The Artist's Relationship with Materials
by: Ciprian Mureșan, artist in residence in collaboration with researchers Sanneke Stigter and Sven Dupré
Quietly Subversive is the project that brings together artist Ciprian Mureșan with researchers Sanneke Stigter and Sven Dupré in the frame of STUDIOTOPIA Art&Science Residency Programme hosted by Cluj Cultural Centre (Romania).
Their collaboration will explore and intersect with the steering mechanisms of museum practices and conservation strategies, with the aim to enhance the conservation of our cultural heritage eliciting better awareness about a possible change in artworks from within the art (making) context.
Asking about fundamental issues of art’s durability functioning in ecosystems, the project contributes to strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
In the beginning of the collaborative work during their Studiotopia residency, Sanneke Stigter - Assistant Professor in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Amsterdam, has invited Ciprian Mureșan, whose art lays at the center of the Quietly Subversive project, to take part in an artist interview conducted by her students in the Minor Conservation and Restoration as part of their course “Chemistry, materials, techniques of cultural heritage objects” to explore the challenges in the conservation of contemporary art.
A snippet of the interview highlights the students' interest and concerns regarding the artist’s choice of materials, materials' perishability as opposed to their permanence and how can the two be integrated in the creative process, as well as Mureșan’s personal views on the restoration and conservation of his art works.
You can read below a summary of the conversation with Ciprian Mureșan, sparked by students’ questions.
Do you have a favorite of all the materials you’ve used? It doesn’t have to be practical; it doesn’t have to be easy, just something you’ve really enjoyed using.
Ciprian Mureșan: Yes, as a matter of fact I like wax a lot. I find it to be an interesting material, even though in a traditional, classical sense it’s a transient material, regularly used for bronze casting. I saw the works of many artists who work with wax and I’d say ‘I like this artist!’, until I realized it was actually their choice of material which I liked, not necessarily their art. Wax is a great material for sculpture. I probably enjoy working with it because it’s an organic material that allows me to use its ephemeral characteristics. Also, I’ve experimented with some wax sculptures which are actually durable, at least for now, as I’ve used resin as a structure. I don’t know how they will evolve in time though.
When you create your artworks, do you think about the materials you use and how they will degrade over time?
Ciprian Mureșan: In the beginning I didn’t realize it, but in the Academy, because the curricula was focused on working with stone, wood, bronze and metal, we were set up from the beginning with this. But I slowly became aware that, for example, using papier-mâché, which I tried to use sometimes, is very different from casting in bronze. But I do like paper a lot. About two years ago, I chose to exhibit some drawings outside, to see what would happen, how they’d get degraded in time. Of course, I worked with irony, because I knew both collectors and the public really like my drawings, that they are really precious, as an object which is very valuable. So, my idea was to take three of my drawings, stick them to the sculpture and leave them outside. Of course, they got destroyed in time, because it was pencil on paper.
Do you take into account how the artwork will degrade before you create it? Do you think about ‘How do I make something that will last longer, that will remain in the same condition over a longer period’?
Ciprian Mureșan: Yes, I consider the aspect, but I also like the way artworks change over time. In the beginning I didn’t realize it, but now I’m happy when I see works I created more than ten years ago and how they’ve changed somehow and I remember it, because I don’t see my works every day. If I sell a piece, or give it away, or if it’s in storage I don’t see it anymore, so as time passes, the only thing that remains is the memory of it. And then you begin to wonder whether this color was always like that or it changed. Somehow, I like it when a piece has degraded so much that it could be seen as a disaster, when it looks so much worse than it used to. Maybe it’s my subjectivity, but I try to stay positive and say I like that it changed. In these cases, it is not intentional. Of course, you can control the process, if you have a good knowledge about the materials you use.
How do you feel about changing a piece or a part of your artwork if it becomes harmful for the overall condition of the work?
Ciprian Mureșan: I don’t have a problem with changing it. In my personal case, I’m not very strict with the materials, so it doesn’t bother me. For example, a drawing of mine was destroyed while being transported to Hong Kong. The glass broke from the frame and cut the paper, so a specialist reconditioned it in Hong Kong without asking me, of course. When I saw it afterwards, it was in perfect condition. I actually didn’t realize it was damaged, but I saw some ‘before and after’ photos and it was quite badly affected. So, I was actually happy that someone could fix it, I didn’t realize they could repair it so well.
When an artwork of yours is restored, do you want to be a part of the process?
Ciprian Mureșan: Of course, I want to, but it isn’t possible all the time. Somehow, I like to see how they do it and help if I can, but in many cases it’s just not possible. Like the example with the drawing, I probably wouldn’t have known how to repair it, maybe I would have remade it somehow, which is different. But they managed to repair it very well, I don’t know how.
Text by Alexandra Chițu.
Find out more about Ciprian Mureșan's work.
"Quietly Subversive" hosted by Cluj Cultural Centre is part of the STUDIOTOPIA project supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.