Marius Bercea: Hypernova
28th March – 17th April 2014
Private View: 27th March, 6pm – 8pm
Blain|Southern is delighted to present Hypernova, an exhibition of new work by Romanian painter Marius Bercea.
Recording the artist’s travels from his Transylvanian hometown of Cluj to California and the city of Los Angeles,
Hypernova illustrates a sensory, psychological journey as much as a geographical one. Amalgamating an array of
iconic imagery that exists across Romanian and American culture, Bercea has created a diverse series of vibrant
landscapes that fluctuate between the utopian and dystopian, between flux and stasis, blurring the boundaries
between reality and imagination.
This body of work represents an overlapping of two topographical icons: Transylvania and California, in which the
city of Cluj and the surrounding Carpathian mountains converge upon the canvas with a range of new and alien
Californian environments, from the solitude of the Mojave desert to the hills of Hollywood. The show is divided into two
sections; the first room displays grounded, tangible reflections of locations from Bercea’s journey, whilst the second,
through vibrant explosions of colour, reveals a more fantastical approach that becomes increasingly spiritual and
mystical. Often verging on the surreal, these works bring together Bercea’s sublime visions of the natural world with
the jarring electric lights and sprawling architecture of urban developments.
Speed Sterility (2013) presents us with a series of highways leading out of Los Angeles into the desert. An earthy
palette underlies dense areas of geometric structures, outlined in streaks of purple and black, or jutting upwards
against a foreboding sky of crimson and dark blue. These modernist constructions dominate the skyline, and whilst
their white sheen gives off a sense of once progressive design, Bercea simultaneously portrays them in states of
seeming disappearance and decay. Slipping in and out of immediate focus, urban life is conveyed in a wash of
dynamism and transience.
In Electric Snow (2013) both foreground and background glisten with radioactive colour. The scene could be night
or day, indoors or out. Bercea’s fascination with the melding of natural and artificial light is evident throughout the
composition, in which the phosphorescent orange glow of the night sky is seemingly echoed in flashes of luminous
colour across the suggestions of towering city buildings. In the midst of this scene, struggling for room to breathe,
is the subtle presence of a traditional Romanian peasant house. The shapes of trees melt into their surroundings,
glittering with specks of white light on beds of blue snow. Demonstrating a suffocation of the rural landscape by
the electric lights of the city, Bercea presents himself as an emotional observer of the effects of the consumerist
Bercea’s trip through the Californian desert is captured in the skies of both Suspended Animation (2013) and Roulette
of the Night (2013). However, in both paintings the bottom section of the work represents scenes from Transylvania
– the latter an industrial setting, the former a rustic green landscape, thus presenting an imperceptible fusion of two remote locations. Suspended Animation features a dark vista in which a blanket of stars lends emphasis to a
dramatic sense of stillness and solitude, far away from the smoke and noise of civilisation – and perhaps signifying
the presence of the artist himself, a Romanian sitting beneath the Californian night sky.
Bercea’s largest canvas in the exhibition, Seasonal Capital of Itinerant Crowds (2013) presents a patchwork of
disparate imagery, brought together against the backdrop of the Hollywood hills. West coast palm trees rise up
against a field of thick impasto paint, which threatens to consume the letters of the Hollywood sign, now disrupted
and nearly obscured – as if slipping into disrepair. In the foreground, an array of seemingly temporary structures
have set up camp; caravans and huts crammed against each other upon unstable ground – alluding to the itinerant
communities that Bercea witnessed first-hand across the desert. Opposite this sits a caravan with an open door – a
direct homage to the myth of the traveller and the concept of the ‘American road trip’ that pervaded the writings of Ilif
and Petrov, as well as 1950s beat literature, and the 1986 text America by Jean Baudrillard.
The composition is completed by the looming corner of a bleached white building, a reference to the modernist
architecture of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire that appeared in cities across Romania in the early twentieth
century. These structures would go on to influence the architectural urbanisation of Los Angeles, by figures such
as Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra. The jagged walls of this building merge with the Hollywood sign behind
it, creating a historical and pictorial conjoining of the cultural iconography of both California and Romania. By reinterpreting
reality through the lens of abstract sensation, Bercea not only uniquely conveys the overwhelming sensory
spectacle of his experiences, but also exposes the cultural crossovers between two distant worlds.
The exhibition will be accompanied by the artist’s first monograph, including over 60 full colour plates, an interview
with the artist and two new essays by Michael Bracewell and Barry Schwabsky.