Columna mutãtio - THE SPIRAL Sculpture by luminita taranu

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Columna mutatio - THE SPIRAL, installation exposed at Mercati di Traiano - Museo dei Fori Imperiali, Rome, 28 november 2017/ 18 november 2018
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Art Description

Sculpture: Screenprinting, Metal, Paint, Spray Paint, Ink on Aluminium, Iron, Other.

Exposed to Mercati di Traiano - Museo dei Fori Imperiali, Rome, 28 November 2017 - 18 November 2018.

Catalog published by Palombi Editori. Critical text by Alberto Dambruoso. Exhibition design by Arch. Pietro Bagli Pennacchiotti. Photographs Sebastiano Luciano.

Exhibition promoted by the Musei in Comune of Roma Capitale, the Capitoline Cultural Heritage Superintendency of Rome, the Councilorship for Cultural Growth of the City of Rome, the Zètema Cultura project, with the cultural support of the Embassy of Romania in Italy, the Embassy of Romania to the Holy See, the Romanian Institute of Culture and Humanistic Research in Venice, with the support of the Romanian Academy in Rome.ù

I made the work in two years.

The message I want to convey through my installation “Columna mutãtio – THE SPIRAL” concerns the “mutation” of meaning that occurs in the course of history. I think of my work as a sincere tribute to the memory of that past as relived in the present, in the dialog between the historical, artistic and archeological value of Trajan’s Column and our contemporary world.
I took as my references the same sources of inspiration – itineraria picta, volumina and triumphal paintings – that the architect Apollodorus of Damascus drew on when he conceived of Trajan’s Column as a long marble “ribbon” wound around a shaft and sculpted in bas-relief. Based on the Column’s conceptual dynamic, I interpreted certain essential aspects of its composition – the gestuality of the spiral movement of the frieze, the continuum, the original polychromy, its various meanings – in order to create an artwork with maximum structural and representational synthesis, unwound and emptied of all matter, reduced to pure geometry. Its horizontal layout alludes to the archeological artifact as a museumized object, a metaphor of the idea that history flows horizontally.
While Trajan’s historiated cochlide column tells a true story that has a beginning and an end, my “Columna mutãtio – THE SPIRAL” is a fragment with no beginning and no end, where time is not delimited but runs on infinitely.
My installation is a spiral consisting of an aluminum ribbon held in place by a rolled-aluminum tubular structure with a variable radius. Its dimensions are in a 1-to-3 proportion in respect of those of Trajan’s Column, and its seven coils are held in forced torsion, as if they were winding around an imaginary shaft.
As regards the work’s physical nature, I drew on the plaster casts made of the Column’s frieze in the nineteenth century. The contrast between the monument’s weight and the lightness of my work is an informal one. The alternation of the spaces between the coils generates an optical blending between the visible and the invisible matter, expressed as a harmonious ratio.
I made the work in two years' time, with important professional and artisan collaborations of the highest quality.
My Spiral has an inside and an outside surface. I used the inner surface to pay tribute to the Dacian people by depicting symbols handed down from pre-Dacian culture and spirituality, including symbols related to the subject of death. All of this is contained in condensed form by means of written texts, rendered in lettering close to the Roman lapidary style and dominated by tinted whites with gold highlights, laid over multiple layers of color. The gilded words “Decebalus per Scorilus” (Decebalus son of Scorilus) allude to the Dacians’ wealth. The “Symbols” are black, and are arranged in a rhythmic and ritualistic way. The contrast between the pale-hued texts and the black symbolic images creates a sense of drama, but in a contained and pensive way, with traces of joy: an emotion typical of Dacians before they were sacrificed.
On the other hand, the Spiral’s outer surface has an intense chromatic impact that evokes the force of life in a color-filled world. For this part I chose, drew and interpreted of a number of marble statues, turning them into symbols which, through repetition, acquired iconic value. These designs refer to the Roman world and act as throbs of memory in an open space traversed by Latin words that refer directly to the story told in the Column’s frieze. The symbols, the icons and the texts are evocative instruments that I used to create a new story that neither contradicts nor reproduces the one told by the Column, but flanks the original work in a different, free and imaginative perspective. The modern character of Roman art provided aesthetic and compositional answers. Some of my designs interpret ancient Roman statues as humanized and interconnected symbolic images in which the depiction of the human body is based not on its anatomy but on its representation in works of art. The layered texts are interwoven with the colored outlines, becoming images that tend to expand into the outlying space: a rhythmic sequence of interpretative images joined in a fluid progression, an open continuity.
Just as the Column’s frieze can be read in various ways, I likewise inserted multiple interpretative keys in order to create a composition in which, thanks to the coils’ three-dimensional nature, dynamic moments alternate with pauses, and the poetics of the infinite continuum allude to the horizontal flow of history and the abstract dimension of time.
The mutation of meaning on which the installation’s message focuses has acquired strong multicultural value for me. That is why I decided to insert at the end of my work, as a symbol looking toward the future, an icon that for years has represented me, namely the COWMAN, descendant of the ANIMAL-MAN figure in which nature and civilization merge. This subject embodies my philosophical and artistic view of our contemporary world. Produced by metamorphosis and mutation, this figure represents the history of the conditioned transformation and the evolution of the spirit that resides in all of us. Its evolution into the COWMAN makes it a citizen of the world and protagonist of the future.
At the same time that I was working on the aluminum support, I made four paintings on canvas, departing from the itineraria and entering large “pages” on which I explored some characteristic elements that recur in the installation’s graphic/pictorial fabric. My purpose here was to clarify to viewers the “instruments” that make up my symbolic “orchestra”: Deities, Writings, Symbols and Itineraria.
Starting from silkscreen printing, I developed a special pictorial technique that I’ve been using for some years to create unique artworks (not to produce multiples). I “painted” the Spiral in “layers,” inside and outside, applying silkscreen paint by hand and using screens on which I engraved more than fifty preparatory drawings. Handling the screens as if they were paintbrushes, pencils or engraving points, thus working with superimposed “sets of shapes,” enables me to create sharp images whose strong and clean chromatic impact supports the materiality of the colors, and at the same time renders details with great precision. The moment is unrepeatable, as it is in painting. The beauty of this technique also lies in the trace left by the layer of ink that passes through the screen mesh, and in the vibrant intensity of the colors.


Columna mutãtio - THE SPIRAL

luminita taranu



Size: 492.1 W x 55.1 H x 55.1 in

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