Roman Tolici does not avoid any great subjects. Out of all the artists I work with, he is the one who takes some effort to completely understand. Or better said it takes a while to adjust to his way of seeing things. I remember that when I saw his exhibition “Aici şi acum” (Here and Now) in 2004 I was stunned by “Pieta stradală” (Side-walk Pieta). I had some sort of “love and hate” feeling towards it, but I was aware of my preconceptions regarding it. I thought that such great subjects should not be approached so directly. I wanted a little bit more subtlety, a little less vigor. With time, I started to appreciate more and more this freedom of choosing big, important subjects.
This time Roman experiments with landscape painting. Or this is the obvious conclusion one can draw at a glance. There are 13 landscapes, with or without human presence, named after several dates in the calendar. After a little inquiry, we notice that each date represents the national day of a particular country. Knowing this, the landscapes receive a subtle symbolic dimension. Roman depicts possible “stylistic matrices” characteristic for each country. There is a birds-eye-view of an urban, sort of Manhattan style image representing the 4th of July, a homey wintry landscape with an ice ring and with obvious links to Breughel (the Netherlands), or an agonistic wasteland in which sporting grace becomes a purpose (Spain). And the series continues with Great Britain – small, but all inclusive island, Russia – communist, cosmic momentum like in a Mosfilm image, Japan – dark, rainy, zen landscape, Germany - where nature and industry articulate a sort of mechanic dynamic duo, The European Union – an optimistic space for the three generations, France - a zenithal landscape, Moldavia – an unfinished temple-bridge from a post-industrial landscape, China - colorful and productive, Italy – a park full of couples, and finally Romania – with a red light.
I had the chance to review the images several times in the past few months and I can say that they are meant to be “used” for the long run. At first, their plasticity wins you over. That fascinated me, but also made me ponder. I said it is not possible to paint in such a direct and innocent way; not in a post-conceptualist world in which even painting should be auto-referential. Little by little I then realized that Roman’s landscapes are very abstract. They are the synthesis of a selected image, chosen to be the sign of a national mentality that Roman implies. There are plastic details which clearly state that the purpose here was not that of landscape painting. Roman draws rough, synthetic outlines and abrupt volumes which augment the feeling of strangeness.
In one of our talks, Roman said that while painting the works, the concept of nation started to become more and more absurd. I now think I can understand the meaning of that conversation. After some research we start finding similarities and we forget the differences. Roman started with the differences and ended up depicting a Babylonic Park where every landscape is a representation of a possible human habitat; just another side of the same mountain. (Dan Popescu)