Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Obscure Subconscious [2006-2009]

My Inner Malefic Transylvania


Started in 2006 with the works Aborted Visions and Ecumenical Depravation 1, it ended up to be for most of the public one of the most malefic and gloomy contemporary graphic series in Transylvanian art. It is the collection that was meant to be provocative, shocking and a fierce declaration against taboos, snobbism and hypocrisy.


One may ask what made me create the eight works that compose the collection, and what where the consequences of exposing them to the wide audience. Looking back to the beginning, the ideas just came up as something that I felt that I had to say about “my inner malefic Transylvania.” I had the luck [or misfortune?] to be born in the north-western part of Romania called Transylvania, a hybrid land of multiple ethnic groups, religions and a relatively obscure history. A place that for most of the foreigners is known usually only through the fictional myth of Dracula, for us it is a spot on the Earth located culturally somewhere between Eastern and Western Europe, borrowing characteristics from both sides. However advantageous it sounds, since the fall of communism in 1989 Transylvania and in extension its local art [with small exceptions] failed to integrate in the worldwide mainstream cultural movements. Our artistic scene lead mostly by figures formed under the communist regime lags way behind contemporary art standards. Unfortunately, so does the people’s mentality. While some are still dominated by taboos due to their old conceptions, others usher into a highlife kitsch modernity, characterized through snobbism and hypocrisy.


These crucial cultural subjects were the ones that I approached in my works, knowing that they have different values for the public. Each work was conceived after a long period of theoretical research for its theme, and after numerous sketches for finding the composition scheme that allows expressing as much message as possible. In these works often the form falls behind the contents of its message, due to my strong belief that good quality art has to be highly intellectualized.  One of the common topics in every work is a decadent form of sexuality, regarded through various aspects: highly provocative in Aborted Visions and Offering to the Goddess of Pleasure, slightly comic and ironic in Fleshy Creature, rather sentimental in Damnatio Memoriae, wicked in Imperator Venericus and immoral in Ecumenical Depravation 1 and 2. But instead of limiting myself to the clichéd subject of sexuality, I used it only as a starting point. Aiming higher, I always added a second or a third subject in order to enhance my works with multiple meanings. Consequently, each piece of art can be “read” on multiple levels. One may understand only the surface meanings through the self obvious figures, or he may choose to analyze further and “read” the deeper meanings expressed through secondary themes, symbols, and theoretical background. Examples in this sense are once again Ecumenical Depravation 1 and 2 with subjects inspired by social attitudes, closely related to traditional religious values. Furthermore, one may need to understand the ancient myths about the God of Inferno, Hades and his companion Cerberus to fully comprehend the contemporary political references in the work Hades and the 3 Heads of Cerberus. Or why not going further to understand the Latin titles of Imperator Venericus and Damnatio Memoriae in the context of Ancient Rome to be able to discover how contemporary they actually can be in a different context?


I could probably keep on writing on and on for tens of pages about the contents of each work but the goal of this article is not analyzing my artworks step by step. Probably I managed to offer a path to follow for viewing my creations. Also, I discussed the main inspiration source: Transylvanian society. But in addition to the mentioned source there was something more that guided me toward the creation of these works: my gloomy psychological state between 2006 and summer 2008. Looking back, I can clearly claim that each artwork represents closely the psychological state of the artist in the moment of creating. Summing it all up, the relation between my sentiments and my artworks from that period are surprising even for me because I evaded the obscure feelings of those years and I experienced a totally different culture since then. I would be completely unable now to create something like this collection. Each period generated its own feelings, while each feeling leads inevitably to its own visuals…


As it may be expected, the public’s reaction was/and continues to be divided. Judging from the exhibitions that I participated in, and from personal comments that I received, there were numerous people who had positive opinions about what they saw, and supported me. Sometimes both art connoisseurs and ordinary people found the works’ symbolism more than intriguing, the prosaic/narrative representations fascinating, the quality of the represented textures pleasurable for both the eyes and tactile senses and the explicit images as positively courageous and memorable. On the other hand, those who criticized my work also had their clear reasons. Those who don’t agree with the freedom of art found the works too explicit, while others just couldn’t understand the deeper meanings. Relatively subjective and naïve were the voices that claimed the works to be too dark, sinister and monochrome, just like my previous website [started from the concept of Black & White, designed to be in direct relation with the Obscure Subconscious series]. Quite unusual [but significant] were the opinions of some young Korean artists who described the works as “wonderful and unique! So exotic!!” I personally never imagined them to be exotic, but I acknowledged later that for a different culture my works were exotic indeed. A reciprocal amazement for each others’ art works. Anyway, probably the best example that illustrates the contrasting opinions was the “Go urban?” exhibition in Satu Mare, Romania 2007, organized together with other artists from my hometown. Most of the public was amazed by the works, newspapers and televisions promoted it as sensational, while the administration of the museum extended the length of the expo due to the numerous visitors day by day. On the other hand, critics also exited, even frustrated politicians who described our works as “immoral” and the artist [us] as “demonized.”


Like it or not, I simply sustain this collection as being an image of my Transylvanian surroundings, and an image of my state of mind during the years of creating these works. Although sometimes the works made even myself question my mental health, I continue [and will continue] to consider them as being the most representative artworks for the contemporary Transylvanian psychological anguish. Violating taboos, opening to the local public frustrations undisclosed before, expressing my emotions that can be felt only on these dark lands, Obscure Subconscious is the most sincere Transylvanian malefic art.


Fabian Emanuel

Cluj-Napoca, 10-11 February, 2010




Further Reading about Offering to the Goddess of Pleasure


I post a detail of my new work Offering to the Goddess of Pleasure [full image will be available soon on my new website]. I consider this work “the end” of a chapter, the final piece to complete the Obscure Subconscious series.


I conceived this work during autumn 2007, and I made most of the drawing at the beginning of 2008, leaving it untouched until recently. Last days I made some final touches on the backgrounds, in order to be able to bring Obscure Subconscious project to an end. Sincerely, Offering to the Goddess of Pleasure being an old work, I feel that its concept doesn't represent my current thinking. So, working on it didn't felt like creating art, it felt more like restoring something old. Looking back to its theme, I am tempted to consider this work as being among my darkest creations ever made. It is a climax for my critical perspective about the concept of decadent eroticism.


The work itself provides visuals for the gloomy psychological state that I went through between 2006 and 2008, circumstances that lead inevitably to the creation of the most sinister and depraved contemporary Transylvanian image series: Obscure Subconscious.


Posted on my blog on 22 December, 2009