White versus black, abstraction versus figuration, symbolism versus reality: the "Antipode" exhibition features two juxtaposed positions of art in which the new works of two artists from Cluj in Rumanian reveal the possibilities of painting in Eastern Europe in all its many facets. Over the last ten years or so, the Cluj School of Art and Design has given rise to a new generation of internationally successful artists who, on the one hand, are masters of the academic techniques of the Eastern tradition of painting and, on the other, are open and impartial to the topics and techniques of Western painting. Sergiu Toma and Leonardo Silaghi, both born in 1987, are exponents of this school and of this generation. Toma focuses on figuration and realistic representation, while in his recent works Silaghi experiments with abstraction and reduction in form and colour.
Leonardo Silaghi presents a completely new series of large-format works and a set of 25 smaller ones characterized by their abstract depiction and hues of black, white and grey. He creates an overlapping of flat and spatial situations with broad, dynamic brushstrokes and a masterly composition of light and dark passages that lead the viewer’s gaze. The basic forms are circles, triangles and lines, arranged spaciously over the canvas. Only a closer look reveals a subject the artist had already engaged with in previous works: namely variations on the theme of skulls, staged with incisive symbolism as a sequence of abstract portraits. For years Silaghi devoted himself to old machinery and the ruins of heavy industry in post-communist Eastern Europe. It was in 2014, during his time in New York, that the radical transition towards abstraction came about. And since 2015, following his residency in Berlin, the artist has changed his subject matter drastically. Today Silaghi consistently uses the colour grey, since others would distract him from his main aim, namely radical solutions in painting. He finds these in the simplest forms and most essential colours.
Sergiu Toma presents one large-scale oil on canvas and the first five works of a new and developing smaller-format series representative of the intense transition his way of working has undergone. In his free and gentle style, Toma tells us about spontaneous moments in everyday life, scenes of playing with a dog during a walk in the park and, ever so often, between interior and exterior spaces. These scenes may seem like stills from a movie but are actually based on the snapshots taken by Toma with his camera. In contrast to his earlier photo-realistic and academic paintings, these new works show a much more liberal approach to the medium of painting designed to capture the magic and dynamics of the moment. Toma is a master of atmosphere, which he endows with a soft and flowing patina. He also likes the emotional interplay with viewers, subjecting them to sharp changes between pitch black and bright vibrant colours and evoking at once familiar and menacing places. The large-scale painting, which shows the artist manipulating a curtain between what seem to be two different realities, is like a hinge between the earlier works and the new ones.