In the fall of 2017, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) organised the first exhibition of the Romanian artist Geta Brătescu (°1926) to be held in Belgium. The exhibition presented a compact overview of the remarkably varied oeuvre of the 91-year-old artist. The central focus was her approach to the studio as a performative, contemplative and critical space. It provided a rare opportunity to explore the breadth of the artist’s long-standing yet widely unknown oeuvre, whilst focusing on specific areas of Brătescu’s interests in-depth.
Five decades of self-reflection
Since the 1960s, Brătescu’s work has encompassed such diverse techniques as drawing, sewing, printmaking, performance, film, and installation. Throughout her practice she has looked at the studio as a place to redefine the self, raising questions of self-identity and dematerialization.
Through her interest in literary figures, including Aesop, Faust and Medea, she evokes questions of ethics, femininity and motherhood. And under the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceauçescu her studio became a marginalized but safe space, where she produced and experienced her art amid daily life.
Experimentation and precision
Working from the sanctuary of her studio, definitions and measurements have underlain much of Brătescu’s work through experiments in material rearrangements, charting the movement of her hands, and the disappearance or concealment of her own image.
While the result has a very organic feel, her approach has always been highly precise. When she created collages from torn cloth, for instance, no choice rested on chance. By giving this ‘detritus’ a well-defined place within the artwork, she lifts it up to new levels. It is, in her own words, ‘the sanctification of waste.’
Recent recognition and first solo-exhibition in Belgium
Brătescu has gained wider international recognition in recent years – through her participation in major group shows such as the Istanbul Biennial (2010), La Triennale in Paris (2012) and the Venice Biennale (2013), along with acquisitions of her work by several significant international collections. However, her exhibition in MSK Ghent will be only the fourth large-scale exhibition of her work outside Romania, and will be her first in Belgium.
The exhibition ‘Geta Brătescu: An Atelier of One’s Own’ focused on this lifelong approach to the studio as a performative, contemplative and critical space to reflect on one’s own position in the world.