Romanian Biennale – two thumbs up!

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Just back from Cluj, the capital of Transylvania, Romania where I participated in the First International Ceramics Biennale held at the National Museum of Art.

The National Museum of Art, a magnificent baroque building that unfortunately has seen better days…
The National Museum of Art, a magnificent baroque building that unfortunately has seen better days…

As a vehicle for displaying the very latest innovations and trends, a Biennale is defined by high expectations. One expects to be exposed to the crème de la crème of contemporary art, and the Cluj Biennale offered a mouth-watering smorgasbord of some of the finest contemporary ceramic works being produced today. Ceramic artists around the globe continue to defy clay’s limitations, pushing their material into new frontiers and incorporating audio and video elements, found objects, wood, wire, leaves, porcupine quills, photography and embroidery.

Jeffrey Mongrain's iris projection at the base of the ceramic vessel
Jeffrey Mongrain’s iris projection at the base of the ceramic vessel
Bogdan Teodorescu's poignant chipped deer figurine looking at it's broken antler
Bogdan Teodorescu’s poignant chipped deer figurine looking at its broken antler

The range of works was truly impressive. Giant vessels stood like sentinels as mobiles floated from the ceiling. Pedestals sported tiny figurines that were dwarfed by billboard-sized wall pieces. Translucent slivers of porcelain shared the limelight with crude stoneware sculptures; crackled, encrusted glazes competed with impeccably airbrushed surfaces. Beside a pile of unfired clay decomposing on a tabletop, contorted altered forms lay within reach of sculpted torsos inlaid with words and symbols.

A catalogue from the exhibition is available on the Cluj Biennale website. More glimpses below:

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My piece 'Lock, Stock and Barrel' turned out to be quite a talking point!
My piece ‘Lock, Stock and Barrel’ turned out to be quite a talking point!

The accompanying Symposium on the Arts of Fire included informative presentations from Iceland, Latvia, Austria, Israel, United States, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, Romania and Turkey. My presentation on the Balance of Concept and Aesthetics was very well received, with some possible international invitations on the horizon.

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The Biennale organizers had a final surprise in store for the artists – an unexpected cocktail held in a magnificent former casino in the middle of the Central Park, with a folk dance troupe to entertain us!

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Cluj itself is a lovely city, even showing off with a magnificent rainbow and delicious croissants for breakfast!

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I wouldn't say no to a return visit - here's to the 2015 Cluj Biennale!!!
I wouldn’t say no to a return visit – here’s to the 2015 Cluj Biennale!!!

PS. For an extra treat , check out this 30-second youtube video I made of a fabulous contemporary ceramics gallery I visited in Bucharest.

Photos courtesy of Alan Merbaum.

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