Artist Anca Francesca Stefanescu interweaves the organic painting techniques of figurative art with digital geometric creations of abstract expressionism to depict the contrasts and polarities that exist in life. In her exploration of inner and outer realities, Anca invites the viewer to become a participator in the piece through their own perception. She shares how a tragic life event gave way to a peaceful acceptance of nature’s life cycle and led her to embrace oneness with herself. Anca also speaks of how the pandemic’s “pause” on normality provides an opportunity for humanity to redefine itself and to change paradigms that are no longer working.
But vulnerability means being open to all emotions. It is the willingness to be all that you are, no matter what reality reflects back at you.
I like how you interweave figurative painting with abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction, talk us through the main concepts behind your work?
I don’t paint reality as it is collectively perceived, I paint my inner reality with my back to what the eye can see. Everything I focus on becomes a journey through time; a deep tension between physical reality which rises towards the corporeal form and inner reality; and un upheaval of perceptions seen as the divine, part of the expanded consciousness.
I use references to the real world, particularly using the human figure as a mirror; to discreetly guide the communication that will take place between my creation and the spectator. Abstract shapes or gestural marks are not an attempt to represent the external reality nor its effect; they are for me symbols of the inner world; the world of dreams, ideas, thoughts from where the entire creation springs.
Geometric abstraction represents the spiritual meaning behind patterns and symbols. From the Platonic Solids that form the basis for every design in universe, the Golden Ratio sometimes called the ‘Divine Proportion’, to the sacred spiral of Fibonacci’s sequence, is ingrained in everything from the human body to the spiral arrangement of leaves – I resonate with the language of numbers and perfect shapes that form the fundamental templates for life.
Abstract Expressionism came from a group of artists committed to a form of art born out of intense emotion; this for me equates to excitement as a synonym for being in the flow. In mark making or the unpredictable stroke of a brush, I sense the rush of alignment with my most profound emotions, I feel the energy that moves me and the energy that connects everyone with everything.
Your work explores a number of contrasts in the form of masculine and feminine; restraint and flow; what do these contrasts mean for you?
In my childhood and adolescence I found it hard to differentiate myself from nature’s elements. I was one of many things; the sea, a tree, a bird, even the rain or the thunder, in a mystic feeling of oneness.
The short book I wrote, entitled “Who Am I?” is evocative by its very own title. It was a personal quest of self-discovery; blending pages from my journals with a process of identifying the beliefs I had and how they had become active. I felt my entire life oscillating between opposite feelings as if no emotion was possible to be experienced without its counterpart. I was sad inside and yet ecstatic with each meeting and discovery; I felt strong and yet fragile. As a child I perceived myself as an adult and as an adult I sometimes see myself as a girl instead of a woman. I feel feminine but also masculine, and many times in my sleeping dreams I move in the shape of a man.
Today I see the human condition as being made up of opposites occurring simultaneously. The thinking mechanisms cannot figure out the coincidence between the absolute maximum and the absolute minimum. For me the opposites form what we call unity or rather, unity in diversity. It is accepting that we consist of polarities and this can only lead to the opportunity to make choices.
As a woman I have characteristics associated with the male personality exactly as a male has female characteristics. We are all intuitive, creative and gentle and at the same time we can be aggressive and fearless. I have learnt to validate my emotions through an expansive understanding rather than a contracted one that invalidates through judgment. The contrast of restraint and flow implies the degree of releasing control to allow life to validate it as the privilege of creativity.
I am more interested in creating mirrors that give space to other reflections through individual perception and interpretation; for me it is a process of co-creation.
This contrast also appears in how you combine organic painting techniques with digitally-led computer mark-making. What does their relationship represent? And when did you start combining the two?
The process of exploring contrasts is part of an integrative process. I use all the elements that I feel can assist in creating an emotional experience for the viewer.
As a computer effects artist, I can create brushes, combine colours or even draw straight lines and perfect geometric shapes far faster than using real tools and pigments, which allows me to increase the experience of flow in creativity, change and transformation. I seek the result that could be deployed by human personality. It represents the organised mind in the absence of the Ego. It is allusive to the yogic Sacred Geometry idea where geometrical patterns are handed unto us directly from God for our harmony and interconnectivity with all things. The organic part of the painting is my physical participation where marks and gestures hold the energetic emotion of the human being.
What messages and emotions do you hope to evoke within the viewer?
I do not intend to complete the experience for the viewer, but to intermediate it. I am more interested in creating mirrors that give space to other reflections through individual perception and interpretation; for me it is a process of co-creation. The viewer is equally creative through their own participation.
Each person is a unique facet of the whole, with distinctive characteristics and points of view. An artwork that is completed and rewarding for me must hold the possibility of allowing as many interpretations and personal reflections as possible. This is what I thrive to achieve.
Tell us about your series of works ‘Auguries of Innocence’
I think every artist consciously or unconsciously, creates and recreates himself or herself to portray fragments of their own personality.
I started painting ‘Auguries of Innocence’ while I was pregnant after years of wanting a baby. It was created in a different way; a blending of real and surreal. It took me some months to get it done but after I had, the baby’s heart stopped beating. In a way, I could feel the event approaching as I painted. The arms that were holding the depicted baby were hanging without offering support. It may seem like a coincidence but I do not believe in accidents or chance; I believe that we are sending ourselves messages at every opportunity.
A painting that was planned as a celebration of life suddenly changed in meaning to me. The title was inspired by William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence“ that symbolised the idea that the natural world is in a state of constant cycle; continuously being reborn and remade, and the innocence of man is forgotten and ignored as man moves forward in time. So I changed the title to “I will wait for you“ as a reflection of my decision not to give up on my dreams. I locked it up, as a reminder to accept and value all of my creations; pleasant or unpleasant, painful or joyful – they are part of the constant cycle of life. Each time I look at it I derive a different meaning and this is perhaps the reason for creating this series.
Walk us through your creative process. Do you have any art rituals?
The whole point of being a human, I think, is to learn about yourself; to disembody and bring yourself into a state that is barely perceptible by our sense or by the mind. Through art, this is how I learn about who I am; this is me meeting with myself.
I don’t have rituals, I respond to my moment to moment excitement with the best of my ability. At times I confuse excitement with anxiety, so I end up overworking myself and depriving my body of food or sleep. I don’t paint if I feel unbalanced or if I am acting from negative beliefs. I prefer to write or to sit with these emotions in order to understand them.
I do not wish to infuse my works with feelings that limit me since I do not wish to extend disempowering feelings to another being. I don’t want to control the experience of someone else who interacts with my artwork but I wish it to be an extensive one.
The world is on “pause” and I feel there is an enormous opportunity right now in this silence for all humanity to redefine itself
How does art and creativity affect your overall well-being? And how do you feel when you create?
The painting is less important than the life that one is leading, yet I cannot have a life without it. I carry many invisible scars on my body, but art is a healing process; for the artist and for the viewer. It is the expression of who I know myself to be and my inborn mode to propound my emotions and beliefs.
In my memories I don’t remember my first steps or my first spoken words but I remember painting with dirt on my fingers and building structures from natural fragments. I remember my first set of water colours better than my first painting lesson at art school. I remember years of depression while trying to make a living when I stopped expressing myself as an artist. Even if I couldn’t exhibit my creations, I could never stop creating and keep breathing at the same time.
We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, how has this time influenced your art and your outlook on life? And what do you think we can take from it as a society.
I have felt vulnerable but this time has given me the opportunity to look at this feeling from a different perspective. I used to think vulnerability meant weakness and exposure, and consequently, an openness to negativity. But vulnerability means being open to all emotions. It is the willingness to be all that you are, no matter what reality reflects back at you.
Therefore, I allowed myself to meet and face my shadows and in these shadows I found an increased love for life, which led to seeing the colours of my paintings vibrate more. To me, nothing threatens the body more than despair, sadness or depression. Our imagination, thoughts and feelings followed by actions mould the reality we perceive. In silence we can dream and envision the world we want to see. The world is on “pause” and I feel there is an enormous opportunity right now in this silence for all humanity to redefine itself; to change paradigms that don’t work anymore. In my vision for this “pause” the world is reimagined.
What are your hopes and dreams as an artist?
I believe we cannot perceive what is not already contained within us. Every emotion one may feel traces back to a thought; a belief that was formed prior to the feeling and reinforced through repeated experiences. The basic principle that directs my existence is that we all form our own reality. Everything is contained by each personality and everything is a meeting with the self. In a way my paintings are painted by everyone who stops and looks at them and derives a meaning from this experience.
Art creates emotions and experiences that can be used to reconnect us with the deepest levels of our being and gives us the opportunity to redefine and recreate the personality according to who we prefer to be.
What have you got coming up that we can look out for?
I’m currently writing a book, “Coincidence of Opposites”; an allusion to the main concept I work with. It is a process of describing what I refer to as ‘probable selves’, and of accepting and integrating the various portions of my personality into one connected whole. There are multiple invisible layers within the body and the uppermost layer that I see is the present physical form. I am interested in the invisible layers interconnecting and cooperating; the intimations of inner unity and oneness.