CĂTĂLIN BĂLESCU: THE NEOBAROQUE OR THE AMBIVALENCES OF THE ROMANIAN CONTEMPORARY ART CĂTĂLIN BĂLESCU: THE NEOBAROQUE OR THE AMBIVALENCES OF THE ROMANIAN CONTEMPORARY ART VICTOR NEUMANN Cătălin Bălescu’s works can be perceived as a discontinuity or rather, as a break in continuity. In this manner, one discovers the mythology of an esoteric breach, the religious metaphor—as Pierre Bourdieu puts it—that leads one to think about culture not only in the artistic sense but also in the literary and religious ways, through a philosophical reflection which the authentic artist is always searching for. Educated in the proximity of the great masters of the Romanian contemporary art, equally absorbed by the history of the world art, Cătălin Bălescu excels in an artistic achievement which rethinks forms and further symbols and messages in the classical paintings. He is a thinker‑artist that assumes the great classical artists’ works, but perfectly expresses himself by reconstructing the fundamental themes of mankind and culture. Through ideas and colours, his works refer to a painting loaded by telluric and celestial tensions. Cătălin Bălescu’s oscillation between tradition and present, between Apocalypse and ascension is one of the hallmarks of his work. As soon as one identifies the sources—some of them coming from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism—one shall agree that the association with the spirit of creations belonging to them can be a benchmark by no means to be neglected in the understanding of the artists’ vision. In Bălescu’s case we have the occasion to identify the convergence of the valuable figurative languages. In most of his paintings, the artist demonstrates his bestowal to project himself beyond his time and place. He seems an open‑eye dreamer for whom art is not only a professional adventure, but an intellectual one which brings him, besides excitement, an immense satisfaction. Cătălin Bălescu’s exhibition is a selection from his own creation which is suggestive for the artistic trends of the artistic school of Bucharest. It is a testimony about to what extent the art created in our close proximity enters into competition or is settling among similar achievements in Romania and Europe. It represents a unique occasion in its own way because it offers the chance of confrontation among styles, themes and messages. I am positive that this exhibition will open a genuine debate between the artist and the public, suggesting a vision on human tragedy, inviting the viewer to appropriate a particular aesthetic code which is consonant with the challenges of our time. The artist is looking for answers to both his own interrogations, contradictions and aspirations and the ones of the society he lives in. His paintings reflect the world through compositions realized in a style that reminds us of the classicists. The works entitled composition, neoclassic, group portrait are part of a long series through which the artist brings to the viewer a symbolic and expressionist representation of the world, one that was born from the emotions bestirred by memories. The large number of portraits stunningly placed and painted in one single work is impressive through the repetitive structures that are part of the artist’s plastic language. In order to layout Bălescu’s range of “laboratory” interrogations, one shall admit that what impresses most about him are, on the one hand, the way he appropriated his predecessors’ lessons and his originality consisting in re‑thinking the past creations, on the other. It is about an unconcealed return to the sources without being tributary to them and remaining deeply personal. The paintings entitled neoclassic are about rebounding to the ideal sources, not eluding the intention to interrogate about individual and collective crisis that mankind is going through. The chromatic language targets different intentions than the ones of the classicists. The aimed consequence is different, namely the challenge of the emotional dialogue through the work of art, the awake of emotions to understand the plurality of the world where we live through living memory. In Cătălin Bălescu’s art one can find a permanent denial of scholasticism and gratuitousness, respectively an integration of the symbols that suggest an open communication. What brings his art even closer to us is the attachment to the Baroque style that is capitalized in many of his paintings, a style in which the imagination and personal constructs are nonetheless dominant. They reflect the artist’s freedom of sensibility and thinking, and also his affinity for an iconography where the pathos for volumes, lights and shadows is ubiquitous. In the meantime, it has many similarities with images of the 18th century churches. The setting in Bălescu’s works reflects a time of change and transition toward a doubtful tomorrow. This is why, the triumphal scenes of Divinity are blurred, the lines and colours suggesting the continuous fight between good and bad, the scenic human life. The sky, the moon and the angels in the artist’s pieces have nothing to do with the ancient official concessions. Rather, they inherit something from the atmosphere of the Catholic or Orthodox halidoms in Banat and Transylvania, two regions where clerkly art and architecture were influenced by the Viennese Baroque. The paintings are original, they both preserve and renew the rules of the genre painting and tear out a rushed and superficial evaluation. The stylistic language reflects the transformations that took place when transition from the Baroque to the Neoclassic style happened. I have often asked myself: where does the attraction to Baroque and Neoclassicism come from in Cătălin Bălescu’s paintings? Through the quality of representation and through the tactile values suggested, the artistic creations show that the artist’s plastic languages are deeply European, while the ambivalent messages are recognizable in the amalgam of lights and forms. Right on I explained to myself the permanent search, the array of studies and experiments, the spectacular and original results of the Romanian art. Cătălin Bălescu’s works can be perceived as a discontinuity or rather, as a break in continuity. In this manner, one discovers the mythology of an esoteric breach, the religious metaphor—as Pierre Bourdieu puts it—that leads one to think about culture not only in the artistic sense but also in the literary and religious ways, through a philosophical reflection which the authentic artist is always searching for. The artists have always had the propensity to shake the forms, to bend contradictions, to game the unconventional. The permanent search for self, the thematic and conceptual alternatives, the masters’ suggestions—transformed and updated though—define Cătălin Bălescu’s painting. In recapturing a few artistic themes and styles from the past one can discover the messages that project the future. It seems that nothing is aligned to the horizon of expectations. The artist’s paintings are symptomatic for the tendencies of an epoch of transition. They bring to the forefront images that recapture the classical order of objects and people, but also their contemporary decomposition, their return to the past dreams, as well as the contrast of the present austerity. Hence the theme of representation through a neoclassic style, one that constantly calls back in the artist’s attention. Either it is about his own creation and that of the others, or it is about the pedagogy and management of the arts, Cătălin Bălescu reveals himself as a complex and unchallenged personality in the Romanian contemporary art and artistic life . It is not a coincidence that he was invited with personal or group exhibitions to the Simeza, Apollo, Artis, Art’s Home, Dalles Hall, to the Centre for Visual Arts in Bucharest, to the Romanian Cultural Institute in Vienna, to Budapest and Venice, to biennales and art festivals organized in Brussels, Copenhagen, Darmstadt and Toronto. Also, his paintings were exhibited at the Cluj‑Napoca Museum of Arts and, now, here, at the Timișoara Museum of Arts. 1. It is important to be mentioned that in the positions of Vice‑Rector and Rector of the National University of Arts in Bucharest (UNA), the artist has proved outstanding managerial skills, contributing to the promotion of artistic competencies and the diversification of the curricula, on the one hand, and to foster institutional reform, on the other. Thus, professor Cătălin Bălescu has attracted many talented young people from across Romania, bestowed visibility and a remarkable professional track to a first rank institution on the Romanian and international artistic scene, that has made a spectacular career for a century and a half.