Ana Maria Micu / Botoșani

Ana...long time no see...I have been observing your work from the distance, though :) You write me that You still paint, draw and do a bit of animation....

I am a kind of stay-at-home artist and the subjects of my works are related to the transformations of my domestic space and various forms of shifts in my thoughts or feelings that I observe I have when I am required to make life decisions. I try to practice living in a circle, by letting whatever creativity I have to provide me with optimal solutions to my problems, while, in reverse, I use for my art the visual materials that my endeavors produce.

bloom was on the ... The residuum from, 2020, charcoal, and carbon pencil on linen, 112 x 185 cm., courtesy of the artist and Mind Set Art Center

Nature or culture? From which of them do you draw most of your inspiration?

This question has a historical weight and it deserves a more intellectual and complex answer than what I can give. Both these concepts changed in recent years to an unprecedented degree.

Considering the ecological collapse, with climate change, the disappearance of species, nature is a different thing altogether from what it was for the impressionists or others. You can’t just look at it, although this is exactly what we should do if nothing else works in making us understand this moment. I grow plants in my apartment and observing them, and referencing them in my works, it could mean that I draw inspiration from natural elements, like an artist from the past, absorbed by how light makes the leaves transparent. But I hope that it also means that I am, with my plants, caught in an impossible situation and we do our best to get by. I am always aware of the power I hold over them. I am learning how plants go into survival mode periodically and then thrive when the conditions become more favorable. We are a product of our environment, but it is within our reach, at times, to take actions and change that environment to become better individuals. It also means that there is no such thing as a short term benefit – everything must be prepared in advance for the long run. It means that plants use whatever they have at their disposal without wasting anything, and so should I, as much as I am able.

balcony garden
balcony garden

What is cultural spreads now immensely vast. I happened to me, only from reading about certain ideas, to reach a frightening limit of my capacity to understand, that I know I will not be able ever to overcome. As artists, everything we are and do is related to culture, but more precisely we are travelers across areas and systems. If we define it as the depository of human achievement, it is important to observe how culture is not a direct link between different authors in time, but a discourse edited by power structures. It lacks crucial pieces and sometimes the removal was done unethically. And we begin to understand that it should not be a fight for the first or best in line, yet we don’t know how it should be done differently. We can see that problems we are witnessing, like the inability for empathy, come from these centuries of building up a cultural system that was not inclusive. As actions that I am taking for myself when relying on culture, is the legitimization of not knowing things, which I find incredibly hard to practice, and a critical distancing from everything one comes to know.

balcony garden

Techniques: stolen, learned, ignored? How important is it today to master them?

I constantly find myself lacking sufficient technical knowledge. I am part of a generation that was faced with major changes in the properties of the products recommended for painting, such as the introduction of acryls and alkyds, and many other aspects. There is also a new type of logistics that an artist has to keep, to make the studio functional. I struggle and I still encounter many difficult tasks. It is of great help the contemporary phenomenon of sharing experiments’ results through the Internet and also the way that some brands are taking the responsibility of posting educational materials on their websites. But still, this is very much a field that builds itself as we speak, while being an artist means that what you are must be invented by yourself throughout your entire life.

the right to a ... This section attempts, 2020, charcoal, and carbon pencil on linen, 175 x 317 cm., courtesy of the artist and Mind Set Art Center

Do you prefer a certain color? Why ?

At the moment, I find it is best for me to paint only with 5 tubes of Maimeri Artisti paint – white, opaque yellow, red, Prussian or other dark blue, and Cassel Earth. I like the way they generate in a realist work, a feeling that everything is slightly wrong. It makes me aware that the realistic tonal value is more important than the realistic local color and I am in the process of attempting to use this observation more effectively. I changed these rules a couple of times in my practice. At some point, in the beginning, I opted only for several opaque colors, then it was unrestricted, but I favored Quinacridone Rose Light and Turquoise Blue from Maimeri Classico because I found that when mixed in the white or grey areas of an image, they produce a contemporary type of light, somehow cold. I have experimented with methods of physical mixing colors – directly on the canvas, on the palette, during the painting session, and before-hand, saved or readily prepared for use, and I can say that the differences are fascinating and it is worthwhile to pursue the control of various variables only to compare the results.

I have charts saved in my computer and I have always dreamed about having complete physical charts, applied on samples of canvas, from several brands, all if possible. I do my best to learn continuously about the properties of the paints.

studio view
storage and plant room, with the painting No title (2012)

Tell us about a turning point in your development as an artist

Going completely into adulthood meant to take a pause and transform. My usual way of painting was for, a while, insufficient. I turned very aware of my weaknesses, more egocentric, extremely cautious, and absolutely driven. I started looking for that special state that keeps you completely absorbed when working. At some point, I forced myself to experiment with unfamiliar techniques and at first, there were no notable accomplishments, like with a combination of needlepoint, drawing in permanent marker on tapestry canvas, and animation, that kept me occupied for maybe 6 months. But then, I settled into drawing on paper.

how landscape .... like we expect, 2019, oil on linen, 185 x 140 cm., courtesy of the artist and Mind Set Art Center

After seeing what I was doing on social media, Andre Lee, Director of Mind Set Art Center, the gallery in Taipei that now represents me, invited me to take part in an important group exhibition. I made a big effort to better myself, to be deserving of the opportunity, and produced under a strict deadline one more drawing linked to an animation, materializing something that is still unique for my portfolio, documented on my website as the Self-Portrait project. Having a new idea happens for me rarely, but it did in that context. Among all my animations, this one stood apart, and since then the focus on this medium stuck with me. I am continuing it now, and this is what makes me reminisce about my early experiments. The period loosely around 2016 and 2017, with its succession of unmethodical events, was crucial in my development.

studio view

Give us 3 artists that you like, motivate, and make you work hard.

Women artists that are older than me. What I know (not much), about some of them. Kiki Smith, because her works look weird, but they feel close to me, or Agnes Martin from when I saw her filmed, at an old age, talking about her paintings, and she seemed the most vulnerable, yet also maybe the most powerful person I have ever seen. Vija Celmins, because she can stay still. Ellen Altfest, because she chooses to make small paintings that take the longest time to finish.

to protect the ..... she gave all her wealth, 2019, oil on linen, 185 x 185 cm., courtesy of the artist and Mind Set Art Center
of uncertainty. ..... Children who perceive, 2019, oil on linen, 100 x 95 cm., courtesy of the artist and Mind Set Art Center

Tell us three essential things about art: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Art has saved me many times and I know that it has ugly and bad parts, for me always somehow connected to lying, but I accept them as impossible to remove side effects. I continuously train myself to be even more respectful and grateful for those experiences that I have, from time to time, when I encounter an artist that blows my mind. It is never something predictable or controllable. It just happens and enriches your life, and when it doesn’t happen, you just have to stay still and wait patiently. I don’t have access to any other field that could do this for me.

studio view

What are you working on right now?

I have a succession of paintings in progress, but it goes painfully slowly. I periodically draw sketches by looking in a mirror, as an exercise, and the thing I am excited about, still in a very early stage, is to make an animation from a combination of drawings on a plasticine plate, bas-relief, and more volumetric forms, some fixed, some mobile. The idea that I have for the moment is to animate a realist self-portrait, with eyes movement and speech, while making it hold a comparatively more naive and bi-dimensional representation of itself. I already like this medium so much, that I know it will stay with me for a long time

animation table and plasticine reliefs

In what way isolation changed your daily routine? Have your thinking patterns changed? Name something indispensable for you in the context of social distancing? What do you miss most? Do you believe this situation will have an impact on artistic creation?

Travels, the few that I had, is something that I am aware that I will not be able to do anymore, for a long time, and it was the one thing, because of the human interactions, that was helping me to grow.

This catastrophe we are in, with all that it brings, wipes out for me the option of missing out or feeling uncomfortable. The best I can to evaluate it, for now, it that it requires of me, as an artist, to expand, absorb and feel, as much as I am able, the enormity of it all, without retreating to a self-protective position, that detachment or other coping mechanisms have to offer. And all I have to say is that I am failing and I am not able to go very far in internalizing it. It remains abstract, incomprehensible, no matter how much I focus on it, instead of my work. I cannot find myself able to foresee things and I have to force myself to live in the present. It is the hardest thing I ever had to do and it will fundamentally change me in ways I cannot yet tell. And it is perplexing because of this package of privileges in which it comes, in my case: I have all that is essential and more, on top of which I am one who is professionally equipped to invent alternatives.