Friday, January 10, 2014

Artist interview - Claudia Niculescu

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Claudia Niculescu is a Romanian artist. She studied Art History at the University of Vienna and is currently living in Wien, Austria. She paints, creates handcrafted jewelry and recently illustrated A.R. Deleanu’s collection of short stories, “Acluofobia” (Achluophobia).

Mihai A: Thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
How did you discover your passion for art? When have you decided to pursue your passion into an art career?
Claudia Niculescu: I can’t really remember. I’ve been drawing since ever; it was my favorite game when I was a child (it still is). But probably the most important step that actually started to define this passion was the moment when my mother came into my room one day and got extremely mad when she saw the abstract “mural” I did on the bedroom wall while she was away. She immediately decided to send me to some painting courses at the art school just to keep the walls clean. I was 6 years old.

Mihai A: How important is to believe in your talent in such a decision and how important is a valuable advice in taking such a decision? Are these two strictly connected?
Claudia Niculescu: This is almost like a paradox, I think. You have to be confident and believe in your talent but at the same time you also have to be open and take a lot of advice. A narrow mind will not help.

Mihai A: Often, in sports, it is said that the path to success is made of 20% talent and 80% work. Is such a statement true for art as well? Can a less talented artist achieve better results with his art through constant work?
Claudia Niculescu: Absolutely. I don’t really believe in talent (in the traditional meaning of the word). I think that the word “talent” stands for one’s capacity to coordinate the brain and the hand at the same time, the ability to translate ideas and thoughts into lines, shapes and colors and all this comes with constant exercise. But this exercise I am talking about is rather a psychical one than a practical one. So it is in vain to have talent without “shaping” it.

MA: Who are your favorite artists? Who are the artists that inspired and influenced your art career so far?
CN: Although it is not visible in my work, I am a huge fan of classical painting and I am obsessed with Caravaggio. He created a new technique in which he is basically shaping figures out of the dark and literally places mythical or biblical scenes on the dirty streets of 17th century Italy. He broke all the rules of painting, decency and morality to create something completely new, something that will impose its pureness and divinity through its sordidness and sinfulness. His paintings have the power to convince you that all you know and all that you have seen before is wrong and open a path to a new understanding of life. This is what inspires me and influences my art.

MA: You have decided to study art at the University of Vienna. What led you to this particular choice? Is there an important difference between the Romanian and Austrian school when it comes to art studies?
CN: It would be really unfair to compare the schools because I do not know much about the Romanian art school. The reasons why I chose Austria are simple: I wanted something new and I wanted to leave. I chose Vienna because of its vast artistic opportunities. There are tons of museums; you can find almost any artistic movement you want there, from Roman artifacts to Gothic cathedrals, from classicism to minimalist and contemporary art. I think Vienna is the perfect city for a student of art history.

MA: Besides creating art you also make jewelry and you are interested in photography. Why the interest in these two? How the photography and jewelry craft influenced your art?
CN: Photography has actually an important role in my life. I wanted to be a photographer at some point, so I decided to take this matter seriously and concentrate on building some solid ground in this domain. And so I did. I studied Photography for two years. When I take pictures I always try to put a highlight on details. I also do that when I paint.
Jewelry is my second passion. I can’t go anywhere without wearing a necklace or at least a big ring. I think I have about 3 kg of it and most of it is made by me. I like to work with beads because I consider it a very relaxing and creative activity and, as in painting, I enjoy to combine colors and play with contrasts.

MA: You are using the traditional tools in creating your paintings and drawings, but with the increased number of computer programs nowadays there are more and more artists using the digital tools and mediums for their work. Why do you prefer to work in the traditional way? Do you think that one day you would try the digital tools too?
CN: I like the traditional tools because through this technique I can literary create with my own hands. The whole preparations for the act of painting are like rituals: the preparing of the canvas, setting it on the easel, choosing the brushes, the colors… mixing the colors is one of my favorite parts. I could not start to work on something without this phase. All these increase my enthusiasm and actually contribute to my ideas and inspiration. It’s a very complex mental process in the end that is significant for the final result, the painting. And it is never the same; each idea requires different “rituals”. I like to feel the textures. I know that you can (sort of) obtain this by using 3D printers but the final result is incomparable. I’m pretty sure that nothing beats the handmade experience. It will never get old. I don’t think that I will ever completely switch to digital tools, the idea just doesn’t please me, maybe I’ll try to combine them somehow but I cannot leave the brushes.

MA: With the increased number of online mediums for displaying art, come an increased number of artists who display their artworks. How important is, in this context, the originality of an artist? How important and difficult is to achieve a personal trademark for your work?
CN: The originality of the artist is probably the most controversial subject of the modern art scene. It almost became like an obsession and the contemporary artist situates himself in a constant battle with the traditions and with the norms. I think this is the purpose of art nowadays, to create a concept that no one had ever thought of before and through this you obtain a trademark. It is impossible to pop out of the crowd if your art is not original. I think originality is even more important than talent. It is also harder to acquire. The trademark, I think, is mostly established by your truthfulness towards your art.

MA: In a recent small interview that we recently had you said and I quote: You cannot experience beauty without the grotesque, joy without horror or caress without pain. By denying or skipping the parts that do not please your soul you just push yourself further into an illusion of vague terms.” Is this one of the reasons for your art having a dark feel? Are you attracted to the darker side of things?
CN: It is just a different point of view. I see beauty in things that other people wouldn’t necessarily consider beautiful. My art is often characterized as macabre, a word that I don’t really like to use. When I’m asked to shortly describe my work I usually use the words “organic”, “heavy” and “a little bit dark”. Bones are my image for the word “beautiful” because this is our palpable inside, this is our base, this is what we are made of. The skull, a beautifully built, concrete, organic structure, is the carrier of our brain, the engine of our thoughts and feelings, which are pure life. So, we may call the skull the carrier of ourselves. How can this be possibly considered horror? It might be a little bit terrifying to take a look at yourself from the inside, but I think the association of bones with death is a wrong, preconceived idea of which we should get rid of for once.

MA: Are you also interested in this dark perspective in other cultural areas, such as music, literature or film?
CN: Yes, I am always looking for inspiration in these mediums. I have to admit that I prefer the music and the literature because they allow me to build my own image of the sound/story. I am not a big fan of horror movies… I can’t really look at the brutal scenes… it scares me.

MA: Speaking of dark art this and the art of the fantastic are not often taken seriously and they tend to be heavily under-appreciated. Why do you think that these forms of art are disregarded in face of other forms of art? Do you think that critiques fail to see beyond the label and properly appreciate an artwork for its true value?
CN: I think the problem is the general public and its trending ideals. There are few who are open minded and who like to see/read what they don’t like to see/read. Critiques usually go for the works who obtain the biggest audience. Critiques go with the trend. This is why this genre is least promoted compared to others.

MA: Recently you worked on a book, A.R. Deleanu’s “Achluophobia”, where you made the cover and interior illustrations. How did this art project come into existence? What involves the process of creating such illustration besides the artist, inspiration and easel?
CN: A.R. Deleanu’s “Achluophobia” was the most spontaneous project I ever did, and it happened like this: I received an e-mail one day from him in which he simply wrote that he has a new story book coming and wants the “Bloody Feather” for the cover and he would also need some sketches for each story. The “Bloody Feather” is a painting I did a couple of years ago, he told me then that this would make a great book cover someday. The ten sketches (one for each story) are actually randomly chosen by A.R. Deleanu out of my One Sketch a Day Book. And that’s all. I couldn’t really picture the way he wanted to put all these together but I trusted him and I was very impressed the first time I hold the book in my hands. He has such a great esthetic taste. I only read the book one week before the official release and I can tell you that I was pretty shocked to see that the illustrations and the texts go together extremely well, especially on “Kilimanjaro” where you can follow the same motives. I asked him if he changed the story a little bit so that it fits and he said that he didn’t change a word.

MA: Would you like to repeat this experience in the future? Who would be the writers you would like to work with or to illustrate their books?
CN: I would definitely repeat this experience! I think every book needs its picture as well as any picture needs its book. I would like to work again with A.R. Deleanu because we have similar ideas and we got along very well and that is important in the creative process. I haven’t really set a target on anyone but I would like to work with everybody especially if they are creative and ambitious.

MA: What plans and projects do you have for the future?
CN: This is such a terrifying question, I always avoid to answer it because the answer would be the most sincere “I don’t know”. But I will do my best to go on in the art domain.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.

More information and art by Claudia Niculescu can be found on her blog.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

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