CHRONICLES


I. THE PAINTING

A token of contempt toward institutional indolence. The exhibition hall - underwater, literally. An altogether outstanding ambience.
A promising debut, to say the least. Remarkably powerful use of colour and stroke tension. And all of it nearly submerged! An unforgettable varnishing day. Don't pass up the opportunity to see what you've not seen before! Could it be that the artists themselves have smashed the pipelines to unleash the catastrophic mood of this desperate cry?!
Carmen Cretzu - Paintings of Coloristic Outbreak/Outburst
Poetry and painting rise against indifference
Two apples and two pears to play with in Heaven!
power of expression verging on rebellion
Trenchant, vigorous expressionism.
Nonconforming as always... We do not stand before a distorted version of the real world, but within an entirely different one - primeval, wild, symbolic.
A range of pure comicality and beningn grotesque - regenerative and benefic "Satyr Icon" or Metaphysical Painting
In between the raw power of color and the quietude of church windows of stained glass.
The imaginative verve of a monumentalism under treatment


II. ICON MAKING

Carmen Cretzu was destined as a maker of icons.


III. BOOK ILLUSTRATION

A spectacular book, wherein the distance between imagery and poetry creates the tension of a cafeteria where music is being played and pictures are being painted, guns on the table.
The artwork gives a "graphic" dimension to the volume.
An unmistakeable style. A tragic algorithm of images - the painter's dour frailty and the poet's existential metaphor. A combination that gives substance to a remarkable editorial release.


..........................................................................................


A token of contempt toward institutional indolence. The exhibition hall - underwater, literally. An altogether outstanding ambience.
(1994, Corneliu Antim):

"Two of this year's female graduates of the Arts Academy of Bucharest had the quaint idea of organizing their own exhibition 'show' in the basement of the Orizont Galleries. An otherwise perfect site for all kinds of experiments carried out by artists under 35. Only that, because of certain shortcomings of the building still unidentified, massive floods kept occurring in its underground rooms. After a point, their frequency increased, which led to the "Atelier 35" hall being all but abandoned. These two young artists decided to take the bull by the horns, defying the literal sordidness of the situation. Thus, in this virtually "underwater" hall, they set an artistic happening of sorts, as deemed slightly inappropriately by some critics. The walls, down to the water level, were covered with paintings by Carmen Cretzu, the ambiental artist who adapted her entire project to the conditions of the room. The water mirrors the magnificent ceramic works of her colleague. In the general, altogether outstanding mood of this hall, floating adrift right at the heart of Bucharest, the endeavour of these two young artists transcends the realm of aesthetics, penetrating that of civic protest. Their message today, desperate and affecting, adresses institutional indolence."
(A Warning Exhibition: S.O.S. "Atelier 35", Romania Libera, 16.07.94)



A promising debut, to say the least. Remarkably powerful use of colour and stroke tension. And all of it nearly submerged!
(1994, Cornel Radu Constantinescu):

At the Orizont Galleries - in the building's basement, assigned to the "Atelier 35" room, to the youth - an exhibition is being held by painter Carmen Cretzu and ceramist Catalina Dragulin. We are witnessing two more than promising debuts. Carmen Cretzu, with a penchant for and specialization in monuments, presents us with a body of large scale works, impressive through the powerful use of colour and stroke tension, as well as the ability to sustain and control obdurate surfaces… And all of it, if you can imagine, almost immersed in water - yes, w-a-t-e-r. One might only attend the exhibition equipped with rubber boots. You behold, from the "doorstep", the swashing waters that pour from the broken pipelines, enduring the stench of a foul mire. When the light too goes off, it is as if the works were "doing time" in the novel and bleak (Bacoviana) lacustrine dungeon of our indolent serenity. Carmen Cretzu mused with playful desperation (the benefits of her age), where she would be working henceforth, where she was to exhibit her work, how she was to acquire her working materials. In short, she asked herself, where was she to run away from home? Wherever her eyes and hands decided, as poetry and life had taught her. I am looking to what may be the "lifeguard" of younger generations of artists and I see a locked door. S.O.S. - the future! Only that the walkie-talkies are all out of ordee. And so are the pipelines from which the water spews on, portending the flood.
(S.O.S. - The Past, S.O.S. - The Future, Adevarul literar si artistic, July 1994)



An unforgettable varnishing day. Don't pass up the opportunity to see what you've not seen before! Could it be that the artists themselves have smashed the pipelines to unleash the catastrophic mood of this desperate cry?!
(1994, Cornel Radu Constantinescu):

"For five days now, two young artists, Carmen Cretzu and Catalina Dragulin, have been swimming through the waters of the Orizont Galleries' basement in Bucharest… It is fair to say their works, reflected on the surface of the water, gain a baroque feel, along with the dazzling and deceptive profundity of a mirror. And the subdued gurgling of water too, under the observers' footsteps, gives the place a strange sense of rhythm, in keeping with the brilliant paintings of Carmen Cretzu… As can be seen, the road of an artist begins by way of water, as this unusual experience - triggered by a most prosaic malfunction in the building's pipelines! - prepares her for navigating much fiercer seas in the years to come. As a matter of fact, for the varnishing, which was honored with a scholarly review/speech by Magda Carneci, the gentlemen - painters, critics, men of letters and so forth, all rolled up their pants, while the ladies hoisted their dresses: it was an unforgettable varnishing day! In a few days, this waterborne exhibition will be closing its gates. Don't pass up the opportunity to see what you've not seen before! The exhibition is titled "S.O.S. Atelier 35", which leads us to think the artists themselves have smashed the pipelines to enforce the catastrophic mood this desperate cry conveys. At any rate, their gesture is symbolic and relevant to the "sunken" state of art in 1994 Romania.
(Art in Hot Water! - Adevarul literar si artistic, July 1994)



Carmen Cretzu - Paintings of Coloristic Outbreak/Outburst
(1997, Augustin Macarie):

"For a few days now, Simeza Art Gallery in Bucharest has been hosting an interesting painting exhibition, displaying wotks by Carmen Cretzu, born in Bacau and a graduate of the prominent Academy of arts in Bucharest, the Arta Monumentala division, class of Professor Viorel Grimalschi. Aside from having constantly attended art-related events (group exhibitions, camps, contests, symposia), this artist, an expert in religious painting, has also participated in the restoration and even creation of icons for various churches and monasteries. She is, thus, a well-known artist. Still, her personal exhibition at "Siameza" is yet her most important and relevant encounter with the public. The first, most striking impression is triggered in the beholder by broad canvas wherein luminous, vibrant hues dominate complex contours that bring to the mind primeval landscapes, ocean worlds, cosmic implosions and explosions, extraordinary collisions, luxuriant vegetation, exquisite flowers in bloom, sublime metamorphoses, a hidden world of mollusks, insects, birds, impossible to discern - figments of a boundless imagination. In dynamic contrast or vigorous counterpoint to the blue, yellow, green that make up the background, a kaleidoscope of other colors emerge: white, brown, black, red, gray. The public - for whom the visual aspect suffices - may leave the gallery content. Things are more difficult if one tries to understand, to reach beyond mere aesthetic enjoyment. Even if, in some cases, the multitude of colors and lines yields a seeming cross or a pair of doll eyes, the reality of the painting preserves its obscurity, enforcing the idea of genesis, metamorphosis, convulsion - figments of a rich imagination… In general, the artist "feeds off" expressionism; the vivid hues, the strong lines, the geometric play and the compositional wildness - which have been gracing Romanian painting ever since Mattis Teutch - are in perfect keeping with her emotions and artistic ideals. Expressionism wasn't born ex abrupto, it has ardently incorporated numerous elements of Romanticism, Symbolism and Impressionism. There is also a steak, though unnoticed, of Realism. After all, explosions, metamorphoses, geneses are, it is true, rare and surprising instances of real life. Pure trens - as Calinescu puts it - are only found in test tubes! Carmen Cretzu's works can, without a doubt, ennoble wide spaces, or brighten, with their abundant and tonic chromatics, any room in the appartments where we pass our brief time. Even as the "Simeza" exhibition in itself is a victory and a great stage in her development, I am positive that Carmen Cretzu has yet to present us with more "surprises"..
(Dreptatea - August 27, 1997)



Poetry and painting rise against indifference
(2001, Marius Stefanescu):

"'Hanul cu Tei' Club. As if I didn't know, someone whispers to me that this is an unusual, countercultural place for an exhibition; L. Cohen, Sting, songsters from the Seine provide the musical setting from two speakers, by an array of discreet candles… Snippets of Mariana Marin's poets are pinned to the walls here and there, they may be taken home by those of the public who are here with a purpose purpose better defined in the poster: Carmen Cretzu/ Mariana Marin - Painting, Poetry - "The Artist's Maiming in his Youth" Dec. 21 - Jan. 6 (…). I like the way two different voices intertwine - a poet and a painter, in the fight against the public's indifference towards art. At least this might awaken their response to poetry, to painting.




"Spitting Place" and happiness…

Before the beginning of this double varnishing, I talk a walk through the gallery. On a wooden plank hanging from a wall, in its framed center, a "picture" that reads: "Spitting Place". The poetic message emerges promptly, written not far, on the next wall: "What more do we need, my friends, to be happy?", a quote from Maria Marin's critically acclaimed volume, "The Artist's Maiming in his Youth". Its title, and for a good reason, gives the name of this exhibition. I move on. White canvas, over which, on a red background, lie messages: "This year hasn't brought about a revolution either, but we keep waiting", "And the iron clock screeched, and they renewed their historic fingernails". Across the walls, laid out in a brisk neo-expressionist fashion, red nudes, landscapes flooded with the same red, black, more nudes - men, women - this time hanging from their feet. As if they are falling down from another world, into one of materiality, of protests against a "misplaced" order. In front of the table where I sat, a cluster of four paintings: a sort of window for looking at… art. In one of its sections, an odalisk lying idle on her back. In the other, a man in an armchair. The third one looked like an efflux of yellow. The last one, discordant and, maybe for that precise reason, the most interesting… is empty. You can see the wall, the woodwork that covers it. The last alcove of the exhibition cradles a huge painting, in which lie crammed all sorts of characters (dis)colored strongly, expressively ss in "expressionism", yellow, green, red. I think it's some kind of alien wearing a gas mask, that one whose genitals circle its body, stretched towards an unknown destination. The violence of the blood red on those white canvas is in keeping with the breaching of the sex taboo. The power od expression in these paintings makes me feel like acid dropped slowly - but steadily, like Chinese water torture - in the lyrical works of the poet, can be sensed on a visual level in the painter's works.




Rebellious…

"Everything here, the protest poetry as well as my paintings, is trying to say that our souls are polluted with indifference", declares Carmen Cretzu. We're both very rebellious people. It even shows in the setting we've chosen for this exhibition. It's not fit for your classic event. I've had exhibitions in all of the UAP* rooms. But artists shouldn't only exhibit their work in typical settings. And it is not by hazard that the varnishing will take place on the 21st of December - this was the day that, back in 1989, we thought would change our lives."




The Maiming Continues…

"There's very much of me in these paintings", affirms Mariana Marin. "Carmen Cretzu is an artist that blends oldschool expressionism with a newfangled turbulence. I feel very close to the turmoil they evoke, I can see myself in them and I represent myself, because they give me courage. As for Romania's path of evolution, its truths have not been unveiled to this day. It is an ongoing mutilation. It won't stop. Artists from all fields continue to be fractured in every way. Again, I see very much of myself in my friend Carmen Cretzu's paintings… And if tonight's event is for protest, it is not because we don't love our country, sometimes unbearably so." (December 21st - On the Barricades of the Arts. Poet Mariana Marin and painter
(December 21st - On the Barricades of the Arts. Poet Mariana Marin and painter Carmen Cretzu reveal the "stains" of society - Cotidianul, 27.12.01)



Two apples and two pears to play with in Heaven!
(2001, Horia Popp):

"'Hanul cu Tei' Club, an establishment that focuses on superior cultural events, had two guests last Friday: Carmen Cretzu opened a painting exhibition (which continues to be trodden), and Mariana Marin recited some of her poetry. A manifesto of art, a bitter and acidic expression under the fit title: 'The Artist's Maiming in his Youth". But walking out of there, my mind rang with the carol: two apples and two pears to play with in Heaven. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(Horia Popp Recommends - December 28th 2001)



Power of expression verging on rebellion
(2004, Viorica Buica):

"'A poet of images', this is what Carmen Cretzu proclaims herself in an interview. Her paintings, put on display at the Orizont Galleries throughout the month of October, demonstrate a power of expression that verges on rebellion. And yet, nothing of the subdued lyricism or gratuitous aestheticism that are associated, often unfairly, with a poetic take on visuals, is to be found in Carmen Cretzu's work. The poetry, extravagant and vivid, shocking at times, but essentially fascinating, is born of a dark imagination whose manifestations lie where surrealism meets neo-expressionism. In an ironic and deconstructivist note, the artist has named her new series of works 'Satyr Icon', deftly directing the mind of the beholder to the carnivalesque universe of Petronius' novel. With their explosions of color and inventive imagery, these paintings redefine for modern day the very essence of Satyricon, the void that hides behind the mask of theatricality, exposing life as a ceaseless swing between theatricality and illusion. The exploration of image at a formal level has yielded shapes that are schematic, amusing, but frightening at the same time, bearing the fertile dramatism of a carnival. Overall, the internal grammar of form, the contorted lines, the pasty contours, but especially the violent chromatic discourse generate a chaotic atmosphere. And yet this entire caricatural universe, theatrical to the fullest, is carefully constructed, the lines in motion, intertwined, hidden or highlighted with color produce an anamorphic discourse. There is something unsettling in each of Carmen Cretzu's pieces, the picturesque characters' smiles are frozen, their gestures are disproportionate, the angles are surprising, and black infiltrates ominously in every structure, often responsible with shaping the silhouettes. Beyond the richness of image and color, developing an entire rhetiric of fullness, of pictural fecundity - hides a void that represents death. This is one of the reasons why, despite her creating a dreamlike universe, Carmen Cretzu's style is closer to expressionist aesthetics, which can be seen in her use of colors and lines. A cultural citation and a commentary on immediate reality, Carmen Cretzu's "icons" unveil a fascinating rhetoric of the mask, pendulating distressfully between the expression of joy (laughter) and that of fear (spasms).
(SATYR ICON, Ziarul de duminica, 5.11.2004)



Trenchant, vigorous expressionism.
(2004, Horia Popp):

"'A poet of images', this is what Carmen Cretzu proclaims herself in an interview. Her paintings, put on display at the Orizont Galleries throughout the month of October, demonstrate a power of expression that verges on rebellion. And yet, nothing of the subdued lyricism or gratuitous aestheticism that are associated, often unfairly, with a poetic take on visuals, is to be found in Carmen Cretzu's work. The poetry, extravagant and vivid, shocking at times, but essentially fascinating, is born of a dark imagination whose manifestations lie where surrealism meets neo-expressionism. In an ironic and deconstructivist note, the artist has named her new series of works 'Satyr Icon', deftly directing the mind of the beholder to the carnivalesque universe of Petronius' novel. With their explosions of color and inventive imagery, these paintings redefine for modern day the very essence of Satyricon, the void that hides behind the mask of theatricality, exposing life as a ceaseless swing between theatricality and illusion. The exploration of image at a formal level has yielded shapes that are schematic, amusing, but frightening at the same time, bearing the fertile dramatism of a carnival. Overall, the internal grammar of form, the contorted lines, the pasty contours, but especially the violent chromatic discourse generate a chaotic atmosphere. And yet this entire caricatural universe, theatrical to the fullest, is carefully constructed, the lines in motion, intertwined, hidden or highlighted with color produce an anamorphic discourse. There is something unsettling in each of Carmen Cretzu's pieces, the picturesque characters' smiles are frozen, their gestures are disproportionate, the angles are surprising, and black infiltrates ominously in every structure, often responsible with shaping the silhouettes. Beyond the richness of image and color, developing an entire rhetiric of fullness, of pictural fecundity - hides a void that represents death. This is one of the reasons why, despite her creating a dreamlike universe, Carmen Cretzu's style is closer to expressionist aesthetics, which can be seen in her use of colors and lines. A cultural citation and a commentary on immediate reality, Carmen Cretzu's "icons" unveil a fascinating rhetoric of the mask, pendulating distressfully between the expression of joy (laughter) and that of fear (spasms).
(Horia Popp Recommends - Ziua, October 28th 2004)



Nonconforming as always… We do not stand before a distorted version of the real world, but within an entirely different one - primeval, wild, symbolic.
(2004, Constantin Stan):

"'A poet of images', this is what Carmen Cretzu proclaims herself in an interview. Her paintings, put on display at the At the Orizont Galleries and the National Museum of Romanian Literature, two manifestations took place that had to be perceived as one, for various reasons: the first one is the obvious one - Carmen Cretzu and Valentin Iacob have respectively conceived their exhibition and poetry book as an artistic analogy; the second one - the varnishing and the release of the book are out of the ordinary; the third one - their endeavour prompts a complex discurrion regarding the different territories of arts. The following detail too - probably unknown to those outside the circuit - has its importance: the two artists are husband and wife. Unconforming as always, Carmen Cretzu has planned this exhibition as a gathering of friends - connoisseurs or not - entering directly the atmosphere of her new vision; hence without the usual speeches, often meaningless, too general, too formal, or too technical. They can neither guide the unspecialized visitor nor validate the exhibition artistically. Skipping this moment of rigidity, we have slowly entered the space of a contorted world, depicted in loud colours (a fauvist influence), with a blurring of the baoundary between man and animal to an extent that allows them to blend, cohabitate, switch sides, which situates us in the territory of fear. We do not stand before a distorted version of the real world, but within an entirely different one - primeval, wild, symbolic. It may be a world of nightmares, spasms that populate our minds, our subconscious. It may be a mere impression, but as I am not approaching this topic from a technical perspective, I will allow myself to make the following assumption: in larger or smaller groups, the visitors were not beholding the paintings directly, as if trying to adjust to their atmosphere first, ultimately letting themselves be watched, scrutinized. Carmen used the hall extremely well: a main wall was filled with paintings roughly the same size, clustered closely, so as to form a compact universe, liquefied and daunting; while the sides had more blank spaces, only a few larger paintings hanging on the right, wherein Adam and Eve loomed - and smaller ones that prompted a closer look. It felt like a tilted sailing ship, a ship of ghosts, of oddity. The big windows of the room (the fourth wall) allowed the outside world to be seen, in slow motion, muted, perhaps just as ghostly as the one we were in. This universe might be better understood after one reads Valentin Iacob's book, "clown of Christ", because the dominant visions expressed on canvas have a counterpart in poetry. From this point of view, I agree with Ioan Buduca's remark that, at the launching of a book, critical discourse is hindered by the public's unacquaintance with the book's content. And in the case of Valentin's book, reading it and viewing Carmen's exhibition were absolutely necessary. "Clown of Christ" is a strange book in every way. It was constructed with obvious contempt towards the didactic delimitation of poetry and prose: poems, diary entries, notes, pictures, enhanced in meaning with Carmen's drawings. This construction is explained by the author himself: "the old yearning to migrate permanently from poetry to prose and back - with a detour through mathematics - seeking interdisciplinarities that, when found, shall murder you… they murder sickened and without any mercy, serial killers, robotized. Thus, this book finally gains sense and coagulates: dream drops and pale glances to and from those archetypes generated by a grammar or a grammatical class that is unique, archetypes one might call Chomsky-esque. They and their unfeeling grammars reign." The tone is violent, in the true spirit of the avant-garde, the fragmentation is of the same essence because it represents the flange, the sparkling revelation that waits for no elaborate construction, but spontaneous, immediate expression. Nostalgic effusions are swiftly strangled, although the whole book gives an impression of deep sadness, the sadness of thought for not being able to comprehend everything at once, the sadness of being removed from God. Despite the many references, the wide range of language, from mathematic to hymnic, psalmic or "street", Valentin Iacob's book is best read as literature, not a mathematical or biblical riddle. Although I know this kind of remark is outmoded, I am not ashamed to say that this is a beautiful book. Underneath the disdain there is always the endless tenderness of a shattered sense of purity: "Seeing in all renounciation/ half of immortality/ while you negotiate your soul/ this bite of food/ dipped in the death's gravy…// And an old poem, seeing/ a poem in rags/ and their teeth lying on the side…// Seeing in all this the end,/ groping at the dice…// Your eyes, tutors of Death,/ of this vengeful abstraction,/ the snow's gangrene,/ partly for the hell of it…" (Blind Eyesight). Carmen Cretzu's Satyr Icon and Valentin Iacob's Clown of Christ are the transformational grammar of art. A complete success in translating image into words and words into image, not through illustration, but through a transformational generative act.
(CLOWN OF CHRIST AS SATYR ICON, Ziarul de duminica, 17.12.2004)



A range of pure comicality and beningn grotesque - regenerative and benefic
(2004, Virginia Barbu):

In October, the Orizont Galleries hosted Carmen Cretzu's painting exhibition, "Satyr Icon". Painted as if in one stroke, these paintings have an internal coherence out of which a unified vision has developped naturally, which is apparent in the exhibition. The artist has concentrated the majority of her smaller pieces one a single wall, "papering" it with humoristic iconography of sure visual impact. The exhibition had an "in the image" kind of discourse, the magical primitive method which is the base of ancient mural painting, the Judgement Days on the outside walls of Moldavian churches, Picasso's "Guernica" and much of the mischief of symbolists and expressionists. The artist's double experience, with monuments and with graphics, has generated at a technical and stylistic level, an original synthesis. Confidence in working on a vast surface and luxurious stretches of color, as well as fine and tremulous lines, all this is present. The chromatic vividness, owed to the fresco method of splattering the paint on the canvas fleetingly, makes the paintings cheerfulness and refreshing. Animated by many characters full of uncontainable verve, her compositions follow pyramidal, centripetal patterns outlined with a baroque tension of form. Carmen Cretzu's "Satyr Icon" is situated within the range of a pure comicality and beningn grotesque, animated by a rhetoric of "expression as a gesture". The world the artist paints is consumed with the aggitation of a pandemonium, an inflation of small silhouettes quarreling or plotting amongst themselves and living in peace with the animals. The symbolic domestic animals, undergoing surrealistic hybridizations, dog-horse, fish-bird, snail-mule-sheep, to the extent where an animal can be anything, even a color ("Dog Pink"), sometimes come from folklore, inspired by glass icons. The innocence and sadness of the animals in christian iconography generate, in these combinations, absolute hilarity. Masks, oversized heads swollen with green or blue, receive a lyrical and tragic touch in works like "The Fish Knight" or "The Birdiad". Still, mostly, the discrepance between head and body suggests inversion, a principle of comedy in itself. In a painting like "Head of Green", expressionist exaggeration is remarkable in the scornful and arrogant face of the "satyr", while his neck is gripped by the green mask of hatred and despair. The satyrical painting of Carmen Cretzu, not without a dramatic and caustic touch, is not meant to cause a kind of indigest, bitter laughter, as our contemporaries usually do, but rather a benefic, regenerating laughter.
Viata Romaneasca no.11 - 12 2004 Issue)



"Satyr Icon or Metaphysical Painting"
(2007, Gabriela Bidu):

"'A poet of images', this is what Carmen Cretzu proclaims herself in an interview. Her paintings, put on display at the Orizont Galleries throughout the month of October, demonstrate a power of expression that verges on rebellion. And yet, nothing of the subdued lyricism or gratuitous aestheticism that are associated, often unfairly, with a poetic take on visuals, is to be found in Carmen Cretzu's work. The poetry, extravagant and vivid, shocking at times, but essentially fascinating, is born of a dark imagination whose manifestations lie where surrealism meets neo-expressionism. In an ironic and deconstructivist note, the artist has named her new series of works 'Satyr Icon', deftly directing the mind of the beholder to the carnivalesque universe of Petronius' novel. With their explosions of color and inventive imagery, these paintings redefine for modern day the very essence of Satyricon, the void that hides behind the mask of theatricality, exposing life as a ceaseless swing between theatricality and illusion. The exploration of image at a formal level has yielded shapes that are schematic, amusing, but frightening at the same time, bearing the fertile dramatism of a carnival. Overall, the internal grammar of form, the contorted lines, the pasty contours, but especially the violent chromatic discourse generate a chaotic atmosphere. And yet this entire caricatural universe, theatrical to the fullest, is carefully constructed, the lines in motion, intertwined, hidden or highlighted with color produce an anamorphic discourse. There is something unsettling in each of Carmen Cretzu's pieces, the picturesque characters' smiles are frozen, their gestures are disproportionate, the angles are surprising, and black infiltrates ominously in every structure, often responsible with shaping the silhouettes. Beyond the richness of image and color, developing an entire rhetiric of fullness, of pictural fecundity - hides a void that represents death. This is one of the reasons why, despite her creating a dreamlike universe, Carmen Cretzu's style is closer to expressionist aesthetics, which can be seen in her use of colors and lines. A cultural citation and a commentary on immediate reality, Carmen Cretzu's "icons" unveil a fascinating rhetoric of the mask, pendulating distressfully between the expression of joy (laughter) and that of fear (spasms).
(Cronica Romana - 22.02.07



In between the raw power of color and the quietude of church windows of stained glass
(2007, Valentin Iacob):

"'A poet of images', this is what Carmen Cretzu proclaims herself in an interview. Her paintings, put on display at the Orizont Galleries throughout the month of October, demonstrate a power of expression that verges on rebellion. And yet, nothing of the subdued lyricism or gratuitous aestheticism that are associated, often unfairly, with a poetic take on visuals, is to be found in Carmen Cretzu's work. The poetry, extravagant and vivid, shocking at times, but essentially fascinating, is born of a dark imagination whose manifestations lie where surrealism meets neo-expressionism. In an ironic and deconstructivist note, the artist has named her new series of works 'Satyr Icon', deftly directing the mind of the beholder to the carnivalesque universe of Petronius' novel. With their explosions of color and inventive imagery, these paintings redefine for modern day the very essence of Satyricon, the void that hides behind the mask of theatricality, exposing life as a ceaseless swing between theatricality and illusion. The exploration of image at a formal level has yielded shapes that are schematic, amusing, but frightening at the same time, bearing the fertile dramatism of a carnival. Overall, the internal grammar of form, the contorted lines, the pasty contours, but especially the violent chromatic discourse generate a chaotic atmosphere. And yet this entire caricatural universe, theatrical to the fullest, is carefully constructed, the lines in motion, intertwined, hidden or highlighted with color produce an anamorphic discourse. There is something unsettling in each of Carmen Cretzu's pieces, the picturesque characters' smiles are frozen, their gestures are disproportionate, the angles are surprising, and black infiltrates ominously in every structure, often responsible with shaping the silhouettes. Beyond the richness of image and color, developing an entire rhetiric of fullness, of pictural fecundity - hides a void that represents death. This is one of the reasons why, despite her creating a dreamlike universe, Carmen Cretzu's style is closer to expressionist aesthetics, which can be seen in her use of colors and lines. A cultural citation and a commentary on immediate reality, Carmen Cretzu's "icons" unveil a fascinating rhetoric of the mask, pendulating distressfully between the expression of joy (laughter) and that of fear (spasms).
(Formula AS nr. 758, 2007)



"The imaginative verve of a monumentalism under treatment"
Valentin Ciuca - 06.05.09, opening speech at 7 Stones Gallery, Piatra Neamt :

Analysis is always the premise to a judgment on value that becomes biographical and noteworthy. This exhibition prompts me to make two obligatory connections: one has to do with the auspicious encounter of Ms. Carmen Cretzu with her mentor, Ilie Boca. As you know, he is a descendant of Bucovina's painters, and through him their spirit carries on, inasmuch as his palimpsests evoke a horizon that is ideal to our culture. The other one evokes even further the soul of this city, through Viorel Grimalschi (Carmen Cretzu's teacher at the University) whom I know very well, and who is a native of Piatra Neamt. He is one of the greatest teachers of monument art, and he supervises this section at the University of Arts in Bucharest. Evidently, the miraculous substance of the frieze, of the mosaic, of the icon do nothing else but highlight once again something of which we are all certain: that in this privileged space of Moldavia, two are the dominant traits of an identity which is, of course, a part of our national identity: creativity and spiritual enlightenment. This exhibition is a modern one. This is how most of them have been, especially personal ones hosted here, at 7 Stones. Modernity cannot be denied a priori with the argument that the work of art is not transparent enough to prompt instant joy. We are the ones who must reach for the idea, within the setting of a show. This show has nothing to do with the theatricality of montage and gear that is specific toexpressionist art, it is merely the vital pulse, sometimes estranged, sometimes elated, of an artist with a point of view closer to the spirit of Munch's "Scream", the famous stolen piece with an extraordinary history which you know very well. That was the "Manifesto" of that very prolific at the beginning of the century, of Munch, Munch's "Scream". Of course, compared to our latinness, our hot blood, the Northern was bound for this devastating fate of contending with the abysses within and without us. One must also remember that, along with the movements in Munich and Dresden, "Die Brücke" and "Der Blaue Reiter" became landmarks of an evolution not omnly in mentality, but in style, and has to do with what you see here. More so, if one is reminded that during the twenties, a Piatra Neamt native, Lascar Vorel, fit in perfectly with this manifesto of the Blue Rider, as relevant as painters like Franz Marc and so many other great names. Even today I look at Vorel's paintings, including the album on which I am working, and I discover still amazed the forwardness and courage of his vision, for the zone of his painting is an altogether different one, warmer, calmer, with landscapes of Bistrita - it is true, constructed in a geometry that differs from that of the age, up until his guashe. I have made these comments as a tribute to Ms. Cretzu, because unfortunately we celebrate her in her absence, but she is still present, as it is: those absent are always the most present, because we evoke and praise them without the constraint of visual communication or the tenderness that arises naturally through communication. Of course, in that "Scream" I recognize elements of her painting, which are in part the ironic, vituperant even, representation of the supposed purity of the child, the zone where human being meets its own mask, with a deformed Ego, an I that is not so much an alter ego but a distortion of the profound Ego. And in this chromatic upheaval reminds us that Ms. Cretzu is a vibrant colorist. Her colors, contrasting in appearance but complementary in essence, become harmonized. And the color relations are so strong and trenchant that areas which might suggest possible nostalgia or untreated melancholy have a power of communication that leaves no one indifferent. Obviously, the vibrant world in those paintings is not an ideal world. It is not a world we would necessarily want to enhabit, to own. But it exists in the imagination of its creator. It cannot be ignored. The territories of knowledge are vaste and hard to define. They are expressed and, all of us together, we can extricate a fraction of this mystery, forever trapped in its own substance of a mystery and trying to tell us something. There is also a playful dimension. One gets the impression that all these characters are born with an inclination toward this liberating dimension. Because play is a form of communicating seriously something that could otherwise be hindered by canons and existential rigors. Here, there is a natural quality of the imaginary, of one's ability to adhere to another world, parallel to the real world, in which one is the creator and beneficiary of this form of liberation. It is a sort of therapy, through the breaking of barriers, the attempt of being interested in the others, who are all so different. In this exhibition, I sense an imaginative verve of a monumentalism that is under treatment. Because if we connect the canvases, the stained glass and everything you do, here, painting brings a form of tenderness that clashes with rigor. If one tackles religious wall painting, there are Byzantine rules to obey, while this is a space of play and of relief. Frustrations that have built up in time erupt in a vaste space and eventually draw the beholder into a dialogue that promises future reencounters. Let us talk about the masks in these paintings. The characters have an identity, but a second level one. Not the autobiographical one, but one that is invented gradually as, from the first line, more and more relations are born on the canvas. You remember that one of the most modern artists of the XXth century, Hans Hartung, said that the first line is the hardest for a painter to draw. Because the first one begets the second, the second does the third; one must have the intellectual and spiritual strength to enter this game with one's own ghosts, to objectivize subjectivity. Of course, some stylized characters remind me of Piliuta's "Clowns". But "Carutele cu Paiate", the old children and the elders treated as children, manage in this way to maintain a certain intellectual tension and, what is more, cause surprize. Here, there is something that steps out of déjà vu banality and into something that changes our behavior, habits, cultural givens. Our experience enters a new horizon, a fictional one. All these masks, I feel like I have, yet have not seen before - this proximity sometimes to a zone of monstruosity, caricature, exaggeration, pamphlet… Some are almost graphic pamphlets that allow you freedoms otherwise forbidden. This world is of a monstruosity that does not determine reactions of rejection. On the contrary, through its color (because in the end color is what brings it all together, that makes the contours loose and spontaneous), this world manages to become not so much bearable, as a sort of hypothesis. A hypothesis for loosening that sphere of which I was talking, of a permanent mystery. Thus, in between play and the hope of expanding the horizon of knowledge through this experience, I reckon that, associated with a relaxed manuality, spontaneity, inventive charm, all the images have an capacity of invention in themselves, so that I believe that, if we step outside the lines of common taboos, we can feel truly free and, why not, join this visual adventure. After all, art has never aspired to make a thing visible, but rather to create, to generate something visible. Another type of visibility, to which we have access only through our intellectual capacity of entering a superior dialogue with these images. I must also say I think the 7 Stones Gallery is very serious and exigent toward value and, at the same time, brings friends together. Mrs. Gabriela Rusu Ene is the one who owns it (together with her gracious husband, an architect with a mind for spacially inscribed form), and makes it possible for Piatra Neamt to nurture such art, on this post-aant-garde trajectory. Of course, our bias makes us believe that the common man, were he to walk in, would reject this a priori. But as long as there is the playful dimension, that allowance to treat things au rebours - one would defilinely get the best reactions. With Mrs. Carmen Cretzu Iacob, I am happy to meet an artist who diserves great interest. After having climbed ladders and painted church ceilings, worked on mosaic and staind glass, imagine that this break she is giving herself is yet another instance of that liberating dimension. Here, there is the freedom to compensate with your own fantasy, be the creator of a living image. It is a form of freedom. This exhibition is an expression of unhindered freedom, and at the same time the joy of pushing forward intellectual and emotional knowledge, so that currents and periods start to sound a bit irrelevant. These are states of mind. I believe we should write a book about the states of painting, the way they felt at a given point in time, what their options and their limitations were, because you see, there is a continuum. Tomorrow for instance, I will honor an invitation to Festivalul International de Carte de la Iasi. There is a book, just released, translated from Spanish: "Let's Learn How to Paint". They start off with mural painting and reach Vasarely, if you can imagine, whose only merit is movement, and they think art can be learned. Many times I've asked myself: how come some draw close to art and others remain distant, some make money from it and others are ruined by it. The only authentic paradise is childhood. "It is the only paradise we're ever banned from", mused Paler. But Rudolf Hein, who has written about the psychology of art, points out something very important: when we think someone is playing, they are actually working very seriously. When they paint, children play Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Leonardo… They work with the faith that what they are doing there is already a masterpiece. And in art, everything runs its course, with ways, sometimes discrete and sometimes not, of following the footsteps to the absolute. So in the face of this magnificent exhibition, I can only exclaim: the guard would rather die than surrender! Art will never die!




Carmen Cretzu was destined as a maker of icons
(2001, Augustin Macarie):

"At Amzei Square, in a modern and appealing ambience, there is an 'Art-Net Café'. Although computers are not my cup of tea, as soon as, at a fleeting glance, I noticed a few remarkable paintings on the walls, I entered. Five talented and experienced painters are present, because the owners of the 'Art-Net Café' wished to ennoble their cybernetic atmosphere with the aid of art. And after these first artists, others will follow periodically, in a gallery both permanent and with works for sale…" Research, information, and… paintings! Carmen Cretzu - a painter with a rich and varied set of themes, is present this time with a single piece (Mother Mary and the Holy Infant), enough to convince us that she was destined a "maker of icons". Indeed, the virtues of religious painting (in a non-Byzantine style, but rather Neo-Renaissance, in strong but subtly patined colors) are found in this piece in which the "gold" is the luminous background of the composition.
(Dimineata, October 31st 2001)



A spectacular book, wherein the distance between imagery and poetry creates the tension of a cafeteria where music is being played and pictures are being painted, guns on the table.
(2002, Ion Stratan):

"The charm of this book of ballads comes from the music of life and death, on which the caligraphy of painter Carmen Cretzu's drawings is superimposed. A spectacular book, wherein the distance between imagery and poetry creates the tension of a cafeteria where music is being played and pictures are being painted, guns on the table. Carmen Cretzu sensed the tender nervosity of a long forgotten world. Life seems to be perceived from the height of the counter and 'limbered' from the hip that totes a 45 Colt…"
(Postface of 'De la Piedras Negras la Nuevo Leon, trecand prin El Paso - balade mexicane povestite din auzite', by Stefania Cosovei) (From Piedras Negras to Nuevo Leon, by Way of El Paso - Mexican Ballads from Hearsay)



The artwork gives a "graphic" dimension to the volume.
(2001, Traian T. Cosovei):

It is not by mistake that the painter, Carmen Cretzu, accompanies the author in this textual odyssey. The works give a "graphic" dimension to the volume "Words with Mercury Footsteps", a book that demonstrates an acute poetic sensibility, but also a way of associating with the imitative arts, enticed by the same existential metaphors.
(Words with Mercury Footsteps, by N. Radulescu-Botica - Cotidianul, 10.07.01)



An unmistakeable style. A tragic algorithm of images - the painter's dour frailty and the poet's existential metaphor. A combination that gives substance to a remarkable editorial release.
2004, Traian T. Cosovei):

"Clown of Christ" is a very profound book (…). With an unmistakeable graphic line, Carmen Cretzu makes a state of mind palpable. A tragic algorithm of images, an ecuation with two variables: the painter's dour frailty and the poet's existential metaphor. A combination that gives substance to a remarkable editorial release.




"Nonconforming as always, Carmen Cretzu invites us into her world."
"With a power of expression verging on rebellion."
"We do not stand before a distorted version of the real world, but within an entirely different one - primeval, wild, symbolic."
"These works, both individually and as a whole, make up a cycle of themes, profound reflections on existence that prompt the beholder to shed the vulgar ballast of mundaneness; indeed a most exquisite style of metaphysical painting."