Talking to Corina Păcurar – a conversation over coffee and jazzy beats about an artist’s self-seek, about graphics and style, photography and thoughts about life.
Even though there are more than 30 years gap between the existence of Ethel Barrymore and Corina, these two ladies do have something in common: something they both believe. However, since the former was the one to make history, let’s hear her words first:
“The arts are not just instantaneous pleasure – if you don’t like it, the artist is wrong. I belong to the generation which says if you don’t like it, you don’t understand and you ought to find out.”
The only thing you need to know about Corina is that she is a 3rd year student at Arts University and she is confronted with the very challenges of an artist’s life, even the fact that she has two ideas for her Bachelor’s Degree:” I don’t know which one to choose. When you work on the subjects you’ve chosen, you have to have read so much and researched a lot, so that THEY can’t get to you. It’s difficult with the committee.”
Drawing was her first love
“I would never draw princesses, fairies and ballerinas. Or landscapes. I like to draw portraits. This is why I went to Graphics. If I want to learn something I want to learn how to draw the Man.”
Since the first year she has been criticized for her drawings, for the way she draws things. “Why do I draw things with sexual and pornographic connotation? In arts you have to be open-minded and realize you can do anything.”
In the second year she had an assignment to draw someone and highlight a trait specific to the respective person. He chose a friend who was passionate about photography and drew a nude of her having camera lenses coming out of her breasts. “Why not? Why not do something like that? I am an art student, I am not offending you if I do something like that, I am not insinuating anything, just try to see beyond that, I tell people. For what I’m concerned, it could have been worse. People are bothered by my drawings because they are very explicit, not many choose to go this way, this far…people are moral, they have their limits. An image like mine automatically has the power to ruin their comfort. Of course it depends on the person, how easily he or she is disturbed, and how much they can really grasp the message.’’
To her defense she brings up the videos with sexual connotations that are all over the music channels, which piss her off. “And people ask me how can I expose my drawings?!…because children can come see them…this happened to me in Alba. And I wonder, what’s the problem? Anyway children these days know a lot more than I used to when I was 10.”
Corina points out to a universally acknowledged truth; that people have all kinds of fetishes and fantasies, but no one admits them, “God forbid! Why? There’s nothing shameful, about that. In drawing it’s all about VISUAL IMPACT.” She doesn’t say that her purpose is to shock, for her it’s not about a visual shock, but an emotional one. “Realize what’s actually there without limiting yourself to the fact that the image shocks and confuses you…it’s all done within a certain way.”
On the other hand, Corina has had the chance to work with people who share her vision. “The portraits I’ve done in coal are friends of mine and two teachers. I took their photographs and told them: make a face! I don’t want to do those typical portraits where people smile nicely; I want to see that man has other sides as well, not just a pretty face which is nicely wrapped.”
Rocking the fruit-basket kitsch like a Picasso!
Abstract and conceptual art is definitely not Corina’s cup of tea because to her, real “art” is situated at a higher level. People can be very receptive and understanding when it comes to a point left on a 2 m2 wall and described as the origin of the world (“And the people see it and they are like <<God, what he saw in a point!>> and I go there like <<Bro’ it’s just a point! Just a POINT!!>>” she told us), but this artist’s less popular work is differently treated, as she confessed:
“<<Look at them with their realism and with their anatomy!>> and <<They don’t do things like these anymore!>>. You find a type of art which fits you. I don’t think that someone should be in charge of commenting upon your decision.”
However, according to her, deciding is not enough and her colleagues shouldn’t go with the flow and embrace the “easy way” (the arts mentioned above). Taking something much more challenging and proving that they are “true” artists by doing it well, will eventually bring up their talent. Great artists like Picasso, started their ascending like this too. He also experienced more style before breaking the barriers of the conventional and reaching the cubism that today pinpoints him in the popular culture.
Outside the abstract-conceptual conflict sphere, she insists that an artist should keep on doing what he or she likes and not exactly looking forward to become a revolutionary figure in the arts world. Facing those “random specialists” who tell you what is “pretty” and worth portraying, is one of the very first steps.
“You should do art for your own self, not for the others. Once you started to do it for others, those become your bosses. You shouldn’t be influenced by the mentality in your faculty, by the people around who tell you <<Why don’t you do it like this, why don’t you do that, look how beautiful it looks this way>>”
Since everyone has a different perception of “pretty”, Corina’s version of “disliked pretty” doesn’t take long to be defined.
“There are people with no knowledge of arts and who like the small basket with fruits and the kitsch on the market, so they are like <<Look how beautiful these are, why don’t you some too?>> To do things like those, you have to be a very good … imitator.”
Despite this, suggestions come in a rougher way as well, not in the form of a fruit basket, but in the shape of a book for kids.
“A miss asked a portrait to put it on the back cover of her book, because she was ready to release it. So I did her a portrait just to be told <<Well, it’s so dark and I cannot put it on a book for children because they will get scared.>> So I asked her <<What children is it for?>> <<10 to 12 years old children>>” and she added <<But can’t you change it a bit?>> and I said <<This is how I work.>> I did it quickly, I didn’t waste time, but look what I usually do [before asking something from me], so you won’t wake up and realize that you don’t like it.”
“I want to convey something through what I make. I don’t really want to be some well-known artist and everyone to hear about me. I want the people who real appreciate art to be impressed, to give them a feeling, or something. Not everyone have to appreciate it, some people who have knowledge about it, not that mom like what I do.”
Once upon a time in OserLand
“Great stories start in unexpectedly ordinary places”, here’s a clichéic phrase to start the story about Corina and her Zenit single-lens reflex camera. She got her Russian brand camera at a flea market for a bargain price – 250 RON – after negotiating a little, of course, with the seller. Like she put it, it was love at first sight, and unexpected and spontaneous was also her decision to buy a SLR instead of a Digital SLR.
“I really wanted to have a good digital camera. But then I was like <<Why?>> Let’s buy an SLR. I’m going to Oser, buy it from there and that’s it!”
Before entering the Arts University, she had a compact camera for taking amateur pictures. Then at a photography course she fell for this art and learnt how important is to have some professional equipment. Nevertheless, it was also the developing process of the photographs which got her interested in traditional SLRs.
So, while Samsung and Apple lead the war of Smartphone which is only fed by the eager millions of consumers, Corina and other (unfortunately) few Arts students are turning back to traditional media, switching the large memory cards for the old photographic films. Asked about it, she clearly stated a preference for it, but also put under the spotlight a new social category that starts to be tagged by the society.
“I don’t want to start talking about past, but [the old technology] is interesting. This is why I like it, because you don’t know what to expect of it. Now everyone is about technology and people invent all sorts, so you cannot wonder. It’s true that technology saves you multiple times. [..] But I like to go the traditional way. Everyone says <<The hipsters with their cameras and their clothes!>> I can’t stand that. You’re not hipster! You’re vintage!”
The transition from the traditional camera to the digital one came with its own changes. Surprisingly, photography ended up helping her in drawing.
“The digital helps you for example, I needed a digital camera for the drawings. With the compact I couldn’t do this. […] So I said <<Wait, I have so many friends with DSLR I can borrow it once and that’s all>>. But with this one [the Zenit camera], I couldn’t take do it because I didn’t know what it would have looked like. And there are many times when they are not clear and not what I want. But they got an effect.”
She scans her pictures with a special scanner, which she describes as “simple, like a box.” Her subjects are her colleagues, her family. Corina’s friends and family aren’t bothered by her taking pictures of them, thus the pictures are real, authentic, because they capture the natural, the regular. “I am not a photographer, I just take pictures and that’s all! I feel weird photographing people on the street, I saw they are very reluctant and they pick on you, I don’t know, they feel that you are invading their space somehow.’’
Corina likes to experiment with her pictures. “It’s different with a film camera, if on a digital one you don’t like a picture, you erase it, on film there’s that surprise because you don’t know what will come out of it and you wait, and wait, and wait, and sometimes you are not pleased with what you did, but it’s the emotion…it’s like a gift.”
Corina in her own words
As an artist she is still trying to figure herself out, to develop, find her own style and be recognized for it. ”A lot of times people see me like this cute, nice girl, they think they’ve got me all figured out, and then they see the drawings”. And here comes a reaction of astonishment from them just noticing the surface; not searching any deeper.
She says she would like to expose her art in Romania for starters. “Actually, art is not seen too well here; people only want to make money, that’s the idea, if they can sell used toilet paper, and get money for it, then its fine. We, the Romanian artists are seen pretty well outside. I have colleagues gone with the Erasmus scholarship and they tell me. Outside it’s all a game, they’re playing, there’s hardly someone to work with. Here, in the country if you exhibit in a gallery, a number of people come to see your work, maybe art critics and art amateurs. That’s about it.”
Corina’s favorite artist is Dali. She admires the person he was; “He was so mad, but yet, genius. I also like Monica Cook, she is a painter. She does hyper realistic self-portraits.”
Drawing is her medium of expression. In photography you can only catch so much. “You can’t pass from something nice to something grotesque. In drawing, you can. My wish is to do life-size drawings. We are after all in a time where size matters…at least in art. If you have a big surface, you have to distance yourself from it to take in the entire piece; I think it would be really interesting to have my friends in vivo next to their life-size portrait. That would be very nice. It would mean to overdue myself.”
Cohabiting with the Facebook generation
Despite being the only online place where Corina shares her Zenit-taken photos, Facebook is not quite a blessing in disguise in her opinion. The fact that the younger generations are fully attached to it, that nowadays the word “friend” loses its meaning and it’s more like a synonym for “number” when it comes to the Facebook context, and that our childhood games seem to be like a sacred customs lost in time, are just a few aspects we discussed.
But first of all, photography on Facebook: pictures we take with the Smart phones and then edit in some fancy apps, do they still represent photography?
“These are the photos taken with the smart phone. Ok, I understand that they are mega-fantastic and that they have 8 mpx but you cannot do what you can with a real camera.. I don’t need a cool phone anymore, I already got mine, because I wouldn’t have bought it. All I need it to for is to make calls. I don’t take picture with my cell phone, except if I saw something and I want to remember what I saw. That’s all.”
Leaving photography aside, the rest doesn’t look bright either.
“I think we’ll end up not interacting with each other at all. Well we have Facebook, we stay home talking, I don’t need to see you, I can see your photos and you’re ok. We don’t make call anymore to make sure “Hey, what’s up, are you still alive??” Nowadays kids don’t play hopscotch anymore in front of their apartment building. [..] It was cool, now kids don’t make any more friends, they just “friend” them on Facebook and play computer games.”
After all the talk, one question definitely stood out in our conversation: Is there “weird” in art?
“Yes. For the people who can’t understand, who can’t see.”