I visited Bogdan Luca last week at his studio on Ossington above Awol Gallery. He was busily preparing for his solo show The Roving Iconist, which opened Friday night at Le Gallery. Dressed in paint splattered blue mechanic coveralls, Luca led me through the work in his tiny white box-studio. With paintings stapled to the cracking walls sometimes three canvasses deep, the air was thick with the smell of oil and solvents. It wasn’t until my own comforted feeling of nostalgia wore off that I noticed how dizzy I was.
Having started off dedicated to painting purely figural studies, Luca’s work is now focused not only on playing with the relationship between figure and ground, but also and even more importantly, in resolving the viewer’s relationships to images within our heavily image saturated world. Like many artists Luca is chronically archiving multi-sourced visual footage to use as the fragments which will inevitably compose any given final work.
Starting with the background as the conceptual framework for this present body of work, Luca looks at the connective structures within the physical network of the previous revolution. Tunnels, bridges and ramps become easy metaphors to examine our own contemporary concepts of progress and movement in a digital world. The juxtapositions of unrelated imagery atop of these connection metaphors parallel the travel of information and commerce within the ether of cyberspace.
It’s unapparent in many cases as to where the imagery originally hails from though individual light sources on the various figures give clues as to their independence. Unified by a dark candy coloured palette of blue, cherry, violet and apple-green, the images are unapologetically stitched together, sometimes amid purposely left white expanses to create disquieting visual-non-sequiturs. Though each is heavily weighted in symbolism, the artist welcomes viewer interpretation of his unique scenarios. The unlikely pairings of the various unexplained figures seem to be Luca’s attempt to make narrative sense of the mass of disparate yet poignant imagery within his archives. By compiling these images into an expressive body with the potential to instigate emotions in others, Luca challenges the passivity of the image and creates the argument of image as experience.
In our media saturated world, it’s unsurprising that a visual artist would seek to validate the value of their experience of the seen world- real or virtual. I’ve heard similar conceptual arguments before-Toronto artist Brendan Flanagan comes to mind. In a world where information is the greatest commodity, how could we argue that one couldn’t gain meaningful experience virtually? Can it be argued then, that an artist who is painting entirely from images culled from outside sources is indeed still painting from their own experience?
As I listened to Luca explain his conceptual musings, I couldn’t help but begin to focus on his thick European accent. Having arrived from Romania with his family over 17 years ago, it’s unfair to call this young artist anything but Canadian. When he begins to talk about his various representations of iconoclasm however, I can’t help but think about the importance of the human experiential lens through which we translate our visual experiences.
In one of his works an iconoclast sprays a white background amidst his surroundings. In another, a pair of them erect a blank wall to block the gallery of image history that lay behind. As the artist recalls regimes of the past trying to wipe out the history of various peoples through the destruction of images, I feel that Luca’s own cultural heritage is an undeniable, if subconscious, influence on his work. With that, I wonder if the concept of image as experience even warrants dispute. As Luca struggles to narrate his experiences of these emotionally jarring images through a possibly subconscious unpacking of his own early history, I wonder how it could ever be possible to separate the experience of an image from the gallery of human experience.
Bogdan Luca’s, The Roving Iconist is showing at Le Gallery until July 17, 2011.