Suzana Fantanariu – the artist who shapes wood: There is no masculinity and femininity in art

Every person carries inside the aspiration of flying high, the childhood game of drawing imaginary shapes from the clouds that cross the sky. It is in such experiences that hides the talent that can establish the person in the realm of art. Every artist begins life with a childhood dream. So began the artist hailing from Timisoara Suzana Fantanariu, with an exceptional artistic career both at home and abroad.

About her life-long artistic activity, Suzana Fantanariu tells AGERPRES that it is expressed through the works exhibited in a peak retrospective “Catharsis – at the edge of the world”, at the National Museum of Art in Timisoara (MNArT), exhibition opened in the year of the European Capital of Culture TM2023 (7 December 2023 – 30 May 2024).

For the artist, the woodblock print is the ‘stern’ beginning of her career as a sketcher in her youth, between 25 and 40 years old, a period that made her visible in the country and abroad.

Wood engraving – “the tribute to woodcuts” – is an ancient process, the engraving and manual printing being difficult, toxic and uncomfortable.

She admits that she has no predilection for a particular technique, nor does she have preferential subjects and themes, ”the two issues will always attract each other and hold major importance depending on the inner vibration and inspirational quality of the chosen moment”.

Practicing several genres of art – engraving, drawing, object, book-object (as a prerogative of post-modernism), installations, picto-object collage, Suzana Fantanariu states two personal tendencies: she was attracted by the Far East and probed the anthropomorphic motif (mummification) as a consequence of this affectivity, on the basis of a cultural intuition and a precognition structured on the scale of artistic trajectories, through Egyptian mummies, Japanese prints (Hokusai), oriental writing, dragons.

The artist’s second tendency was the Western experimental level with overtones of Romanian matrix.

Suzana Fantanariu says that inventiveness and originality are at the basis of her artistic approach, militating, as an artist and professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design of the West University of Timisoara, for the consolidation of a conceptual platform on the artistic phenomenon in the field of visual arts, to ensure the continuity and survey of the contemporary artistic movement.

The toxic environment, brutal moments, mystification of truth, arivism, the unjustness of value through undeserved positions, manipulations that lead to alienation and dehumanization, social, political and cultural syncopations are realities that have affected the artist. She got involved, bringing her artistic offering through projects dedicated to the martyrs of the 1989 Revolution at the Memorial in Timisoara.

For Suzana Fantanariu, the link with the sacred is permanent, the main creations under this seal being: Ochiul Tau (Your Eye), Colaci de pomenire (Remembrance ring-shaped ritual bread), Ambalaj pentru suflet (Package for the Soul), Pieta, Inger profan (Unholy Angel), Mucenicii (the Martyrs), Memoria ingenua (Naive Memory), Potirul (the Chalice),Vesmantul (the Robe), Icoana (The Icon). They all refer to the meditative process of silence and humility.

Art, creation, aspiration are terms with references to the sacred, so much so that fracturing them at this level would diminish their profound spirituality and unique power of expression. Creation itself is also gripped by the gentle and luminous thrill of sacredness, she says.

The artist recognizes that the problems of femininity understood as a minority, where “feminine” means “feminist” as an aesthetic and moral delimitation, are always being questioned as an external or internal problem of art.

“Value is imposed in art not by the gender ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Referring now to engraving, I confess that I have never had the feeling of being confronted with a material that would not allow itself to be subjected to the investigation of an artist unjustly branded as lacking strength. Wood carving does not mean a physical effort of manual workmanship, but creative energy, a pulsation that comes from within ignoring the hardness of the instrument and the material that only apparently opposes it. The mastery of a material and its ‘shaping’ is a function of the ideational message that pulses through the action of engraving as a natural act of creation. My entire creative existence, especially as an engraver, has not been hampered by outdated concepts of stability and recognition of artistic potential as a female artist. The priority, for me, was living the artistic act and the liberation, so this kind of hostility, anachronistic prejudices have atrophied during my life,” she mentions.

Suzana Fantanariu has a series of editorial projects, text and images, a new volume of poetry, Cenusa de aur (Golden Ashes), an album, Anatomii utopice (Utopian Anatomies), Portrete Covid (Covid Portraits, about the Covid effect), the volume Pagini de jurnal (Diary Pages). This is followed by a substantial and elegant anniversary album Ambalaj pentru suflet 75 (Package for the Soul 75), designed by Alexandru Chituta, with numerous images and an extensive dialogue between curator and artist, but also excerpts of critical texts by important writers and art critics published by the Brukenthal Museum of Art in Sibiu, which is awaiting its official launch.

The second volume Suzana Fantanariu by Alexander Gerdanovits, published by Ritter, Austria, is also scheduled to be launched in Vienna. The artist will also have a personal exhibition at the Brukenthal Museum of Art.