Geta Bratescu

Hands (For the Eye, the Hand of My Body Draws My Portrait)

1977

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Not on display

Artist
Geta Bratescu born 1926
Medium
Film, 8mm, shown as video, black and white
Dimensions
Duration: 7min, 30sec
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 2013, accessioned 2016
Reference
T14462

Summary

Hands (For the Eye, the Hand of My Body Draws My Portrait) 1977 is a black and white silent film lasting 7 minutes and 30 seconds. The work exists in an edition of 5, of which this copy is number 2, and 2 artist’s proofs. It was originally shot on 8mm film and transferred to DVD more recently. The camera was operated by fellow Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu (born 1945), with whom Bratescu frequently collaborated. In the film the artist’s hands, filmed from her eye level, are performing various movements and activities above her drawing board. The sequence starts with her playing with different objects on the desk, holding a cigarette, removing a wedding ring. The artist subsequently switches to drawing lines on her palms with a black marker and finally tracing the contours of both her hands on a piece of paper.

The work provides important clues towards an understanding of Geta Bratescu’s – one of Romania’s most important contemporary artists – practice and her working process. The subtitle of the film – For the Eye, the Hand of My Body Draws My Portrait – points to some of the main aspects of her artistic activity. Many of her works address issues of the body and self-representation. In her drawings, sculptures and films she often explores her face and its expressions and incorporates self-portraits into objects or works on paper. Similarly, the artist’s hands are frequently a subject of her sketches and videos, and the imprint or contour of her palm appears in many of her works. Academic studies of her left hand appear in a series of drawings entitled Hands (I–XX) 1974–6. She also repeated the motif in another series of poignant drawings, called Accident, made while in hospital in 1991.

For Bratescu the gesture of a hand is closely related to the act of drawing, as depicted in the last scenes of the film Hands. Drawing is at the core of Bratescu’s working process. Sketches and studies function as autonomous artworks but also serve as the basis for other pieces, including films for which the artist sometimes prepares visual scripts, and works in other media including performance, graphic work, collage, photography and textiles. In her approach to drawing Bratescu references the academic tradition, often drawing on sources as varied as her professor in Romania, Camil Ressu (1880–1962), or European masters such as Edgar Degas (1834–1917).

Hands also reveals Bratescu’s interest in her working spaces. The film The Studio, conceived in the same year, shows the artist performing various activities in her studio and interacting with the objects crowded around her. Similarly Hands shows her drawing board, where over the years many of her works were created. The artist often transforms ordinary objects and humble materials, as seen in the film, into artworks. Here her restless gestures unveil the working process and circumstances of artistic production. Curator and critic Magda Radu has written:

Reading the screenplay, we notice that the work surface is called a ‘field of action’, and in its expanse the hands come into contact with the ‘selvage of objects’, taking possession of them one by one only to abandon them shortly thereafter. The imagination transforms the objects into characters, and the worktop becomes a landscape, so that it is not at all inappropriate to liken it to a gameboard. Everything is serious about it, because the actions of the hands seem to remind us of the fact that we are witnesses to an ‘act of creation’, even if the dividing line between art and ‘non-art’ is difficult to establish.
(Radu 2012, p.52.)

Further reading
Ruxandra Balaci (ed.), Geta Bratescu, exhibition catalogue, The National Museum of Art – Romania, Bucharest 1999.
Magda Radu, Geta Bratescu. The Artist’s Studios, Salonul de projecte, Bucharest 2012.
Geta Bratescu, ‘My Influences’, Frieze, October 2012, no.150, pp.190–5.

Kasia Redzisz
April 2013

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