As one who probed Montreal’s stained-glass market some 18 years ago, seduced and enthused by the perspective of working in the field even before setting foot on its land, I now find myself looking with a desirous eye at its gothic cathedrals while with a sigh in the other observing the modern architecture. It’s a personal preference, of course, but an expansive one seeking a metropolitan amplitude.
Little did I know that almost two decades later the stained-glass industry of this cultural megalopolis was about to depend mostly on restorations and repairs. Since I’ve learned this I couldn’t help but wonder how busy must’ve been the artisans in their studios back then if the stained-glass business today relies heavily on repairs. Where did it all go? Thanks to Louis Tiffany, the public interest revived for a while before it slowed-down dramatically again. But this beautiful matter could flourish much stronger nowadays. Why doesn’t it?
In this epoch, the benefits of the democratization of knowledge are vitiated by the “trending” machinery - a social gesture learned too easily from the commercial front of our culture. Trendiness bases its strategy on the concept of “momentum”, a physics term which has its merit for being effective, but which denotes a lack of control. That is perhaps why multi-generational projects are not a thing anymore.
The economical principles of cost-efficiency and return on investment, together with the frivolous side of our lives are the three major factors in pushing the public interest away from this millennial art. The need for continuous change, the blessing and the cursing of our times, doesn’t pair well with the permanence of the stained-glass. Neither does it with its cost. Neither does it with the manufacturing timeframe, which for the greatest architectural achievements in the human history, like the Notre Dame Cathedral, meant hundreds of years to completion. It occurs to me that the prosperity of stained-glass has been due to the conditions of the epoch. What our times offer is different.
The very institution that adopted and gave stained-glass a role in history is no longer maintaining the same conditions. The interest for the narrative function of a stained-glass window in a church has diminished since the accessibility offered by the internet, which brings virtually unlimited video, audio, and live material to the parishioners. The clergy no longer relies on painted glass windows for imparting biblical stories. Some churches carried out the stained-glass tradition, but saved the costs by adopting abstract compositions. Some suspended it all together and put frosted glass in their windows. Others, like the nondenomination churches, which look something between a concert room and a stadium, and which are lit by flood-lights and have giant screens, have no windows at all. The traditional places where stained-glass sustained popularity for 13 centuries - the churches - experience nowadays a declining attendance. As a direct consequence, they are now less likely to budget for decorating the windows with biblical scenery. The stained-glass industry takes note of this trend. In an effort to reach secular institutions and other alternative venues (given that the name “stained-glass” became detrimental to the businesses for its spiritual connotation), some artists understandably began to prefer new syntagms like architectural glass, art glass, or leaded glass.
Today is a time of now: act now – get it done – move on. This is the spirit. Those indebted to seeking restless motion may find an image projector or a thin screen serving well in decorating a white wall. The less geeky devotees of stained-glass can cover the windows in the house with the inexpensive, quick to install self-adhesive films. And those who care to be a little more pretentious with the details can go for the faux stained-glass made with puffy paint and acrylic colors. Low-budget alternatives to stained-glass exist and became somewhat sophisticated. In fact, they are not major detractors to this trade; rather, they preserve and cultivate the public interest for stained-glass. But how much of that interest is left?
A few years back I took the task to check over two hundreds and fifty websites from architects and interior decorators in four Canadian provinces. After viewing thousands of pictures what I found was that only about 1% of them contain stained-glass windows, and the majority are from restoration projects. I was deeply disappointed but I understood the challenge. It seemed that stained-glass doesn’t bond well with the minimalism and with the geometrical simplicity of de Stijl, or with the constructivism. It certainly seemed that way. Except for what I developed in the past few years, which constitutes a new proposal for the contemporary interiors and architecture.
Firstly, by departing from the hindering bidimensional amplitude of the traditional stained-glass, one cannot call them by that term anymore. They became bas-reliefs and sculptures, so I call them convolutes. Secondly, these panels no longer come between the viewer and the light source, but allows them to be on the same side. They exploit the potential of reflected light by revealing the rich textures of the glossy surfaces and the filaments of the pigments incorporated in the thickness of the glass. As a result, these glassworks are now free to invade non-traditional spaces like interior walls, vertical and horizontal corners, ceilings, columns, etc. They are no longer flat and square but spatial with irregular edges, and the visual effect is stunning.
I discussed here the decorative function of the architectural glass, but someone reviewing my works observes that my artistic portfolio is actually subject-driven in exclusivity. That’s right, in the past seven years I’ve focused on developing my artistic philosophy while exploring the subjects that interest me. I have travelled the road from the spiritual and the decorative quality of stained-glass to sculpture artworks. It began as a testing exercise, but the scientific topics eventually became central in my works. As a child, art taught me the first science lesson through a collection of stamps printed by the Romanian Post Office in 1970. They were reproductions of the famous paintings of the Flemish painter Gonzales Coques: The Five Senses. My mother introduced them to me with a slight reverence in her voice: the Sight, the Hearing, the Smell, the Touch, and the Taste. Those images inspired me to ask questions about the existence, the functions, and the limitations of the human sensory perception, which ultimately helped me to learn to appreciate the preciousness of life. I believe that science deserves to play a bigger role in the visual arts. Maybe it will even become trendy, one day.
When Marcel Duchamp took industrially manufactured objects and placed them under the galleries’ spot lights on pedestals, I felt excessively uncomfortable. I was an engineer by then, who was routinely designing such artefacts. Some of my own tooling designs too were true works of art, I thought. To my colleagues amusement, I used to collect small pieces of scrap metal from the production line for their pulchritudinousness. And I would’ve sworn that the cable harnessing that I was doing for the railways industry, during my college internship, was electrifyingly beautiful. I had no doubt that that must’ve been the case. It’s true they were genuinely purposed for practical applications, which seemed to go against the idea of art, but taken out of their operational context, those industrial objects exhibit refined artistry in their (technically driven) compositions and executions. In that engineering world of mine, each edge and each surface had a purpose. Each part had a place in the assembly, and each assembly had a scope. That’s how it works.
“Look, wheels don’t go on top of stools, Marcel. They just don’t. If you want to be mesmerized, lift the front wheel of you bike, give it a spin and watch its spikes from close distance as they come in and out of your eye’s focal point. That’s it. The circuitry of the brain handling this very unusual flux of information does the rest. See that? Isn’t nature beautiful? Now, when you’re done, put the bike down and go ride it. On top. And leave the stool alone, would you?“
But he wouldn’t listen.
I wasn’t mutinous. Such non-canonical artistic approach wasn’t news for me. I had painting training. I grew up with a monumental park of modernistic metal sculptures on the charming riverfront of the Danube river, in Galati, Romania. I liked abstract art and surrealism before I knew what I was. I flirted with writing SF stories, which helped me questioning ideas about the way the world works. Including, for example, the most unsuspicious archetype learned by every atom of my bones and by every muscle fibre of my body, having lived forever on this planet, the gravity.
So, no, I wasn’t thrilled by the artist’s move. “Who’d do that?”, I yelped, melting away. Occasionally, yes, features can get placed meagerly by accident. Or by sabotage. Assuming that existence has meaning, that stool-wheel assemblage meant nothing but waste. We get better precisely by avoiding erroneous situations like that. So I was told. So it seemed. Then, what was Marcel telling me here? Perhaps how not to do things, at best. I wasn’t sure. If I would’ve understood him, my engineering projects would’ve been disastrous. I would’ve get fired immediately without notice. But I didn’t, so my career went on just fine, doing design work the right way.
“Because we, the engineers of the world, care for safety, so you, dear artist, you can do your public experimentation. Mm-hmm! That must be easy! Maybe I should do it!”
Well, I never told him that, no. Not before I understood him properly.
Designing the right way meant being a minimalist. Brâncuşi’s creed must’ve grown in me, I figured. Getting straight to the essence felt fair. No fluff, no sprinkles. And if it wasn’t for that, it was because engineering is in itself a functional minimalism. The closest one to the natural minimalism (i.e. the water taking the lowest energy path, or the spherical shape of a soap bubble, or the lowest energy level principle for electrons on atomic orbitals). So, on my drawing board, my lines were pursuing maximizing practicality while minimizing costs. Simply, that’s how the economic game is played. With every edge I loved turning mental images into tangible articles. The feeling of genesis was captivating, but I kind of confused it with free will. My long days went on reflecting upon the role that I was getting to play.
“Am I a creator in any way?”, I wondered.
I thought I was, but I wasn’t sure in what sense. I began a rigorous investigation starting from the macro level, where the eye can see and the finger can touch. There I’ve learned what I knew all along: machinery pieces don’t come out of nowhere. Before being machined, the bolt’s atoms were in a bar of raw material, and before that in an ore, and before that in the core of a star. I needed to go down to the level of the Plank scale where the smallest constituents of matter live. In that counterintuitive world words like being, position, or distance loose their meaning. I couldn’t keep track of what went where when, but I was told I can trust the inviolability of the energy conservation principle. So, I couldn’t be a creator in terms of “something from nothing”, but in the sense of transformation. That was good enough. I looked around. An aluminium bar pushed by hydraulic pressure through a hole in a die gets stretched into a long, uniform shape. Plastic resin melting, flowing, and then re-solidifying retains the shape of the cavity in which it was injected. A steel plate tooled by a CNC machine becomes a multi-surface piece with a sophisticated shape.
I was getting somewhere. My role, I fathomed, was to produce new shapes. I was a new-shape maker.
“Just a shape”, one may say. But that would be imprecise and I knew it. In ancient times, philosophers knew that nothing maintains its shape forever. In fact, not even for another instance. Not the coffee I drink, not the bronze group statue I admire at the University of Calgary, and not the photon reaching my retina after bouncing off of it, nothing stands still. Two and a half thousands year later, Julian Barbour, a brilliant British physicist, came up to me one day with a worldview claiming that the “ratio” (between two successive shapes) is to be regarded as the most fundamental characteristic of the universe. I thanked him. His approach was compatible with the more contemporary view of quantum mechanics, in which there are no forms / entities such as particles in the world but also fields (despite the fact that quantum mechanics confuses us with the wave-particle duality).
“Very clever, very eloquent, Julian!”
“No one can step in the same river twice”, said Heraclitus unto me one night, after a copious dinner. “Very well”, I replied. “Then I shall keep going with the flow, shouldn’t I?” “I dare you not to!”, he giggled.
According to this line of thinking, the natural state of the universe is the state of perpetual transformation. That’s a compulsory factor. But not any transformation is possible. There are rules for it, built within the laws of nature, like the energy range and the energy thresholds. The atomic orbital model is a clear example in quantum mechanical theory ("quantum" means discrete quantity). This is of great importance and Julian knows it. Because of such fine tuning conditions, the universe is possible and life itself exists. In my simplified mechanical designing world, this is equivalent to what we call “dimensional tolerance”. A practical application goes like this: the guillotine’s blades loose atoms with every sheet of steel (or paper) it cuts. The gap between the blades can’t be too large. So, once in a while the blades need to be reshaped and re-adjusted for the cuts to be always clean and straight. Practice showed that some shapes are more durable than others. In the case of the guillotine blades, there are specific geometries that maximize their service. There are many other examples, among which are my favorites: wheel (used for vehicles), the sphere (used on bearings), the convex/concave lenses (used on optical instruments like telescopes), the wheel-rail contact zone (used the rail wagon), the "I" beams (used to build bridges), the airfoils (used for the wings of the airplanes), etc. Aside from those, there are also shapes that don’t get mentioned in any of the disciplines of chemistry, physics, biology or mathematics for they are sterile. Some of the advantageous shapes were first discovered in nature, like those of the birds wings, or that of the honey comb. Others were discovered by abstract thinking, like the Penrose tiling, or the Möbius strip. These forms that have reached the textbooks have in common an attribute of great importance - utility, which is the basis of all engineering.
“You see now, Marcel, why I don’t appreciate your Urinal? The useful shape of a urinal is in a vertical position, placed in a bathroom with ventilation. With piping attached to it. How could you have missed that? How? Think of its designer, for a second. How does he feel now?”
OK, I must’ve metabolized this utility so well that I’m sanguinely attached to its merits. Time to redefining my role. Ask me again, and I’ll answer that I was an utilitarian creator of ephemeral shapes. That was my correct title. I wasn’t bothered by my shapes not being eternal; temporality should be good enough for a mortal. Moreover, I still had the purpose. “Engineered” is the antonym of “by chance”. My entire existence was operating under the principle of controlling the environment for predictable, desirable outcomes. Everybody, I thought, king or peasant, was striving to align their trajectory to the happiest imaginable path.
"Then why you, Marcel, care for chance?"
Chance is a strange word, I couldn’t afford it in my lexicon. Not only is the dissonance of its relationship with utility intolerable and engineers dislike it, but the word "chance" also carries negative connotations for theologians. Newton’s laws of motion already consolidated Plato’s view that the world is a succession of causal events. No longer Achilles’ spear was missing the enemy’s helmet because Neptune was clandestinely playing against him, but because his blood sugar was low that day, and it was windy. Or something like that. Random events seem, at first glance, clues to an unnatural hidden world. But the closer we look, the more causal relations we find between them until eventually the sophistication of investigation coupled with the observer’s problem (spectator and actor) makes it impractical. Beyond that level begin the domains where the word “chance” can’t be avoided – i.e.: radioactive decay, or quantum superposition. Some suggest that those "uncaused causes" may arise right there, which opens the door to "something from nothing." But equally it might be our ignorance, as Einstein made me believe.
However, to say "nothing happens by chance" isn’t the same as saying "everything happens for a reason". Pierre Simon Laplace insisted, while visiting my studio in a beautiful white winter, that everything goes by a cause, and there is no reason for it. I let him talk, since he came such a long way. Simon told me about his demon, which knows everything to be known about every particle of the universe at a certain moment. This “vast intelligence”, as he was calling it, with its humongous formula, is able to calculate the past of the universe from the beginning of time, and its future until eternity. “Right, right, right!”, I said. “But look, we don’t even have a little demon to calculate the stability of the Solar System with only eight (plus one) planets.” He was smiling. I wasn’t.
After he left, I went out to check my mailbox. I found that a couple of theologians had sent me epistles informing me that the Creation does have purpose, which is that of love, and that chance is prerequisite for free will. “OK, I like that kind of refinement”, I thought. And some scientists too sent me emails, after examining the subatomic world, advising me that the universe looks like having a purpose, otherwise what’s the deal with the Schrödinger’s cat? They were strongly asserting that the solely purpose of the universe is to be observed by conscientious beings.
“All right, I hear you. I’ll see what I can do”, I said.
So, what was Marcel into? This business of chanciness versus intentionality is important, I get it. Worth exploring it, after all. Of course, I wasn’t tempted to scramble the parameters of the hot-dip galvanization process in the shop, hoping for the best. I had clear objectives about the final product, for which I had created a coherent, reliable technological path. Not even in R&D, people don’t mix totally random things and expect funding the next year. To my defense, I was rightfully reluctant to some of the Dada’s chancy techniques. Tossing torn pieces of paper on the floor to uncover whatever novel narratives, totally independent from my thinking, wasn’t something I was prepared to embrace easily. The reality is that I was tormented by this process.
But then, out of nowhere, Martin Heidegger called me one day and told me assuredly in one breath that my pre-ontological understanding of things prevent me from reaching new ideas, which ideas live in far away places from my actual, paradigmatic realm. Hmm… OK! I felt frightened, I admit, but I was slowly beginning to see how thinking boundaries of whose existence I was unaware before may prevent me from knowing the real world. Full of excitement I told him right away that I liked it. I also asked him to review his take on time, I made a good case for it, but he wouldn’t answer. He continued, though, explaining me how I – he was calling me Dasein, which I found amusing - the observer who cannot be separated from the object of his investigation, am ought to provide access to the meaning of being. “Be there a meaning, Martin!”, I said. Little did he knew, I was myself too already accustomed to the observer’s problem from quantum mechanics. Even though I was, I felt pressured. Something of great importance was being laid on me. I looked at him - no wrinkles. The fact that Martin never made room for the Everettian multiverse delighted me abundantly. Eventually, I began seeing Dada's potential for relevance. Impulsive gesturing, mind without hand, skilless crafting, visceral manifestation, randomization, automatism, readymades, unruliness, desecration, nightmarishness, abstraction, etc. all those chance-invoking and principles-breaking methods are now willingly invited in my studio.
After a while, my conversion started to show off.
Before, Marcel’s unfinished work - “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors” (which by getting accidentally broken during transportation made the artist to
declare it finished) - for me was a good-for-nothing object.
I could only regard it as an object in an advanced state of disintegration.
But one day, when a lovely stained glass panel of mine felt flat on the concrete slab of my studio, shattering its upper half beyond repair, I remembered his wisdom and thanked him.
Because of him, I could now think of metamorphosising it into something else, in which the broken part isn’t an undesirable accident anymore, but a commendable constitutive part of the process and a part of its own biography.
Furthermore, my attitude changed towards Jason Pollock’s impulse driven, splash-drip paintings. Before, I wasn’t thinking highly of it, no matter how large the canvas was. But as it happens, one day I found a two decades old drawing of mine, which I’ve done by letting my hand to spasmodically scribble incoherent curves on a piece of paper. I just did it that way, I don’t know why. Then watching it from different angles, my neurons identified patterns resembling human and animal figures, to which I added shades and details. The surprise came the next day, when I presented it to my colleagues and each of them recognized themselves and the others, in the exact same correlation. I made a couple more of those drawings, but I didn’t know what to make out of this method, so they went into my drawer and stayed hidden, until recently. I yet still have to employ the method in my artwork, but I’m open to trying it and letting the subject to come up by itself.
I am contaminated. Truth is, I’ve been contaminated long before I realized, as it seems by looking at some old poems that I wrote a decade earlier. I remembered vividly writing them in vengeance to the messages I was receiving from back home, from my good, old friends. After several years of relocation to Canada, some of them started sounding nonsensical to me. I responded confusedly with ambiguous messages. Although not as radical as the incomprehensible "simultaneous poems ", it turns out that my poems were Dada-like in their incomprehensibility, nevertheless. As my archetypes were falling apart in my emigration experience, I was more and more convinced that it was them spelling gibberish. Maybe it was me, though, the observer.
So, yes, I’m inexorably welcoming the movement’s power. In the midst of it, however, I recoil involuntarily wondering whether the new stories equate to truth - the last bastion. One more: intuition is the beginning of investigation, not the end of it. “Shake me up, Tristan! Pull the nonsense out of me and go frame it. Quit my commonsense, leave me with myself. I’ll be forever afresh, at least.”
A century after Samuel Rosenstock and his determined colleagues was prophesying Dada at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, my residual engineeristic view of the world finally dies down. A movement born against the war’s atrocities, the movement against all movements, and the atomizer of the arts, must be worth something.
“Of course it does. In your dreams”, said Salvador Dali with a theatrical crescendo emphasis. I didn’t argue. He knew I knew he was teasing me. What bothered me was the founder’s pseudonym, Tristan Tzara, which in Romanian meant “Sorrow Country”. Not our country, I was hoping letting a patriotic vibe running down my spine. When I asked him if he really meant that, he looked straight into my eyes and said: “Da-da!”. "Oh, don't give me-yes!", I replied, smiling. In Romanian, a single "da" means "yes"; two "da's", spoken with irony, means either a reproachful "da", or a sarcastic "yeas, sure", which means "no". I feared for the later. I politely invited him to sit down for a treat with a cube of Turkish delight and a glass of cold water. He made excuses for he was too preoccupied that night writing a brutal message for some friends of his who were waiting for him. I understood him. On the way out, he stopped and recited this, half turned towards me: “Supposing life to be a poor farce, without aim or initial parturition, […] we have proclaimed as the sole basis for agreement: art.”
I latched the door behind him. Later that day, I’ve got this last text message from him.
“Art yourself, my friend! You’re too kind. Art your life all the way! And art you, everyone!”
Nowadays technological artifacts make it into art galleries straight from the industrial designer’s screen. And for good reasons. A computer’s motherboard, framed on a white wall and lit by a spotlight, has the resemblance of a pointillist illustration of a city landscape, or of a futuristic lunar base photography with spaceports, fleets of all-terrain vehicles, silos, and factories. It loses the meanings of its electrical signal processing capability, which is not to be understood or remembered anymore. Its glossy look, rigorous and delicate, is quite something.
In the industrial environment, aesthetic principles are often applied even to the most practicality-driven designs simply because, one might say, the designer has an aesthetic taste. As a mechanical designer for many years in my career, I know that when the technical constrains are lose, the designer’s aesthetic taste imposes its own cadence. But this is not at all a one-way relation. I came to believe that the rhythm of the world shapes back the designer aesthetic taste. Here I’m making the case for the practical incidence.
Firstly, our minds identify beauty largely by symmetry, although not exclusively and not always necessarily. The perceived regularity and balance like in the wings of a butterfly, or in the great architecture of Taj Mahal, give us a sense of enjoyment. In a factory environment, linear and polar symmetries are the most identifiable and desirable patterns, beneficial at all levels, from machining to installation, for saving time and costs. Symmetry also brings consistency, which is another compelling attribute that accompanies an artist’s style, world vision, and message. Also, understandably, it makes a good strategy in manufacturing. Whenever the parameters of a group of items are within a relatively small range, it’s worth turning it into a set with identical features. Reusing blocks of design reduces human error, it cuts down the tooling necessary for fabrication, and leaves more room for creativity, which is a great use of resources.
A special type of symmetry is represented by the inflection point of a graph of a polynomial function, which makes the transition from convex to concave. The intersection of two adjacent surfaces can be anything from sharp to smooth transitions, the designer makes that choice, which in industrial setting are profitable for practical, structural, and safety reasons. Painters’ transitions are called gradient painting, or gradient shading, which, with the notable exception of traditional stained-glass, are employed to represent volumetric objects on a 2D medium. The tangent and the inflection points are more than mathematical constructions, in nature they are beautifully displayed in the petals of a marguerite, or in the wings of an albatross.
The ancient Greek and Roman art reveled the beauty in the human body’s proportions, but the principle of proportionality stretches across all disciplines - from geometry to astrophysics. In music, the Pythagorean study of harmony revealed an intrinsic structure of frequencies based on ratios. A ratio provides a convenient way to scaling practical things, but in a broader sense the power of proportionality is that of predictability. The laws of physics are founded on parameters in various relations of proportionality. For simple systems, like the laminar flow of a network of piping, simple formulas suffice, while for more complex systems like the weather, the encapsulation of the process in a comprehensive, manageable formula quickly become strenuous, or even impossible. Newton’s law of gravitation, for instance, applied to the planetary system proven impractical in confirming the stability of the Solar System.
In fact, an entire theoretical domain called The Chaos Theory was invented to investigate the limits of predictability. And as much as science has advanced since the XVIIIth century, though, equations did not make it in biology, or in psychology. Many domains rely on statistical predictability as the best tool we’ve got, which is to say that we do not understand their underlaying mechanisms from which to derive a formula. But we continue pushing the limits of science and mathematics hoping to improve our ability to control our destiny. Likewise, the mind of a designer is never at random (admittedly that would be actually compatible with some forms of art), but always searching for a rule, an algebraic one perhaps, the rule that best satisfies the scope.
Although the objective of a good design is to serve efficiently a practical purpose, seemingly in contrast with that of a work of art which, loosely put, is precisely not to serve any practical purpose, the creative process shows analogous on both sides. The similarities discussed are not final, the list continues with many other principles like reducibility, compatibility, guidance, transience, and representativity. Keeping in mind that this only examines the creator’s side (we’re not yet under the presumption that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”), they are all the more reasons why the outcomes are difficult to delineate.
I am baffled by the fuzziness of the demarcation line between a work of art and a practical produce, but I am not surprised by it. There are many places in nature like that. We can’t say, for instance, when exactly a body of water starts boiling. It is certainly not when the first bubble rushes up towards the surface, the temperature varies still significantly in the rest of the water. It is not when the temperature reaches the boiling temperature everywhere, that’s too late. The time interval between the first bubble and the full boiling state is called “faze transition”. There, within that window where all states coexist, I have doubts what to call it. Outside that window, however, one can confidently name it solid, liquid, or gas. This is not a technical limitation; it is an inadequately formulated question.
Similarly, distinguishing art within the blanket of its definitions (whatever they are) seems right, while extending its breath sine die because of the lack of a defined periphery may not. If this sounds like a distinction without a real difference, maybe because that’s probably true. Generally speaking, a periphery is derived from the definition of what constitutes the body, which normally includes the limits of its applicability. Normally. However, my evaluation does not provide a solution as to say where the art begins. It is only an attempt to extend its roots into the practical gestures of the creator.
In the past few years I grew interested in having a blog type space for reflection. A "slow motion" zone where the reaction time is not a factor, the low hanging fruit is undesirable, and a mistake is easily forgotten. This gesture comes as a reflex towards the present state of human interactions that captured all aspects of social life, from work, to shopping, to leisure, to politics, and which turnes extremely superficial sometimes.
A wise marketing strategist nowadays advices someone who's willing to sell something, anything, to go out and be "visible". Whatever the project may be, it's got to be on many (if not all) social platforms, I've got to interact with as many people as possible, advertise, be there, do that, grab, drag, push and stir things your way. Morality even may even be left aside in the process, critics say. But I realize that this exposure maximization attitude grew somewhat natural on the free market, so I temper my critic.
I, myself, may not feel like adopting it necessarily, it's my choice, but I have to confront it anyway. The ads on TV, on the radio, in the fliers, in my mailbox, the posts and tweets on all social media, plus all other communication channels through which someone wants to bring an idea under my attention end-up grabbing my time, firing my neurons, and forming around me something like an accretion disk of information. "Opportunities" keep buzzing around me, it became that easy. No research, no travel, no store visits. I click on the link and I get the thing delivered to my doorstep. I am being trained to be lazy. My observation ability, my investigation skills and my evaluation capability become weaker with every low fruit that I'm peaking for the purpose of saving time, energy, or whatever else. It is this aspect that makes me rethink "slow motion".
The "opportunities" continue the hum around me. It has become so easy: neither research, nor conversation, nor a visit to the store are necessary. I click on the link provided and receive something on the door. I'm trained to be lazy. My ability to observe, my investigative skills, and my ability to evaluate become weaker with every quick gesture I make to save time, energy, or anything else. This makes me rethink the "slow motion".
To my delight I've recently seen a curator of a beautiful museum in Western Europe advocating for "slow viewing". A lesson learned from the Covid19 pandemic. And I agreed: slow viewing implies lesser number of viewings, but more time of viewing instead, which means deeper understanding and growing better roots. It takes another type of energy, which is less spontaneous, less impetuous maybe, but definitely more durable.
And it is not just my blog space where I want that, it is the line of thinking that drives my creativity process. I put effort into developing the story and into translating it visually, thus I love seeing people engaged in conversation about them, asking questions, applauding it, or maybe criticizing it, but saying it from the heart.
(Interview by Eva Halus, artist, journalist, and writer; Image: Observatorul, Romanian journal in Toronto)
Catalin Domniteanu, ASA, Mech. Eng., P. Eng. (a juried member of the Alberta Artists Society, a member of the Professional Association of Engineers and Geologists of Alberta), is a sculptor and a stained-glass artist, as well as a mechanical engineer with a long experience in various industries, and is a new member of the Romanian Community in Montreal. But having been in Canada for 15 years, in Calgary, in the province of Alberta, where he has lived until now and helped to found and strengthen the Community of Romanian Artists in Alberta, he collaborated on the organization of public events in the Romanian community, working closely with the Honorary Consul of Calgary, Mrs. Maria Serban, former president of the Association of Romanians in Calgary. We think it is necessary to dwell on his reign, because, apart from a focus on his career and his particular personality, we can also talk about a nice exchange of ideas between the Romanian communities in Montreal and Calgary, which are far apart (two points each at the other end of Canada, on the 45th parallel).
EVA HALUS: - Mr. Catalin Domniteanu, I met you in a unique circumstance, on the Internet. Now, yes, I can say that sometimes the Internet is a very useful and efficient means and then, without even suspecting, a whole history takes shape and develops, started only from a "bob"- here in our case it can be a grain of light and reason... Two people, far away, communicating via the Internet satellite, discussing the activities of the respective communities, looking for landmarks and ways to collaborate. It happened in 2018 when Romanians everywhere were celebrating the Year of the Centenary, and between us there was created a belt, a bridge, at the beginning virtual, which you finally passed! Because here, today, less than six months after your first contact, you've settled in Laval. I metaphorically present this crossing of the bridge, but are there good reasons that led you to come to Montreal?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - I have several ways to answer, but because we are talking about artistic activities, I will admit that cultural closeness to Europe was an important factor. In fact, I had been flirting for a long time with the idea of returning to Montreal, and the decision was made before I even got in touch with the artistic community here on the subject of the catalogue, through you. So the greater the joy of contributing to the construction of the bridge from this, more dismierd, end of the Romanians in Canada. And the two months since my wife and I hung over the banks of the St. Laurent River, I've already had the opportunity to appreciate the cultural wealth of the place, the artistic appetite and the effervescent community.
EVA HALUS: - Speaking of the theory of quantum mechanics, which attracts and influences your philosophical thinking and art, I presented you with two simple names: engineer and stained-glass designer. You can speak in other words about these professional choices, giving the reader a completely different perception of the space you occupy as a creative being, namely about the connection between your two professions.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - My attitude as an artist is formulated around light, the common denominator of matter, which dominates everything that surrounds us. The Englishman says stained-glass "colored glass," referring to light filtered by glass fragments. But the colors also come from the reflection of white, solar light, fallen on objects without transparency. Their matter converts it. So everything that meets the retina, from the horizon to the eye of the sewing needle, from the zenith to the nadir, and from the sunset, everything is light. And of all the senses, the sight is the one with which we interpret the universe most fully. What's more, the skin receives infrared radiation - all light. And if we put specialized equipment in front of the retina, we can see the body's motions or we can observe the beginnings of the universe. What a show! Thus shaping the light, the traditional stained-glass has proven its qualities as a narrator and decorator for almost a thousand years, from the cathedral's rosetosis to the "sun catcher" (sun catcher) in the window of the Canadian dining room. Along the route of the development of craftsmanship, the purity of the glass, its colors, painting and methods of processing and execution have evolved and shined, especially with the splendors of art nouveau of Louis Tiffany. The stained-glass has gone from vertical, flat, to horizontal or even spherical surfaces (the famous Tiffany lamps, which today, although small, are easy to make).
Now, let me tell you about this: on arrival in Calgary, 15 years ago, from my first visit to Tiffany House, a stained-glass company in the vibrant Kensington district, I was overwhelmed by the variety of tones, transparency and textures of the glass sheets, and the abundance of shelves of tools and materials. A joy. With this luxury at hand we also explored the classic technique of lead wand, and the one with the profiled board, and especially the one with copper foil, which allows sophisticated contours. The wand gives the panel strength and provides contrast on the perimeter of the glass meshes, and this black outline is the characteristic feature of the stained-glass. If we are talking about a landscape, the more meshes, the more complex the image (leaves versus the crown of a tree), but the more dense the network of the cam becomes, so the darker the image becomes. On the contrary, the less wand, the wider the glass meshes and therefore the more vague the details, until the naïve and obscure simplification. You can try getting the details out of the texture and colors of the bottle, but I'm telling you it's not coming out. Here you recognize the hand of the stained-glass designer. I was caught in this dihotonia while I was doing my first work with over 500 pieces. One day, well, I wanted to beat her. I've added games of lights and shadows, glows, and I've added perspective. From a two-dimensional window we created a three-dimensional one – a bas-relief. The light falls on the glass bodies that make up the stained-glass and is worn over the black outlines, outside its plane, at last.
The subjects chosen by me often have roots in my personal life experience, with references from Romanian traditions and Greek mythology, which I admire and love. But I get most excited about subjects bordering the beginning of scientific knowledge, so my themes can come from, say, the world of Plank* dimensions. I'm aware that reality doesn't end where the eye stops detecting the lantern's lone. There, in that world of probability and uncertainty, quantum mechanics violently disbelievers our intuition. It's a striking world (not terrifying or decadent), but it's all the more wonderful. At the opposite end, on the scale of the universe, the field of cosmology proposes a plethora of hypotheses, each controversial. How can I tell you, you're like a playground of imagination. Such topics i find that they deserve to be investigated artistically, and I am great lye when my work engages the visitor in question.
As for the cohabitation between tradition and science, I find that their common point is trying to observe the intimate nature of the universe. Tradition learns my steadfastness, science learns me consistency – two building nouns, but among which there is a difference in class. Tradition contains the desire to break down reality from its sophisticated end – from desire. It seems to me that sometimes he found the key, sometimes he found his shadow. The drawback, in my case, is that when the interpretation acquires a somewhat consistent formulation, the examination ceases, the practice is appropriate, and the gesture becomes tradition, it is steadfast. On the other hand, the science lesson tells me that the electron can't be vain, and the photon can't lie. You can't find greater honesty (no less!) than in the atom's potential to form covalent bonds. Their interactions are not subject to whims but are firm, consistent and predictable. More interesting still, it's that over a few levels of complexity there's concern, desire, compassion, lies, recklessness. We don't know how to do this, and that's why I think the truth should neither give in to immobility or arrogance. The answer to the question, therefore, is that I choose engineering as the necessary scientific basis, applied, of my meanings about the world and life, and art as short, and as reasonable exculpation of my propositions.
Note: * Max Planck proposed in the 1890s a set of units of measurement to simplify the expressions of the laws of physics (length, mass, temperature, time, and pregnancy). This set of universal, theoretical units have proven to be the lower limits of the application of the laws of physics, in the sense that discussions about smaller dimensions no longer have physical meaning.
EVA HALUS: - To orient ourselves in your art in which you use various techniques and in which you combine the raw material, glass, with the metal to obtain bas-reliefs and even sculptures, let's start with the traditional technique of stained-glass, in which you have rendered the field work of the Romanian peasant, Before Vespers and Endless Glamour (Endless Charm), in which you portray two young dancers in folk costumes.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - The two works have a common story. First they're very big, and they're flat – traditional. From a technical point of view, this dimension was an objective in itself - a challenge of a structural nature. Vitrals deform over time under the pressure of their own weight and are often reinforced with the repellent support bars that fragment the image. To avoid them, I used oversized inserts embedded in the stained-glass cam. Another objective was complexity, for which I chose a landscape executed in the technique of copper foil. And another was the theme - the topics are inspired by Romanian culture and traditions because the destination was the Romanian restaurant in Calgary, superbly decorated by a wonderful lady. And there were the baptisms and birthdays of the community and the meetings of the Association of the Romanian Community in Calgary, and even found the meeting of the community with the embassy in Ottawa. That's not to mention the dishes (!). So I chose the dance, the good will and the popular port, the Column of Infinity – a recognizable image for the Canadian public, the Maramuresan sculpture of the gates, and a landscape with village hearth, post-impressionist, after a painting by the Blailean painter Ion Theodorescu Sion. I added to this the perspective of a porch, so that the diner would feel like he was visiting the Gentiles and that nostalgia would enclose him.
EVA HALUS: - Explore and mixed techniques/environments...
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - Really, the story of the sculptures is just beginning. It means that at that time I already had a consciousness of the structural stability of my work (it helps me practice and engineering knowledge, here), and I still wore the frustration of corseting light in the perimeter of the glass eye. I then imagined a window in bas-relief, such as Sailing Away: the Emigrant, but I realized this one later. The first three-dimensional work had a scientific fear. I haven't researched its public impact or aesthetic attractiveness at all. I wanted to express the idea, I had brotherhoods on the space-time tissue of the universe. The work suggests the interweaving of space in three dimensions: two planes along which they circulate gravitational waves, photons, subatomic particles and magnetic fields, and from which emerge volumetric material forms and increasingly complex entities to life and to cognitive manifestations such as abstract thinking and humor. The work was very well received by the director of the Rothney Astronomical Observatory of the University of Calgary and exhibited at an "open doors" event immediately after the conference announcing to the public the detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO interferometer in Livingstone, US, for the first time after 100 years after albert Einstein's generalized theory of relativity. A more than risplike coincidence.
Practically from this moment on I have not been constrained by the limitations of traditional stained-glass, neither as execution, nor as mediums and materials, nor as design, nor as themes. I then did Sailing Away: the Emigrant where I exploited the properties of focusing light through volumetric glass, but I also used opaque metal objects. As with sculptures, a light movement of the head receives the perception of depth. The glows are moving, too. The whole assembly acquires mobility and the movement of the sun in the sky. Moreover, at night, the reflected light (when the light source is on the same side of the work that the viewer is on) reveals a whole new image - a new color, new shadows, different brightness, and new texture. And the stained-glass cam also comes with its texture and integrates into the composition, it is no longer just a network of black contours like the traditional stained-glass. Actually, my work is no longer stained-glass. To describe them briefly I have to use stained-glass as a reference, but their destination is no longer traditional window, but it can also be firida, pedestal or console. The term "three-dimensional staining" is also used in the industry for works obtained through a faceting technique - creations similar to Tiffany lampshades extended to closed surfaces such as a bust, for example. But my work has nothing in common with this category, and I'm looking to leave the term behind.
EVA HALUS: - How to integrate your stained-glass windows in architecture?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - You see, because my interests go towards traditions but also towards science on the other hand, it is because I do not find them in conflict. Similarly, I respect the classic stained-glass and basically the disappointed versions of it. Modern architecture can benefit from its ascendancy. The glazed surfaces of the institutions, or of modern residences can incorporate the aesthetics of the windows into the bas-relief instead of the traditional stained-glass (and old-fashioned!?) even if it follows the line of Stijl, say. But in fact it is not the architectural current that is the dominant factor for the volume of stained-glass installed in the new constructions, but the "cost-effective" and "fashionable" factors. And besides, "consumerism" is a natural opponent of glazed bas-reliefs (here, a possible name). The stained-glass is made to last centuries, inheritance between generations, and not replaced as a wardrobe or even the re-arrangement of the interior walls.
EVA HALUS: - What stained-glass window would you like to make and for what building?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - Oh, I would love to decorate La Sagrada Familia. Just imagine: scientific meanings in glazed bas-reliefs on the six roses of the eastern façade of the splendid Catalan basilica. And I'm telling you they wouldn't be heretical.
EVA HALUS: - In Canada, between 2016 and 2018 you participated in numerous exhibitions in Calgary, Toronto and Bearspaw, in Alberta, but also in the United States, in "brick and mortar" galleries or online competitions. At some exhibitions you have been on the jury, at others you have competed and received prizes and awards. List a few: finalist in 2018 at SCA's International Open, a jury competition, online, organized by the Society of Canadian Artists in Toronto. Then, in 2017, you won the Gallery Choice Award of Contemporary Art Gallery Online in Annapolis, USA for the "All Water" and "All Botanical" competitions.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - I was interested for a while in online competitions because my works are large, heavy and fragile – a combination that makes them unfit for transport and demanding to the conditions of exposure. That's why I've actually limited my presence in local art shows. At the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 I was happy to side with the organizer because I had taken over as director of exhibitions of the Alberta Artists Association (Alberta Society of Artists). ASA is a non-profit organization with a very good professional reputation, the oldest in the province, and has the mandate to promote art in society. I suppose you know, in Canada such organizations, unlike commercial galleries, receive federal, provincial, local or even private funds for their work, so the "sellable" factor is not at all part of the equation of job selection. ASA juries are always external and rotate at every exhibition. I wasn't on the jury, but in my brief contribution I was involved in various stages of organizing several exhibitions in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray. Among them, a photography exhibition in Calgary's New Central Public Library – a glorious modern architectural monument that attracts hundreds of visitors every day.
EVA HALUS: - Good luck, and now and for further! Your stained-glass windows were well received, admired, won prizes, found buyers... But in addition to the artistic value for which you are highly appreciated and recognized, it is also necessary to interest people or institutions to include stained-glass in architecture. I know that in Montreal, for 10 years there has been a decree granting only 1% of the total cost for the art incorporated in the façade for new constructions. Well, then, how do you see it? the evolution of the art of stained-glass, which, as far as can be seen, is not put in its proper place and is not given due importance?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - True. It's not hard to see how Montreal's historic buildings attract the visitor and queues form in front of them, and not before those with aluminum envelope and horn iron beams visible through the ceiling... I tend to think that the role of the administration to impose cultural and aesthetic landmarks on its social beauty is very important. For instance, we see financial support for organizations like the ASA. There's a lot of debate on this subject, but I don't know what the right answer is. Maybe it's not just the state that needs to give us and make us, but each of us should resist the temptation of the ease, practice our capacity for evaluation. Art is not easy. At least mine isn't, if I'm to count only the execution time. I'm just going to insist: stained-glass has exceptional potential in contemporary architecture. Just come and I’tell you about it. And then I'll tell you about the glazed sculptures.
EVA HALUS: - You could turn to the galleries very frequented by tourists and collectors located in Old Montreal, for greater visibility... Also, if you are willing to take classes, I am sure that there are many art universities in Montreal where you could teach the art of stained-glass.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: -Thank you very much, I intend to explore the galleries of Old Montreal as soon as possible. For the moment I have four works in different stages of execution and which I had to pack for transport, but with which I want to complete my portfolio first. I can gladly confirm that I have just found a great place to set up my workshop. As for the stained-glass classes, I'll be delighted to share my experience, only for now I'm still in an exploratory stage and I'm captivated by this openness. I'm going to resist the temptation to reveal too much about the projects in progress, except one. Here, one of the works that will soon be on my work table will be a stained-glass window for the unseen. Just imagine! As I'm going to be exploring these ideas enough, I'm going to think about teaching. Academic environment may be too high a claim, I can't tell if the set of skills, knowledge, perspective and creativity qualifies my art for a university discipline. My feeling is that I'm just getting started, but I think in a few years I'll be enough to be. In Calgary we offered initiation courses in copper foil technique at Tiffany House. I'll resume them along with the metal cam and lead wand technique.
EVA HALUS: - Let's go back a little bit. Last year you created the Romanian Artists of Alberta and Friends in Calgary, bringing together painters, sculptors, multi-media artists, as well as musicians, dancers, actors. Back then you were telling me that it's very hard to get people together, even with the same interests. Then I was telling you how varied and vibrant the art scene is, but also the community scene in Montreal. Calgary and in general, Alberta, it means oil, economy, industry, finance. Montreal is more European, with great influences from Western Europe, but also from the south, from New York. You founded this community of professional and amateur artists in Calgary, then you came to Montreal and now we are waiting with you for the publication of the group of Romanian Artists of Calgary and their friends, in which you dedicated a space to each artist, with one, two pictures and a brief description of their practice. For this review, which marked and established the group of artists, as well as the Centenary, you asked me to write an article called Calgary-Montreal, Centenary Bridges. Now I ask you how you see all this anventury? Will you keep this relationship with Calgary artists open? Could we think together about future Montreal-Calgary collaborations?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - The project of the Romanian artists community in Alberta is a very nice one. It started with the thought of a Romanian art show, but I realized that neither the artistic community was a conjoined, nor the audience. At least in the field of fine arts, because the annual events of the RCCAC were based on some of the stage artists. From six plastic artists and photographers, as far as I knew, I've come to discover a brigade of over 40 wonderful people. Like you said, we have fine art, interpretive arts, literature, photography, society dance, we have enough for a Romanian arts festival. And I'm telling you that the surprise was for everyone to find out how much talent there is among the members of the community. We used the FaceBook platform to get to know each other and announce our events.
When building the catalogue we had a minimum set of criteria: Romania-Moldova, Alberta, creativity. I was saying that it is difficult to coagulate in a community with aspirations because our arts are different, our personal history is different and, ultimately, our interests are different. You know very well what it takes to do this. Finally, we also added a few friends from other Canadian people with the thought of the wider family of Diaspora art, and we extended this bridge with Montreal's larger and more dynamic community. I was going to say "older", but you know that in Alberta, in Boian, it's the oldest Romanian settlement in Canada. That's why I wrote to you and I'm glad you accepted and came to meet with such enthusiasm. In the meantime, I had the pleasure of learning about the enthusiasm of a few painters who rekindled their passion for the sevalet, and about the painters who organize openings together. Even more importantly - we know we exist. I like to think that starting from here will widen the gate to the collectors and spectators of the large Romanian community, but also of the Canadian community on the other side, starting with the European ethnic communities. I intend to keep in close contact with all the Alberta artists I've met, some of whom have become close friends. And because I'm in Montreal now, I can still help to get the connection together. But the effort to strengthen this artistic community must also be directed towards the audience.
EVA HALUS : - You have been published and you in magazines such as "Axis Libri" at V. A. Urechia Public Library, Galati, Romania in an article by Corneliu Stoica, which focuses on which aspect of your art?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - Mr. Corneliu Stoica has written several outstanding books about the artists of The Galatians and is probably the most important historian of fine art in my hometown. The article presents me to the public with biographical notes and with interest in three-dimensional works created and exhibited in Canada. I think my presence surprised him. First of all, the city has an arts college, it has a popular art school, but it has no stained-glass classes and no glass studios. Then where did a vitralist come from? Galati has great sculptors and wonderful painters but then, in the late '90s, and until my departure to Canada in 2004, I had had not learned about any stained-glass masters. For the materials I went looking for in Buzau and Bucharest. At the 80th mile of the Danube, the glass gave way to the metal. With a metal giant like Sidex, how else, on the cliff, there's a splendid 1976 metal sculpture camp that I used to observe closely in my student years. The stained-glass windows I found at the Episcopal Cathedral of Galati, with a simple geometric pattern and mounted too high to investigate. I had discovered on the street, quite by chance, a house with stained-glass windows with transparent meshes and beveled pieces mounted in the front doors. The painted stained-glass windows of the Greek Church, which unfortunately had aged (or had been vandalized) and were broken in the lower section, finally gave me the opportunity to observe the thickness of the profile of the lead came, the putty, the knots, and the reinforcement bars. Then I made myself a lead extrusion mold and so I could make the first real stained-glass.
EVA HALUS: - Also Corneliu Stoica, prolific critic and historian of the art of Galati, wrote about your art and in the magazine "The Galati School" of the House of the Board of Education in Galati. Do you have stained-glass windows in Galati in public spaces? Even though you've left the country, is your work also part of Galati's heritage?
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - I have not, unfortunately. There are only a few works in private residences in Galati and Braila. But my road to consecration is still far from qualifying for heritage collections. My future projects will demonstrate.
EVA HALUS: - You are a member of the World Academy of Art in France, bearing the title of Académicien Chevalier. Tell us about this time of your life.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - Mondial Art Academy (MAA) is a non-profit organization in Camargue, southern France, with a range of four continents, which promotes beautiful arts and regularly organizes exhibitions at major art salons around the world. The title of "knight" is a simple form of honoring membership of the organization, and each country also has a member with the rank of "ambassador". Since 2017 I have been a member of the MAA, but because I lived Calgary I have not been able to attend the events of the organization, that are usually in metropolises such as Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal.
EVA HALUS: - The World Academy of Arts in France has published a book at the 2017 Biennale of Art, in which you also appear.
CATALIN DOMNITEANU: - MAA publishes this book every two years under exceptional graphic conditions. It is important that the works of the artists come under the eyes of art collectors, curators, art critics, architects. I was happy to be a part of this edition.
EVA HALUS: - And since man, as a bird, today is free to travel and settle where he wants, celebrating this freedom and having the power to create and leave an amprent on the places and people he knows and has known, I wish you that here in Montreal, you adapt quickly to the new conditions and you can have fruitful collaborations with the other artists of Montreal, which you will have the opportunity to meet in the very near future and last but not least, to create the laces of lights and shadows, multicolored, which delight the viewer and give charm and harmony to the place! Perhaps the bird, and man on this earth, are just a metaphor of light traveling unhindered into the great space of the universe... light to which you, through the glazed sculptures, give it a new path.
EVA HALUS: - Mr. Catalin, it's been a year and a half since you came with your family from Calgary to Montreal. We are in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, so instead of asking you how and if you integrated your art scene in Montreal and the Romanian community here, I ask you instead, how do you and your art survive?
CĂTĂLIN DOMNIȚEANU: - When a pandemic disturbs our lives with such severity, perhaps as a reminder of our fragility, the artist looks back at his creation: "I said everything, did I say it best?" Then the artist looks inside himself, “Was I honest?” As part of my creative process, I find it especially helpful to examine what I would do artistically if my existence were placed 100 years earlier or 1000 km in other side. If I had a lower odor, a different skin color, or longer fingers, would my work be different? How different? What if I had a wise, compassionate friend who would die from a reckless spread of a virus? Probably my work would be different, because I would be a different self, with that different experience. If this argument is true, then I wonder to what extent I use my own discretion in the choices I make. My instincts tell me it's complete discretion, so I support this clandestine artistic whim of mine, hoping that one day I will make a piece of art that did not come out of the ideas that orbit my existence. However, although this is not possible, I resist the urge to join the weather. Instead, I look for my own subjects, as if free will exist. Times shape the artist, who makes art, who shapes Time, who shapes the artist, who makes art.
EVA HALUS: - Very true what you say, but even if the ideas and concepts that underlie the creation of an artist, which is obviously a subject of his time, lead to the creation and completion of a work of art, that work of art, once done, she has the quality of becoming a bit timeless, leaving behind the date of her execution, because she is able to detach herself from the coordinates of time immediately, just like very beautiful women - I say jokingly - or seriously, as well as the architectures they will integrate. But first tell us about the process a work of yours goes through before it becomes a final object.
CĂTĂLIN DOMNIȚEANU: - In terms of execution, my sculptural work takes advantage of the technique and materials of stained glass, extending its expressiveness outside and behind their contours: volumetric glass objects transport and distribute light in the void above the frame. My works are done in 3-6 months, and their auxiliaries are about the same time (stand manufacturing, marketing, etc.). As I said, I like to call my works bas-reliefs or sculptures. They involve cold glass processing but also heat fusion (not melting) treatments. This gives me the flexibility in the artistic expression I am looking for. The glass components are combined with other materials and assembled into a metal structure. All works have their own wooden stands to allow them to be viewed all around, but can be preferred and installed on the wall or ceiling. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, I am directly involved in the delivery and installation of the works for Canadian clients.
My concepts are initially elaborated in a set of primary elements, simplifications of some facets of reality. From here I maneuver these primitives into groups, levels and connections to form quite sophisticated compositional ensembles. Then their complexity increases until they sound good ... where "sounding good" is that long and incomplete list of undefined parameters that no one knows where to fit. Thus, what I hope to achieve is the most comprehensive story I can store in that piece. So, each piece carries a story that I always like to write in detail, like a libretto. I invite everyone to read their stories on my website and send me a note if they want. I am also open to artistic collaborations, please do not hesitate to say "hello!" and enter into conversation with me. "
EVA HALUS: - Thank you very much for resuming the dialogue on your artistic creation in this short foray behind the glass sculptures created by you! We invite the amateur public and readers of the Toronto Observatory magazine to visit the website of Mr. Catalin Domniteanu at: www.catalindomniteanu.com
Note: The last work of Mr. Catalin Domniteanu, entitled Laplace's Demon, is inspired by the introduction of the Philosophical Essay on Probabilities written in 1814 by Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace (1749-1827), in which the Marquis posits about a super-intelligent who can know the positions, movements and forces of all particles in the universe at the same time, an introduction that, becoming the most celebrated, was super-called Laplace's Demon. Knowledge of the positions, velocies and forces of the movement of all particles in the universe also implies knowledge of the past and the future. If we imagine strictly mentally this exercise, involving only the idea of such knowledge, we can see in the Demon of Laplace a secular substitute for the omnipresent and omniscient God. The glass interpretation of this first statement of the theory of scientific determinism (in which all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by the existence of previous causes) is truly extraordinary in the way in which the artist has managed to render the essence of such a theory difficult to explain, and by image, visually, everything seems simpler, but without losing complexity.
Observer note:The first interview is taken in 2019 for the third volume of Talks with Romanian Personalities in Montreal, (authors of the books Eva Halus and Veronica Balaj) and the second is taken in September 2020. In the printed form of the Observatory of September 17, a. c. we will publish this inteviews together with images of works by Mr. Catalin Domniteanu.
Catalin Domniteanu, the artist we write about in these lines, is a Galaţi resident who attracted attention and distinguished himself in Canada by the art of stained glass that he practices, a very old art, whose origins are lost in antiquity, but whose development was associated especially with the spread of Christianity, the first stained glass windows, according to their current acceptance, being created, according to specialists, in Byzantium, at the Church of St. Hagia Sophia, in the sixth century. An art that over time has known periods of flourishing or stagnation, perfecting the technique of realization, leaving the exclusive area of the church and its use in cultural buildings, banks, bars, restaurants, private homes, etc. The motifs present on the stained glass windows also evolved, from the religious to the secular ones. At the beginning of the twentieth century, under the influence of avant-garde art, vital masters found new forms of expression in abstract art, created stylized characters, geometrically represented elements of flora and fauna, etc.
An art that, in time, knows periods of flowering or stagnation, perfecting the technique of realization, leaving the exclusive area of the church and its use in cultural buildings, banks, bars, restaurants, private houses, etc. The motifs present on the stained glass windows also evolved from the religious to the secular ones. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of avant-garde art, vitalist masters found new forms of expression in abstract art, created stylized characters, represented geometric elements of flora and fauna, etc.
Today, stained glass windows are widely used, they, through their decorativism, variety of motifs and chromatics, adding an extra beauty and nobility to the architecture of the places where it exists. Catalin Domniteanu is an engineer by profession. He graduated from the Faculty of Mechanics at the "Dunărea de Jos" University of Galați (1995) and his passion for art prompted him to attend, between 2000 - 2003, the School of Arts within the Cultural Center "Dunărea de Jos", where he studied painting with teachers Adrian Andone and Aurel Manole. Since his student years, visiting several places of worship, he was attracted to stained glass, fascinated by the spectrum of colors and filtered light as a means of communication. In parallel with his work as an engineer, he began his own research into the technique of stained glass, experimented, restored old windows, and managed to penetrate the secrets of this art.
In 2004 he emigrated to Canada, settling in Calgary, the largest city in the province of Alberta, an important economic center, known for the very prosperous oil industry, where he also attended the courses of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (2012 - 2013), obtaining a specialization in the Extractive Oil Industry. In Calgary, Catalin Domniteanu worked, or collaborated, between 2004 - 2010, at the stained glass company Tiffany House, located on the outskirts of Kensington District, where, as he himself confesses, “he discovered the abundance of colors, transparencies and varied textures of stained glass and where he was able to thoroughly master the Tifanny technique ”of assembling each piece of glass with copper foil, invented by the American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tifanny (1848 - 1933), who revolutionized the art of stained glass.
In this technique, which he now uses exclusively, he made several works, the artist proving much more courageous, in the sense of inventing three-dimensional stained glass. A series of works inspired by our popular culture and art decorate the Romanian restaurant in Calgary, Bistro Maria. A three-dimensional stained glass window, in which he addresses cosmogonic and quantum mechanics topics, was presented at one of the events organized by the Rothney Astronomical Observatory of the University of the same city. Others have as their theme emigration, the child's universe, pay homage to certain personalities of Romanian art, such as the painter Ion Theodorescu-Sion, immortalize fairy tale scenes, develop floral and geometric motifs, or are created in an abstract way.
In 2016, Catalin Domniteanu participated in the cultural event Celebration of Art (in Dalhousie, Calgary), making four bas-relief stained glass windows that he donated to a number of four schools: Dalhousie School, HA Cartwright, St. Dominic School and West Dalhosie Schol. They are an occasion of delight and aesthetic joy for the students and teachers of these educational institutions. The artist has a rich fantasy, his stained glass windows are ingeniously designed, the chromatics are vivid, bright and bright, and the drawing inscribes in the plastic space some of the most pleasant shapes.
If the Tifanny technique, quite complex and requiring many operations, is fully mastered, in connection with the creative process, the artist confesses: “The creative process is the most delicious part. I was trained to feel good in front of the white sheet of paper. The flat volumes and fractions take shape between me and the white paper before drawing the first line. I always start from the benchmarks, I first establish the anchors: the theme, the props, the dimensions. I got used to noticing the space in components that come together like a three-dimensional puzzle. Traditional stained glass has precise boundaries. Transitions are not allowed, the lead wand violently delimits the adjacent spaces. Tones are not allowed at the interface between two territories, as in painting. A dualistic universe. But my universe is actually a sum of interference, evaporation, transition, degradation, dissipation, subtle influences that blur the boundaries of objects to the unrecognizable. That's why I invented three-dimensional stained glass. The bas-relief elements need only a partial embedding, leaving part of their body free. This part can now roam across borders. Of course, I built a much more fluid and independent image than I can get in reality. But who knows, maybe someday I'll build a fluid stained-glass window."
The quality and novelty of Catalin Domniteanu's works have made him a member of the Canadian Artists Association of Canada (Glass Artists Association of Canada) and the World Art Academy (France), being honored with awards. by The Society of Canadian Artist (Toronto, Canada) and Contemporary Art Gallery Online (Annapolis, USA). He is also a member of the Professional Association of Engineers and Geologists of Alberta, as well as the Romanian-Canadian Cultural Association of Calgary.
The artist is not only an excellent stained glass artist, but also a real writer. He published in the magazines "Boema @", "Milenium", "Super Nova", initiated a SF Literary Contest "Duna Experiment" at the Atlantykron Summer Academy in Capidava, and in 2014 was nominated for the Literary Debut Contest UniCredit, 6th edition, Roman Section, with the volume "Messenger" at Humanitas Publishing House. Manifested in the double capacity of plastic artist and writer, being even an innovator in the art of stained glass, Catalin Domniteanu, although almost unknown in Galați, is undoubtedly a personality who honors the Romanian culture in the diaspora, a creator endowed with much grace, eager to add perennial values of art its own contribution. About him, we will certainly hear more.
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