Is it possible to change the world with paintings?
Preface to Dorina Mocans book published by Connoiseur Art Gallery, Hong Kong
Is it possible to change the world with paintings? If so, we would have to create a new man, a new woman, a new humankind: all with enough freedom to see what poses a danger to life – to envisage and be able to construct a real life Moebius strip, to rotate time around its own non-existent axis, with no ups or downs, and then divide it in a new beginning. One revolution: a new double length unit. Two revolutions: two connected units.
So (im)possible, yet so easy.
I think we can see such a solution (or illusion of what is needed) in the new works of Dorina Mocan. They are simple enough to be of universal application, beautiful enough to create the necessary strength – and as complex as timeless dreams or fairy tales.
Should it not be possible? Of course it should, as long as we are living and as long as young people will see the wonders of life. It has happened before.
We all remember The Family of Man photography exhibition in the 1950s. The message communicated by the 503 pictures from 68 countries was formulated in the foreword by the poet Carl Sandburg:
There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men. There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women. There is only one child in the world and the child's name is All Children.
He talked about “a camera testament, a drama of the grand canyon of humanity, an epic woven out of fun, mystery and holiness”.
We can find the same in all Greek, Indian and Chinese myths, in the fairy tales of Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, and in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
All the symbols are there in the paintings of Dorina Mocan. The young girls all have the same mysterious beauty and power of resistance as we find in the Sonnet CVI by Shakespeare:
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express’d
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look’d but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
“Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.” Are images, their beauty and “antique” perfection perhaps the best way to change the world? I have followed Dorina Mocan’s art for many years, and I have watched her progress from brilliantly executed but in a way abstract paintings of fragile saucers or figures of a Renaissance-like pride: “I am the man through whom the extinct art of painting lived once more” (Poliziano in his epigram on Giotto). Now her paintings are far more simplified, personally intriguing and even silent. The symbols are full of fun, almost with free rendering.
The intension is all open, non-structured and direct, stairs inviting you to step upwards, or whimsical but beautiful small objects.
Everything resides in the power, expression and self-confidence of her young girls who signal a new world. A world that is new, hitherto timeless and utopian.
But is it really possible to view her paintings without interpreting them as hinting at the Pre-Raphaelites, or of the Renaissance-like “discovery of the world and man”, or of the Baroque-like persuasiveness of “creating the illusion of the actuality and truth of their subject”? In other words is it possible to see a new, actual, exquisite and urgent reality in a new piece of art? I think she has made a virtue of necessity. The possibility of reaching behind the utmost physical beauty and maximum virtuosity of her own skill and technique (so seldom today) lies in the simplicity and directness of her paintings. We view them and have to interpret them ourselves, without the prejudiced view of a malevolent reality, in a classical saga-like way, “romantic” in the way Goethe saw Strasbourg Cathedral or Burne–Jones Amiens Cathedral, for them both, experiences of their own actual reality. In a time when all aesthetic and moral values are devalued, perhaps the only way to express the world is through silent but complex confidence of an individual man or woman meeting in a work of art.
In this site artists of all ages have drawn on myths with surprising results: not exhausting them but reflecting their beauty.
Throughout he spiritual history of man we find confirmation of intriguing beauty. We see it in the golden effect of vibrancy and life in Byzantine mosaics, not dead, metallic light. But why gold?
We find deities represented by the multi-storey meru structures in Indonesian art, symbols of the celestial mountain (as in Mocan’s stairs).
Ancient Chinese artists found utmost proximity through the use of curiously objective means to say: “The ink is all colours” or in rendering a bird’s eye view of their landscapes. Fidelity to nature and sureness of line in Chinese art are the result of a 2,000 year history of artistic rhythm and vitality. Mocan too puts her birds, cats and butterflies in positions in total indifference to perspectives.
Indian classical sculpture around Buddhist themes often expresses itself through position, with arms and hands in strictly natural poses, just as her young girls sit in relaxed but delicate and deliberate poses.
Her backgrounds are usually ornamented in a semi abstract way very similar to floral, epigraphic Islamic decoration.
In one way I see art works of Dorina Mocan as signals initiating me into a new era of human consciousness, in a way magical but restrained and almost virginally sensual. Her poetry seems to me more physical than intellectual. We have to recognise objects through the symptoms they provoke in us. She is introducing us to a new world that is both magical and dreamlike, a realm long ago seen in dreams and expressed in rites. No more, no less, than what the world urges of us today.
Rolf Haglund - art critic