Ovidiu Maitec Angels 1971

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Artwork details

Artist
Ovidiu Maitec born 1925
Title
Angels
Date 1971
Medium Wood
Dimensions Object: 940 x 880 x 193 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by Jim Ede 1984
Reference
T03850
Not on display

Catalogue entry

Ovidiu Maitec born 1925

T03850 Angels 1971

Walnut 940 x 880 x 193 (37 x 34 5/8 x 7 5/8)
Not inscribed
Presented by Jim Ede 1984
Prov: Richard Demarco Gallery 1975; bought Jim Ede 1975
Exh: Romanian Art Today, 25th Edinburgh International Festival 1971, Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, Aug.-Sept. 1971 (not in cat.)
Lit: Marina Vaizey, 'Belgians and Romanians', Financial Times, 3 Sept. 1971, p.3 repr.; Hilary Spurling, 'Seductive Landscape', Observer, 5 Sept. 1971; Ovidu Maitec, exh. cat., Sala Dalles, Bucharest 1985, p.29

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations from the artist come from a letter to the compiler, postmarked 9 March 1988.

T03850 was made during the spring and summer of 1975 in the artist's studio and the surrounding grounds in Bucharest. Although not made specifically for a commission or competition, the artist writes, 'while I was working on it I was thinking of the Edinburgh exhibition, where I had been invited to participate'. Maitec did not make any preliminary sketches for this work. However, he writes, 'there might be amongst my older papers some "working drawings", on which I usually foresee and note technical solutions for the processing of the material itself'. He works alone, without assistants.

The roughly symmetrical construction, balanced on a pivot and able to swing, is a particular concern in many works made during the 1970s:

The static quality, the firm and expressive equilibrium of the material in space (its self-possession) seems to me to be one of the main features - and, for the one who is working on it - one of the main difficulties of sculpture. For a sculptor it means more than the law of gravitation [sic] itself ... I think the series of works to which 'Angels' belongs evolves from the attention I pay to this physical virtue - based on the principle of balance: a large mass, mobile, balanced on a minimum point of support.
T03850 belongs to a 'not very large' series of work, made between 1970 and 1980, most of which is now in museums and private collections. All the pieces are made according to the same principles of construction, although, he writes, they are 'very different as far as form, dimension, significance and titles are concerned'. He describes the place of T03850 in the series as follows:
Regarding dimension, 'Angels' is somewhere between the big works (over two metres) like: 'Column and Wings', 'Heroica' 1971-2 (Museum of Art, Bucharest, repr. Bucharest exh. cat. 1985, p.13) and the smaller ones (under one metre): 'Suspended Gate', 'Small Processional Banner' (Prapor mic). It has approximately the same dimension as 'Processional Banner' (Prapor, 19 75, repr. ibid., p.11), 'Peter and Mary' (Petru Si Maria, 1919, repr. ibid., p.9) 'Column' and 'Sky and Moon'.
According to the artist, T03850 is not inspired by any pre-existing sources in art. Instead, he writes, 'since I am accustomed to the idea that the things I do are pure inventions, shapes and forms with no correspondences, I must confess I never thought seriously about pre-existing sources'. There are, however, two groups of work that emerge throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In a letter to the compiler dated to May 1988 the artist describes these two groups. There are
a) the serene works ('of the daylight'), as I call them in the intimacy of my studio. They are imaginary architectonic forms in which the drive to invent and proportion virtual constructions is predominant. They have a mystery of their own because they come from somewhere unknown. In them I try, in fact, to respect and imitate the old and eternal constructive human spirit that became a virtue alongside other human virtues. The will or the instinct 'to build', 'to make'. The distinctive feature of these works is that their upper part is always set, always enthroned on the bearing one (the point or points of support). As in a coronation.
b) The grave works ('of the light'). They are, and express the load, the toil of destiny that comes from the burden of hidden and frozen grief; and the stronger the belief or the hope in salvation, the greater the burden. In these works the lateral gases, 'the wings', weigh, hang on the main body or on the pillar, As in a crucifixion. That is the case with 'Angels' ('Birds when') ... I consider 'Angels' important because it is the first or the second work embodying this vision ... Its general aspect is quite modest; however, in 1971, as the Edinburgh exhibition, it figured as the head of the group of works on show.
The artist discusses the significance of the forms he uses in these works, including 'Angels', as follows:
They are at the same time modern and archaic, simple objects or bearers of symbols ... The very distant ones from the world of myths, of archetypal forms, of the subconscious depths, of childhood I consider too hard to penetrate and to discern. Moreover, my works - when they have reached their autonomy - are opposed, in my opinion, to such investigations. It is when I see them brought together 'as a forest' that I seem to perceive and feel that in their solemn and silent watch they include 'sources' and 'order' (order = tidiness + command); and that these 'sources' and this 'order' must belong - ideally - to the perfections and miracles of nature, transmitted and re-transmitted to human intelligence and talent together with the fascination and godliness of all things. I look for them in every tenth of a millimeter in order to proportion and harmoniously express a dimension.
The artist concludes that the subject of T03850 relates to: 'the fascination of things; of things simple or great, close or remote. And especially of those [things] I have often seen projected in wide and free spaces, under the open sky, establishing by their singularity and duration an immediate and mysterious relation with the universe'. The artist finds his sculptures at once modern and archaic with a dual capacity as simple objects or bearers of symbols. He has found parallels in 'strikingly similar things' on his travels: 'the back of an old chair in the St Francis Basilica at Assisi, the wall of a Greek temple, the collapsed marble slab at the entrance of Eleusis or a tomb in Africa. And yet they [his sculptures] are original'. Maitec also finds these qualities in more everyday objects, such as, 'wooden pillars, stones, border stones, abandoned roofs and walls, garrets, birdcages, foot bridges, trees'. While not being strictly representative, Maitec attempts to uncover in his own pieces the integral, universal aspects of those simple objects observed in nature: this accounts for the titles he chooses. He elaborates as follows on the characteristics of 'singularity' (a type of isolation) and 'duration' (cited above) in observed objects, which possess similar qualities to those he seeks in his own sculpture:
By 'singularity' I understand an extreme situation: as if a child or a hermit were alone in the middle of the desert or the ocean, being convinced that only singularity makes the direct communication with God or the Universe possible. And by duration I understand (now): when an object becomes time. I think this is why many of my works associate with very ordinary things and bear their names as titles: wall, gate, garret, pillar, birdcage, throne, bench, cube, tower or the names of living creatures: bird, hedgehog, tortoise, etc. Naturally they are the metamorphosis and transfiguration of these things and beings, their symbol and never a reproduction of their image or function.
In a letter to the Tate Gallery Conservation Department, dated 24 February 1987, Maitec suggested the height as which T03850 should be exhibited; high enough that the viewer needs to look up as the work, with the middle of the sculpture at eye level.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.205-6

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