Mak­ing Colour your Best Friend

Arabella - - ARTIST TO COLLECT - writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

Tran­syl­va­nia … the mere men­tion of the name evokes an at­mos­phere of mys­tery, his­tory, gothic sus­pense. No won­der, then, that the work of an artist born and raised in this leg­endary re­gion would be in­fused with an un­der­cur­rent of agesold ro­mance. Yet, un­like Bram Stoker’s dark and brood­ing lit­er­ary rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Ro­ma­nia in "Drac­ula," artist Iosif Dere­ci­chei por­trays his home­land with the lively hues of scar­let pop­pies, golden sun­flow­ers and skies of wel­com­ing blue that he re­mem­bers from child­hood. No de­press­ing shades of grey, here. Iosif’s paint­ings de­light the eye with styl­ized vi­sions of tiny vil­lages nes­tled in the hills and, ev­ery­where, the vi­brant colours of na­ture. Iosif Dere­ci­chei was born in 1962 in Marghita, a small town in Tran­syl­va­nia (Western Ro­ma­nia), per­haps best known through­out the world as the set­ting for the clas­sic novel Drac­ula. His re­la­tion­ship with art started at a young age, and Iosif’s tal­ent did not go un­no­ticed. "Grow­ing up in a small town, I re­mem­ber be­ing con­sid­ered rather strange, a kind of rar­ity, be­ing able to draw with ease. Dur­ing my teenage years, I con­tin­ued draw­ing and paint­ing as a hobby, not re­ally con­sid­er­ing an artis­tic ca­reer as an op­tion. In com­mu­nist Ro­ma­nia, be­ing a full

time painter was pretty much out of the ques­tion." Af­ter the regime change in 1989, Iosif com­pleted his art education at univer­sity. With the com­mu­nist era gone, new op­por­tu­ni­ties opened up, giv­ing him the free­dom to present his paint­ings abroad. "I started to ex­hibit my work in Hun­gary, be­ing rep­re­sented by gal­leries in De­bre­cen, Szeged and Keszthely (a beau­ti­ful city near the fa­mous Lake Bala­ton). Through th­ese gal­leries my paint­ings were shown in Aus­tria, Ja­pan and the USA. Those were prodi­gious years, hav­ing the chance to be part of some art camps around the pic­turesque lake; plein air paint­ing with other artists when nei­ther com­mit­ment, nor artis­tic knowl­edge got in the way, the whole process be­ing pure joy and ex­cite­ment."

An Ab­stracted View

Be­ing a great ad­mirer of Claude Monet at the time, Iosif de­vel­oped an im­pres­sion­is­tic style, and years would pass be­fore he dis­cov­ered the beauty of ab­stract and ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism. "My work started to shift, more and more ab­stract el­e­ments be­ing in­cor­po­rated in my paint­ings, un­til form, colour, line, tex­ture and pat­terns took over my can­vases. There is a per­ma­nent move­ment in my style be­tween ab­stract and rep­re­sen­ta­tional, a per­ma­nent strug­gle to find the per­fect bal­ance and har­mony. To­day, more fig­u­ra­tive el­e­ments are mak­ing room in my paint­ings in a rather styl­ized man­ner." Liv­ing in Wind­sor, On­tario since June 2004, Iosif now con­sid­ers him­self a Ro­ma­nian-cana­dian

artist, and he is grate­ful to some spe­cial peo­ple who helped him along the way. One of them is Nagy Jeno, a gallery owner in Keszthey, Hun­gary. "He was the first to of­fer me a solo art show in his gallery. That col­lab­o­ra­tion con­tin­ued up un­til I im­mi­grated to Canada. Also, two very good artist friends, Papp Ga­bor and Si­laghi Stelian, who sup­ported and re­ally en­cour­aged me – hav­ing an im­por­tant role in what I am to­day as an artist. Then, some of my univer­sity teach­ers, who helped me de­velop the abil­ity to in­ter­pret the vis­ual world sur­round­ing me." Liv­ing in Europe while study­ing art, Iosif was ar­tis­ti­cally in­flu­enced mostly by Euro­pean artists, such as Claude Monet and Vin­cent Van Gogh, and Aus­trian artists Gus­tav Klimt and Egon Schiele. "Also, Michael Gold­berg and Willem de Koon­ing had a huge im­pact on my style. On a per­sonal level, grow­ing up in a Chris­tian fam­ily, val­ues such as kind­ness and hum­ble­ness shaped my per­son­al­ity and my life."

Open to In­ter­pre­ta­tion

Even though his stu­dio is not a large one, there is plenty of room for sketches, draw­ings and paint­ings on the walls. Be­ing sur­rounded by them is in­spir­ing – some­times cer­tain ar­eas of an older im­age will stir the cre­ative juices and prompt Iosif to de­velop that same theme into new paint­ings. Pho­to­graphs are used as a start­ing point, though his paint­ings are never an ex­act copy of na­ture or any spe­cific place, but rather a con­stant strive to es­tab­lish a sense of place. "What re­ally in­spires me is na­ture, all the sim­ple and or­di­nary things that ex­ist around me. Beau­ti­ful tex­tures, shapes, colours, just wait­ing to be

dis­cov­ered. His­tor­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, nar­row streets in old cities, ne­glected build­ings are a won­der­ful source of in­spi­ra­tion. Forests, the re­flec­tion of trees in the wa­ter, can cre­ate ex­tremely beau­ti­ful ab­stract pat­terns. All it takes is to change our way we look at the world and, in­stead of copy­ing it, re­com­pose it. In­ter­pret it." Iosif is im­pressed by other artists’ abil­ity to be spon­ta­neous, loose, pro­found and mean­ing­ful, all at the same time. He es­pe­cially ap­pre­ci­ates the work of con­tem­po­rary artists such as Do­minic Bes­ner, Jean-pierre Lafrance and Amer­i­can artist Jeremy Mann. When not work­ing and cre­at­ing, Iosif en­joys spend­ing time in mu­se­ums and art gal­leries. He has fond mem­o­ries of won­der­ful art mu­se­ums in Bucharest, Bu­dapest, Vi­enna, Venice, Paris, Ottawa, Mon­treal and Wash­ing­ton DC. Travel is a big part of his life; not sur­pris­ingly, Europe's me­dieval cities are filled with in­spi­ra­tion. He is cur­rently mak­ing se­ri­ous plans for a trip to Rome and the gor­geous Amalfi coast this sum­mer.

Beau­ti­ful Ac­ci­dents

For any­one with thoughts of be­com­ing an artist, Iosif has some sage ad­vice: Be­gin draw­ing a lot to per­fect your skill, then make colours your best friends un­til you just sim­ply love the smell of paint.

Be cre­ative and pre­pare for a long and sin­u­ous jour­ney. Never stop learn­ing and chal­leng­ing your­self. Spon­tane­ity comes af­ter lots of prac­tice. "I think that my work is a self-por­trait. It ex­presses my feel­ings, my emo­tions, my own jour­ney through time … the places I vis­ited, the peo­ple I met, how they in­flu­enced me, how they trans­formed me. All this makes my art unique in a cer­tain way, dif­fer­ent from other artists’ work." Iosif worked in oils for a long time. But af­ter try­ing acrylics a few years ago, the ver­sa­til­ity and fast-dry­ing qual­i­ties won him over. "I've been work­ing with acrylic ever since. I like to use col­lage for my sketches to cre­ate ab­stract com­po­si­tions, then add fig­u­ra­tive el­e­ments to the de­sign, cre­at­ing move­ment and rhythm. By us­ing pri­mary colours, along with styl­ized forms of houses, small vil­lages, bloom­ing trees, I cre­ate vi­brant im­ages. Tex­ture, drip­ping colours in the back­ground, thick paint ap­plied with a pal­ette knife, th­ese are all part of my tech­nique. Draw­ing lines com­ing through the thin layer of paint, some­times re­draw­ing over cer­tain ar­eas, adds to the fresh­ness of the im­age, cre­at­ing more vi­brancy." Many times the process be­gins with a photo, which is used as a ref­er­ence. Iosif breaks down the im­age to its ba­sic el­e­ments, re­com­poses it in a more ab­stract man­ner, and sub­tracts or adds

new el­e­ments un­til the de­sired com­po­si­tion is achieved for the paint­ing. "A quick char­coal sketch on the can­vas and then I ap­ply the paint, fill­ing in the larger and ab­stract shapes, not re­ally pay­ing too much at­ten­tion to de­tails at this point. In some ar­eas the paint re­mains thick, in other ar­eas I spray wa­ter, mix­ing the colours right on the can­vas, then let it drip, al­ways hop­ing for some beau­ti­ful ac­ci­dents that I can use later on. Fig­u­ra­tive el­e­ments are added to the de­sign un­til the right bal­ance be­tween ab­stract and fig­u­ra­tive is achieved."

A funny thing hap­pened...

"At my first show in Wind­sor, there were two peo­ple ex­hibit­ing: a well-known lawyer in the city, who was paint­ing as a hobby, and I. When a lo­cal TV crew came to do in­ter­views of both artists, all I re­mem­ber say­ing, in my ex­tremely poor English, was that the gen­tle­man ex­hibit­ing with me – whom I'd never met be­fore – was my brother. There were some quite awk­ward mo­ments. My English has im­proved a bit since then. Never watched the in­ter­view, though."

pre­vi­ous spread, Pur­ple sky, acrylic on can­vas, 40" x 60" above, Rhap­sody In Red And Green, acrylic on can­vas, 48" x 48"

Wild Cherry Blossom, acrylic on can­vas, 48" x 60"

End Of Sum­mer, acrylic on can­vas, 48" x 48"

Tus­can Pop­pies, acrylic on can­vas, 30" x 60"

left, The Story Of Red Pop­pies, acrylic on can­vas, 40" x 40" above, Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney, acrylic on can­vas, 40" x 40"

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