Vlad Berte & the Contemporary Stone

It is very easy to do an interview when talking to a friend, the feeling is relaxed and (happy happy joy joy!) we are not imbued with artistic suffering (to be read “pride+snobbery+sad irony and other aspects specific to the Romanian art world”). I introduce to you with great pleasure Vlad Berte, a sculptor from Cluj, Romania, one of my oldest friends and one of the young artists that I believe in and for whom I struggled whenever I had the opportunity to promote him. Without further addue, I leave you in the select company of the master. 

Socks, stone, 2010

Vlad, I know you’re not in Romania now … tell me where are you, what are you doing and how did you get there?
You’re right, I am not in Romania but I’m not that far either. I am in Austria for two months, where, in collaboration with Das Kunstmuseum Schrems I am working on a project subjectively called “Christ”. This is a contemporary approach to Jesus Christ as an icon, by re-contextualising his representation. The collaboration between the museum and the University of Art and Design in Cluj was born many years ago, and the project reaffirms the friendship between these two institutions, while aiming to create a bridge, a connection between “The School of Cluj” and the European art scene.

Once returned in our beautiful country, what’s next for you? …
Next, there will be an acute desire to work, to continue the projects that I already started. If until now my work was very personal and came as a response to a particular experience, now I want to broaden the scope of works through more of a social approach.

Stone sculpture… I’m fascinated by your work. You are very relaxed in the topics you choose. How come?
It is a relaxation that comes from the stone itself. A few years ago I was not sure what this medium could offer me, but now I’m certain the possibilities are endless, in terms of working in stone. I choose topics that are close to me or a result of an action that influences me, one way or another. Each series of works is created as a background, the desire is to highlight what we tend to forget or overlook most of the times. There are thousands of events, feelings, actions, emotions and objects that influence us daily, that contribute to the image and character of each individual. I merely place them at eye-level. And because all these processes come naturally, making these stone objects comes just as easy.


Pillow&Blanket, stone, 2010

Gas mask, stone, 2010

Can you live from making or selling sculpture in Romania?
Certainly, one CAN make a living as a sculptor in Romania. Romanian Contemporary Art is going through a very good period, and I personally believe that we are just at the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” between the art object and the collector, whether domestic or foreign. It is wrong to say that in Romania you cannot make a living as an artist, because there is no need to go anywhere to succeed, to sell or exhibit abroad; one’s works can travel and be appreciated anywhere, even if they are produced here, in Romania. Ultimately this is a job you have to dedicate all of your time to. You’ll be able to sell what you do in a year in just a few days, and that’s motivational. In sculpture the situation is slightly different in that there is no need to sell regularly, it is enough to sell two – three times a year, given the larger amounts obtained with just one sale. The art market is blooming in Romania, there are more and more galleries and auction houses which show a real interest in contemporary art. Success is possible and within reach. Currently, art is the most stable financial asset, a fact that increased the number of collectors and, inevitably, the art market purchases.

Backpack, stone, 2010

What features do Romanian sculpture students miss, stopping them from having a career in art? Because, as we all know too well, few young sculptors are promoted after graduation.
It’s not a matter of promotion here. It’s more a matter of diversity. We all accept that sculpture is hard and that it often takes a long time to make an object, but I believe that students are working too little, resulting in a lower variety of works. Well, we are damned to be thousands of miles away from any serious contemporary art scene, and this hampers the process of documentation and development of a young student / sculptor. There is also quite a low interest for sculpture, hence the small number of sculptors visible on the art scene.

Tell me something nice, something about sculpture, yours or others’, or about both.
Something beautiful is something real, and sculpture and the sculptural object are real. Although there is some risk to upset some of my professional colleagues, I venture to assert that any sculpture can be one step closer to the "consumer" than any other art form. The fact that the sculpture is a three-dimensional form, so tangible, can result in a very personal artwork – viewer experience. The sculptural object is a physical presence, so close to the intrinsic needs of the individual. From this perspective I look at sculpture and the objects that I create, and I feel this is… beauty.

The Cap, stone, 2010

Briefcase, stone, 2010

Shovel, stone, 2010

Razor, stone, 2010

To conclude the interview in a serious key, please give us some critical considerations about the monumental sculpture in Madagascar?
One cannot issue critical considerations about a type of sculpture that adresses the audience to whom it is dedicated, though one can gaze upon how the (occasional) Madagascar sculptors have managed to homogenize the representative cultural traits and needs. It’s good to know however, that the monumental sculpture that arises where the Tropic of the Capricorn and the Mozambique Channel converge has influenced European sculpture in the early twentieth century and is still very present in the "inspiration" of many local sculptors and not only. The Madagascar sculpture channels on the community’s identity, while trying to promote particular features – gradually renouncing the nude figurines specific to African art. Elaborating  sculptures that manage to grow with time and technology shows a healthy, evolving society. But because their sculptors began to look for inspiration beyond tradition, they have managed to become truly contemporary, through public space sculptures sporting subjects like policemen arresting thieves, or even like airplanes. The symbols of  the 21st century seem to have reached Madagascar to influence the society, even more, the artists there. I’m really looking forward to the moment in which in Romania, as well as in Madagascar, monumental sculpture will be closer to reality.

Interview: Tereza Anton