists and great theorists of color, he uses mathematics, arithmetic to build his thinking and set up his creative protocols.
He thinks of the work of art as a "transcription" of knowledge, reference points and extractions. Purist and concise, he aims at a reduction of the color range, handles various techniques such as batik and silk-screening, printing methods such as chromophotography. Radu Comșa observes color, form and perspective, has fun with chromatic shifts. He deploys the idea of an "expanded painting" and goes as far as a performative dimension of his body (and that of the viewer) vis-à-vis the object by declining painting in installation, on furniture, moving from one material to another, from one concept to another and imposing different forms on the canvas.

In the series from which the two works in the Frac-Artothèque Nouvelle-Aquitaine collection are taken, the artist exploits the precepts developed by the humanist Leone Battista Alberti in De pictura (1435) and, later, by Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton on primary and secondary colors. Radu Comșa thus employs orange-red, green, pers (blue) and ash, the four colors described as major by Alberti, to which he adds the yellow primary.
He anchors his work in the notion of "global painting". From this reduced palette comes the possibility of embracing the totality of things and the medium as such. In his works, content, form and surface are of equal importance. The idea behind the work and the final object are absolutely inseparable.

Après le disco (2017) is a painting made on 3 sections of polyester thread curtains, installed next to each other on the same rod, in front of a white wall or hung at a reasonable distance from two opposite walls "so that it can be seen from both sides".

Après le disco was created for the eponymous exhibition at the galerie Emmanuel Hervé in Paris in 2017. For this solo show, Radu Comșa worked from preparatory drawings, he elaborates minute variations in his compositions. Installations, paintings, carpets, volumes and video use the same term, with the constituent and recognizable palette and motifs of this series. In the work of the Frac-Artothèque, the colored flat tints appear as geometric forms that are balanced around two central elements: a yellow circle and the vertical red rectangle that is attached to it. Rectangles and quarter circles in blue and green surround these figures, while gray envelops the whole.
In the vein of Supports/Surfaces and its idea of expanding painting, Radu Comșa sometimes chooses a manufactured object as a support or part of a work to be painted (in this case the wire curtains). It is the stability of the material and the form that interests him more than the material itself. For Après le disco the artist preferred, for example, to hand-paint each thread in gray rather than choosing already colored curtains. With this work, the artist also plays with light and perspective. When the curtain is installed between two walls, the eye passes through it, the play of tones and shapes then responds to those of the other works on the walls. When it is hung in front of a white wall, the colored forms keep their density and the work can "be read from afar".

The artist's interest in volume and space is reflected in Body-Paintings [free-standing cylinder and Larousse (2017). This unique work is part of a similar ensemble. It consists of two parts: a book (1965 Larousse Dictionnaire de l’art contemporain) and "the body." The cylinder, the height of a long bust, is covered with a full hooded sweatshirt made from several pieces of cotton sewn together. The 5 shades of the Après le disco palette can be identified as well as the whole or partitioned figures: red and blue rectangles drawn by the sleeves, yellow circle on the chest and blue at the top, blue triangle formed by the positioning of the hood. At the location of the head, the artist has placed the dictionary, symbol of knowledge, which places the work in the history of abstract painting. With this book, he directs the reading of his piece towards the history of art, while keeping the spectator at a distance since the book remains closed. In all of his works, Radu Comșa places great emphasis on precision and detail. Thus, the reproduction on the cover of the book (a detail of a painting by Auguste Herbin from 1959), refers once again to the influence of his references, to the power of geometric figures and color in his work.
In this work, Radu Comșa evokes painting in its very definition: organizing a surface through color. Here, it is the pieces of textiles chosen for their hues and assembled that form the garment, the painting, the artwork. He establishes his intellectual thought of art and painting, it is for him to think like a painter in an overall vision and in everyday life, not only in the studio.

— Émilie Flory
Manosque, July 2021


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