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The flame of the little  match girl

Marius Bercea (b.1979) was born and grew up in Cluj, Romania, where he still resides. Following from the 1989 Romanian Revolution, Bercea experienced the shift from Communism into a Capitalist free market economy. The artist’s practice is coloured by this moment in time, when polarised ideologies collided and the stark divisions between East and West softened. Deriving from this context, modernist architectural forms have continually pervaded Bercea’s pictorial space, seeming science fiction-like in their extended imaginative potential. Signifying histories of both liberation and oppression, colossal structures originally intended by the likes of Le Corbusier for modern urban living are represented as having been corrupted by post-war fascist regimes to signify state supremacy. The artist’s works are highly distinctive, as memory, recollection and reality seemingly merge upon the canvas’ surface giving rise to a visual sensuality that has made Bercea one of the leading artists of the Cluj School.

Bercea has also been described as one of the strongest colourists of his generation. Colour is applied with force: a flash of orange or a scrape of ochre butts up against an energetic mix of vibrating vivid greens; a lick of sumptuous brown is delicately laced with a dappling of white. Bercea understands the impact of the push and pull necessary to make a painting resonate. Fast-paced strokes are offset with steady washes and the consistency of his paint is varied; thin translucent areas are complemented by thick opaque mark making. At times buttery and fully suspended, at others sand-paper dry, his grounds are as interesting to examine close up as from a distance.

The artist’s most recent paintings are born out of Bercea’s travelsfrom his hometown of Cluj, through the rural landscape of California and into Los Angeles. A series of psychological and sensorially-rich encounters that weave through time, space and memory.  With a pastiche of iconic motifs recognisable from both Romanian and American cultures, canvases depict landscapes of colour and concrete which oscillate between suggestions of utopia and dystopia. The topographical regions of Transylvania and California merge; the city of Cluj and its surrounding Carpathian mountains converge with sun-soaked environments, from the lonely Mojave desert to Hollywood’s hills and bright lights.

While socio-political references clearly influence Bercea’s practice, the artistpresents himself as an emotional observer of the effects of the consumerist phenomenon.Often verging on the surreal, Bercea combines sublime visions of the natural world with the jarring electric lights and sprawling architecture of urban developments. Vibrant landscapes slip in and out of immediate focus as urban life is conveyed in a wash of dynamism and transience - fluctuating between the utopian and dystopian, between flux and stasis -  thus blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination.

Marius Bercea received his MA from the University of Art and Design, in Cluj-Napoca in 2005, and currently works within Cluj’s Fabrica De Pensule (Paintbrush Factory), a multidisciplinary space with studios and exhibition galleries. In 2003 Marius Bercea was given an award by the Institute Superieur d’Architecture Saint-Luc, Belgium.

Marius Bercea’s recent solo exhibitions include: Hypernova, Blain|Southern, London (2014); Concrete Gardens, François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles (2012); Remains of Tomorrow, Blain|Southern, London (2011); Time will Tell, Chungking Project, Los Angeles (2009); If Through the Copper Woods You Pass, Eleven Fine Art Gallery, London (2009); Shorn lambs fall behind, Mie Lefever Gallery, Ghent (2008) and Yellow Side of Glamour/ Melted Guidelines are passé, Contemporary Gallery of Brukenthal Museum, Romania (2008).

Group exhibitions include:  Between Worlds, Galerie ISA, Mumbai (2014); This Side of Paradise, S2, London (2014); Hotspot Cluj – New Romanian Art, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2013); Nightfall, Modem Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrechen (2012) which travelled to Galerie Ruldofinum (2013); Referencing History, Green Gallery, Dubai (2012); European Travellers, Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2012); European Travellers, Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2012); Selektionseffekte, Blain|Southern, Berlin (2011); Palets, Barbara Thumm Gallery, Berlin (2011); After the Fall, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill , New York (2011); No New Thing Under the Sun, Royal Academy, London (2010); Mircea Pinte Collection, Museum of Art, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (2010) and Prague Biennale 4, Prague (2009).

Bercea’s work is in several public and private collections, including the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, New York and the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Skowej.

Image above:

Marius Bercea
The Flame of the Little Match Girl (detail)
2013
Oil on canvas
45 x 50 cm