JANUARY – AIDA TOMESCU – AUCKLAND

Reality is infinitely varied compared to all the deductions of abstract thought, even the most clever ones, and it will not tolerate clear-cut or strict distinctions. Reality strives towards fragmentation. We all had our own particular kind of life, whatever kind that may be, and it was not just the official kind, but an inner, personal life.

The House of the Dead, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

This acknowledgement and respect for the individual and his character, for the limits of abstract theories and systems – for the diversification of real life, especially an inner life, characterises Fyodor Dostoevsky’s late writing.

We might apply such a shift in thinking, one that resigns from policy and systemic behaviours towards a new, liberated approach to the specific needs of an individual, to the making of a painting.

As I have observed Aida Tomescu’s paintings mature over the years one can sense just how much they are the result of a significant accumulation of experience, consideration and conviction. These aspects, along with moments of doubt and concern, belief and strength and considerable pigment form the constituents of her authoritative and potent paintings.

Observing groups of works become manifest in the studio, I am very much aware that process, at least any systemic or inveterate regime, has been set aside in favour of a more nuanced and open response to the needs of the individual works. In this sense Tomescu’s painting reality strives towards fragmentation. This fragmentation however does not imply lack of connectedness, rather the reverse is the case. Like a choir that is made of a thousand different voices, each painting is composed of innumerable interventions, touches, excavations, no two alike yet they cohere to form a new plastic reality with their own material being, their own composition and structure, their own inner life.

These newest paintings that form The Heart Was a Place Made Fast, follow on from her recent Sydney exhibition where the heroic triptych, Sewn into the Stones of the Sky was acquired for the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Characterised by open areas of linen and assertive and sensitive application of pigment, Tomescu’s paintings resist the polite and pictorial, and now that the scale of the works has grown so profoundly there is a sense that their vigour is held within an appropriately scaled envelope.

Gustav Mahler said that “the spirit can assert itself only through the medium of clear form.” This too is true for Tomescu and especially if we add “and scale” to his quote. For it is the spirit of these new works that is so compelling and so uninhibited – and this spirit has been liberated by the ambition and scale of these marvellous paintings. Nowhere is this more evident than in the new triptych Violet with Candles. The painting weighs commanding areas of deep quinacridone and cobalt violet applied in a vertiginous staccato against spumes and rivulets of paint that are delicate but no less certain. 

Tomescu’s paintings are held in collections around the world and in many museums throughout Australasia including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, Heide Museum of Modern Art, British Museum London and Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki. She has been awarded the Dobell Prize for Drawing, the Wynne Prize for Landscape and the Sir John Sulman Prize by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The artist will be present for her first solo exhibition in New Zealand and will give a talk at the Auckland gallery on Saturday at noon. All welcome. 

AIDA TOMESCU THE HEART IS A PLACE MADE FAST CATALOGUE 2020