Beyond scientific experiments, delving into a deep unknown, we are only allowed to dream unto them, to imagine vestiges of these flowers, multiplying and extending into ever wider territories, forming the premises of a universe increasingly alien to us.
Curated by Cristina Stoenescu
November 15 – December 23, 2022
Anca Poterașu Gallery, Bucharest
The works bear the reference of the photographic aesthetics of Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932) whose well-known series of plant portraits detailed plant structures, from stems, to flowers, to seeds. Bejenaru overtakes the direct relation between photography and reality, by confronting the viewer with the representation of a representation instead. The artist renders in his photographs images of plant models from the Faculty of Biology in Iasi, Romania, imported from the German Democratic Republic in the 1970s and 1980s, questioning the rapport between scientific images, art and the speculative fictions that may arise through thecamera lens.
The artist tests the limits of photography on film, following textures, details, the construction of main and secondary planes of perspective. The image has depth, corporeality, as if light would follow the shapes of the petals. For example, in the work Model_02, the image moves from the three – dimensional plane of the curvature of the stem, in a gradual flattening of the sepals, along the floral axis, towards the petals and pistil. Tracing the transition in the transverse plane of a plant’s structure, the upper petal seems to becomes a brush of ink colour, in total abstraction. Matei Bejenaru crosses through the discursive spaces of photography, differentiated by Rosalind Krauss in her essays on the artistic nature of the medium, from representation to presentation, from the double of a reality to a plane of pure visuality.
The photographs lend a particular monumentalism to the plant structures, but distance themselves from Blossfeldt’s clinical, architecturally cold allure as seen in his images published in Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). The Models series is striking precisely because of the variation of depth in perspective, the voluptuousness of the colours and the carnality rendered through the camera lens, which is more akin to the photography of Edward Weston, or Imogen Cunningham.The works in the exhibition space seem to respond to a perhaps lesser-known reference to Blossfeldt’s images, this time published in the journal Documents 1929-20, where they accompanied George Bataille’s essay The Language of Flowers on semiotic analysis. Both the scientific and aesthetic meanings of macro photographs are hijacked by Bataille’s philosophical text who blatantly states that“even the most beautiful flowers are spoiled in their centers” once their anatomy is explored. Matei Bejenaru does not idealize the form of the models represented in purely architectural structures, nor does he regard the sensuality or hidden eroticism of flowers as phenomena dissociated from the pleasure of the eye to perceive even bizarre and quasi-human forms as Bataille’s alternative suggests.However, the artist responds to the surrealist impulse to make associations from the plane of the image in a mental space of all possibilities, to allow photography to insert precisely through anexact technology, unreal elements created by the difference in the relationship between nature perceived by the eye and nature perceived by the camera lens, in the words of Walter Benjamin.Following this thread, it is only once one gets close to the details of the photograph that one can grasp the artificial nature of the plants depicted, again shifting perspectives in reading the images. Fine cracks, supporting structures, the plasticity of some petals aid in deciphering the sculptural models withing the photographs. These teaching tools have been widespread in Europe since the end of the 19th century, allowing a more accessible way of studying botany, than through the use of microscopes.Made of papier mâché, plaster, wax or wood, the models often represent spectacular, anatomicalsurveys of flowers, following the scientific fascination for detail, the classification of the natural world by means of taxonomy and the illusion of human control over the environment.