Romanian-born and raised fine artist and illustrator Teodor Dumitrescu now lives in Riverside in Southern California in America, working primarily as a painter and drawer, with more recent ventures showing his penchant for sculpting stories via techniques including woodturning.
Exhibiting worldwide, a selection of Teodor’s work forms part of the permanent collection at the Riverside Art Museum with regular exhibits at Downtown Los Angeles’ The Hive Gallery and Long Beach’s Dark Art Emporium. Providing representation for Teodor and showcasing many of his earlier works is the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, while more recent projects include featuring in the group exhibit Folk Noir. The exhibition, curated by Jeremy Cross, took place at Stranger Factory gallery in Albuquerque.
Showing artistic skill in grade-school, the Romanian was trading and selling his fantastic, seemingly larger-than-life (superheros) drawings to those around him at an early age. While learning the ABCs and 123s, this young artist was also learning how to harness his wild imagination in art – giving form to curiosity, function to creativity, and a frame to better observe the bigger picture already taking shape: Life as an artist.
With an ever-growing number of global followers (digital and tangible), among those to first champion his artistic voyage was a buoyant brigade of students and teachers. After attending The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) while at high school, he went on to refine his talent by studying a Bachelors in Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002. With a thesis focusing on fantastical images of old and new world nostalgia, and a substantial amount of time spent studying scientific and natural history illustrative work, Teodor Dumitrescu’s degree has contributed greatly in shaping his artistic style – particularly in nurturing themes of nostalgia, and sharpening his curiosity for observing the wonders of this world.
‘Usurping Nature’, watercolour on paper, 10.25″ x 7″
‘Landing In America’, oil on paper, 24″ x 26″
Drawing from his studies, his paintings, imbued with old and new world observations, are a playground where nostalgia and fantasy mirror early artistic exchanges. In ‘Landing In America’, for example, the crashed plane and aged Superman poster echo (albeit in a much darker, more visceral tone) memories of his grade-school drawings of jet-planes and superheroes; visual clues which, perhaps, also signal the power of imagination as the ultimate get-out card.
Beyond the nostalgic triggers, the objects tell a more universal story; one where history and experience take centre stage. Teodor draws the curtains on a harrowing, but timely ubiquitous narrative: the (oft sudden) death of the ‘American dream’. And yet, hanging in mid-air and distorting space (a lilt to the magic realism, perhaps) is a frame of hope. The questions left lingering, for me, include ‘Is memory our real superpower?’ and ‘Is memory merely a construct?’
The message I take home is essentially one about keeping alive memories, childhood and other; memories have a place in our history, they’re part of our journey – however distorted this journey might feel. And the message of hope: To always hang on to hope. Last, that superheroes do exist – in a teacher, friend, lover, sibling, child, father and mother; these everyday heroes are the real superheroes with a magical power we call love.
‘Where Stares Meet’, watercolour on paper, 16″ x 20″
Sophisticated strokes in watercolour, oil and gouache create striking, highly nuanced visual narratives which journey through history unlocking memories and arresting imagination. Coming together as wistful vignettes engaging memory, experience and history, Teodor Dumitrescu’s paintings present opportunity for reflection and discovery.
The settings and the characters give a nod to Teodor’s stylistic influences which extend the realm of fine art to live in motion pictures and the written word, namely the cinematic style film noir (‘black film’ in French), technicolour (a series of colour motion picture processes) and magic realism.
Characteristic to the film noir crime dramas of early to mid-20th century Hollywood, Teodor’s paintings oft include a loner protagonist set against a menacing backdrop; dramatic and cinematic in colour.
He looks in part to magic realism, a term often interchanged with post-expressionism, to play out themes exploring ideas around memory and experience. A genre used in literature, magic realism was introduced in Art in 1925 by a German art critic Franz Roh, who used the term ‘Magischer Realismus’ (magic realism) when referring to a style also known as ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (or New Objectivity).
Early magic realism was not about adding ‘magical’ elements to a realistic image, but rather, as Roh emphasized “…to take something that’s given and explore that reality as intensely as I can.” Roh’s aim essentially to perform a deeply realistic rendering of reality, and, by doing so with such intensity, creates a ‘magic effect’ on the viewer. The more recent use of magic realism in art steers away from its rigid beginnings to a rather magical reality much more liberal with the artist’s use of fantastic or surreal overtones.
Teodor, like many contemporary magic realistic artists, uses traditional techniques to conjure up the ‘magic effect’ Roh so famously quoted, including, for example, a bizarre juxtaposition of objects and spatial alterations.
‘We’re still searching’, watercolour and gouache on paper, 30″ x 22″
The distortions of space in Teodor’s paintings open a broader debate about place, probing us to consider what his own journey from Romania to America was like. Throughout history this journey has, for many, been one of both suffering and hope; a discordant version of ‘The American Dream’.
On paper, wood, and panel, Teodor paints the visual clues (birds, shoes and suitcases) commenting on the ephemeral nature of our journey through life; a message that this too shall pass. Adding gravitas to this commentary (speaking on impermanence, but also on hope) is the choice of titles, such as ‘We’re still searching’ and ‘Last Passenger’.
Engaging the viewer in a multi-layered visual discourse, Teodor, in ‘Across a Raging Sea’, beckons us to pause and observe a dramatic historical narrative unfold. As we observe the destruction playing out on the ground (a typical WW1 scene), we remember the impact of history on the lives of generations past and present.
Teodor’s work is ultimately a reminder to stay curious, and a warning never to forget. As we journey between fact and fiction to seek out our place in the post-truth reality of today, let’s pause to observe and celebrate the every-day magic along the way.
‘Last Passenger’, watercolour on paper, 10.25″ x 7″
‘New Day’, oil on panel, 8″ x 8″
‘Where Sparks Reside’, oil on panel, 12″ x 9″
‘Trespasses’, oil on panel, 5″ x 7″
‘The Cake Cutters’, oil on panel, 12″ x 12″
‘Tethered to the Fading Light’, oil on panel, 5″ x 7″
‘Duet in Pink and Blue’, oil on paper, 12″ x 8″ oval
‘Dirty Linen’, oil on panel, 7″ x 5″
‘Balancing Act’, oil on paper mounted on board, 3.25″ x 1.5″
‘Arose a Ruin’, oil on panel, 8″ x 8″