Sergiu Ciochină was born on January 25, 2001, in the village of București, Nisporeni district, Republic of Moldova.

He discovered his passion for art when he started attending the School of Fine Arts for Children in Nisporeni. Since 2017, he has been studying at the College of Fine Arts “Alexandru Plămădeală” in Chișinău, specializing in Painting. From March 9 to March 14, 2021, the first painting exhibition of Sergiu Ciorchină, titled “COMMUNICATIONS” took place at the “Artcor” exhibition center. The exhibition also featured works by his colleague, Valeria Glibinciuc.

Sergiu Ciochina

The issue of the first paragraph in a critical text poses itself more delicately than that of the first erotic experience. Here, you have everything at your (no matter how playful it may sound) fingertips. Under the same roof, words, ideas, and the sheet with the pen rest, but it seems that the author is missing. Like a dense vapor casting its shadow on the page, he hovers towards other passages, perhaps even towards the end of the text, envisioning how to conclude it with a sharp sentence, igniting fires in the minds of readers, while simultaneously dodging answers through the most successful possible tactic. Well, that’s how I feel starting this text about the paintings of Sergiu Ciochină.

I have rewritten in my mind how Henry Miller wrote his novels over thirty years – all the aspects I wanted to focus on in particular, but how to get to them, I can’t quite imagine. Otherwise, I experienced exactly the same scenario at Sergiu Ciochină’s painting exhibition. Once inside Artcor, I lost my peace for over an hour, spiraling my way like an inspired drunk through the cohort of admirers – some more inspired, others less – I nervously looked at each painting and repeated the route every two minutes spent in front of one or another of the paintings. At the end of a few rotations, I felt as if after an intoxication. I became meditative and attentive to all the details and ideas that flooded the canvases. It was only here that the ideas came, which I will list below as I saw them, without exaggeration and unfounded inventions.

Calligraphy, so frequent in Sergiu Ciorchină’s paintings, is usually the landmark that suggests the idea of an idea. Do not be scared by this cheeky repetition. Calligraphic elements are found where the canvas space allows for thought, and Sergiu Ciochină’s entire painting is a space of profound meditation and interpretation, often surrounding the bodies or objects.

My observations on the calligraphies began with a work that, in my opinion, crowns Sergiu’s works (at least those present at the exhibition), although the painting speaks of a beheading, thus, another clue that beheading often serves as an exemplary coronation of something/someone else. I am referring to the painting ‘Judith and Holofernes.

“Judith and Holofernes” Oil on canvas / 150 x 119 x 150 cm / 2020

My observations on the calligraphies began with a work that, in my opinion, crowns Sergiu’s works (at least those present at the exhibition), although the painting speaks of a beheading, thus, another clue that beheading often serves as an exemplary coronation of something/someone else. I am referring to the painting ‘Judith and Holofernes,’ which illustrates the biblical legend scene and, probably, an attempt to reinterpret following Klimt’s example. In 1901, Klimt painted the same scene, until today, one of his main works, which will hopefully be eclipsed by Sergiu’s painting from now on. Let me explain: although Klimt’s painting seems more attractive and memorable due to the strictly depicted golden (nimbus) elements around Judith’s body, in Sergiu’s painting, we see a third character, in addition to the protagonists. This makes us reflect on the specific motive: we know well that Judith’s act, in a biblical context, served as an example of courage for the Jewish people in their defense against the Assyrians. To serve as an example, the beheading had to take place in the presence of a third person since the first was devoid of sight, right? This logic leads us to believe that the presence of the third character in the frame is absolutely motivated, but it remains ambiguous as biblical fiction allows for different interpretations.

The calligraphic elements in this painting particularly caught my attention as they are placed in three different ways, each carrying its own semantic load. The first is the representation of the calligraphic element on the canvas surface, which would only serve as the background for the exhibited scene. Since the caligraphy text is not legible, interpretation remains at the discretion of the viewer. The second is the calligraphy placed on two adjacent surfaces and seems to be the most loaded with meaning. Unlike the first type of calligraphy, which seems available to the viewer, being somewhat avoidable, here it appears to guide the gaze in which direction to focus attention. This is because not everyone is able to identify Holofernes’ head on the plate in Judith’s hands. On the contrary, one might think, in a state of slight confusion, that the most highlighted character at the bottom of the painting is positioned with their head between Judith’s legs. Similarly, not everyone will notice Judith’s pinky finger, raised, holding the plate in her hands—a gesture used by people in large families in ancient times to show their social status (specifically, the ring indicating their status worn on this finger). Later, the gesture was used by some social groups’ successors to simply highlight themselves. In this painting, the gesture could simply mean the verticality of the act (?) of saving her people or the fact that she would honor them in this way. The third type of calligraphic element is the one that starts on a surface—either an object body of the painting or the scene’s background—and its continuation is interrupted or, I want to believe, hidden. The fact that the full text is hidden tells us about a larger dimension of the body compared to the flat image we see. In the case of the third character and Judith (calligraphic elements at the ends), they seem to have a continuity and/or extension of the scene into a larger space or (why not?) time.

This painting, as Mihai Iovănel notes when speaking about Emilian Galaicu-Păun’s ‘calligraphic poem,’ highlights the analogy between poetry and painting. ‘… it is eros, but also trauma; life and beauty (calligraphy), but also death (kali, calligraphy)’; just as the poet caresses ‘her calligraphic body as if I had followed, branching into copulative and subordinate, a sentence,’ so does the one who observes Sergiu’s painting follow how the idea emerges.

Sergiu Ciochina

 “NOAH’S ARK” Oil on Canvas / 118 x 150 cm / 2020

The painting ‘Noah’s Ark’ (once again with a biblical motif at its center) has even more calligraphic elements and a more complex load of visual elements in the center. The uniqueness and originality of this representation of Noah’s Ark lie in its ability to somewhat demystify this legend, offering us a few human faces with typical human traits (let’s assume – of character), with all the sly psychology. For instance, consider the man from the so-called ‘window’ in the middle, who literally has eyes only for the romantic intrigue unfolding between the couple behind the window on the right (to the viewer), but not for the (supposed) wife behind the window on the left. Or the man from the top-right window, who is only interested in watching the birds perched on the wind instrument he hums, probably playing a tune that keeps him with half-open, melancholic eyes. Ironies are not lacking in this painting either: the window with blades that, compared to people, stick together; or the face of a monkey, appearing from behind the upper window, where human faces are found (hopefully by pure chance). The types of calligraphy in this painting are the same, with the one arranged in the open space prevailing, devoid of any specific meaning. Here, in a few places, we find vertically written calligraphic elements, inducing, in the most direct way, perspectives from different accepted angles on this painting and, last but not least – on this subject.

 

We thus arrive at the idea that Ciochină’s painting not only looks but also reads. This reminded me of the differentiation made by Roland Barthes in his book ‘Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography,’ between reading and looking at a photograph, noting that: ‘The little-to-image (Peu-d’Image) of reading corresponds to that All-Image (Tout-Image) of Photography, not only because it is an image in itself, but because this very special image presents itself as a complete – ‘integrated’ one; however, Sergiu’s painting is somewhere in between; between contemplation and reading; between early visual fascination and the profound analysis of the message. The painting thus forms a connection between the viewer and the message, a connection, more or less, like blood – if we consider the resemblance of these graphic signs to a cardiogram. Therefore, we can call the calligraphic element in Sergiu Ciochină’s painting a ‘pulse of the idea,’ the important thing is to catch its rhythm.

 

It often happens that we engage in a dialogue with such fervor that we overlook our gestures, leading to misunderstandings or message distortion. Avoiding such practices, however, sometimes provides a certain pleasure in discourse, even falling into a state of discomfort, trying to manipulate our gestures, if not outright imposture (‘I could see that there was a question here of movements of a facile subjectivity, which is quickly exhausted as soon as it is expressed: I like/don’t like: which one of us doesn’t have their list of tastes, repulsions, and indifferences?’ (R. Barthes)). Nevertheless, we have a multitude of techniques that could teach us to be somewhat correct in our gestures, manipulative, or just understood. ‘Great authors’ in some fields have even honored us with a series of books that teach you to be correct in your gestures to secure your candidacy with an employer, a woman, or an impulsive homeless person. Yet so many times, you are only understood correctly by two out of three, isn’t it? Each gesture is loaded with an undeniable semiotics, always present. This detail is another punctum (‘the punctum of a photograph (in our case, a painting) is that hazard which pricks me (but also hurts me, tears me apart),’ says R. Barthes) of Sergiu Ciochină’s paintings. The gestures of the characters in his paintings, as simple as they are, are just as hidden and precisely for this reason loaded with meaning. If it weren’t for the harshness of the subject, these could have remained simple gestures. However, their way of asserting themselves speaks of a semantic, psychological, or psychedelic load: abstentions, stiffenings, withdrawals, resistances, if not abstinent aggressions, sometimes transformations, other times ‘false alarms’; so much so that we would need to write an entire volume analyzing from head to toe the intensity of the gestures in Ciochină’s paintings.

Sergiu Ciochina

The eagerly anticipated June nights do not always come hand in hand with beaches, dream vacations, and dives into crystal-clear waters from bridges over the sea at sunset; sometimes they are reduced to late, depressive, and solitary insomnias, much like those in ‘June Nights’ by Sergiu. The character in this painting, thrown into a nuptial solitude, not so much for the world as for oneself; strangling the gesture of the right hand into the trap of the knee joint, stepping the right foot over the left, and the left hand cramped between the knees and abdomen hidden under the chin, forms a poignant scene, with an explanation (as ambiguous as it gets) in the gaze fixed on an open box of sardines (a symbol of confinement or worse?). Fortunately for these ‘strengthening spaces,’ consisting of a canvas particle in a warmer color, practically devoid of any object load, which Sergiu inserts into his paintings. This allows the viewer to deconcentrate from the wave of objects and details, and focus, I want to believe, more on the idea.

Sergiu Ciochina

Purely by chance or for a reason that is not entirely clear to me, the last work I chose to discuss the articulated message in S. Ciorchină’s painting is also related to a season, namely ‘The Spring that Passed Without Me,’ in much more spring-like shades than in any of his other paintings where green predominates. However, this one is much closer to personality, to the being, and ultimately to the flesh of the character in this painting; presenting us with an emotionally charged foreground, where the gesture is too emphasized, but the almost jocund smile leaves much to ponder. It occupies almost the entire surface of the canvas, focused on foregrounding the gesture, more precisely: the pinching, through which he seems to realize whether it’s a dream of losing that spring or a reality.

Sergiu Ciochina - painter

It would be a shame not to talk about a female character in Sergiu’s paintings, which is so (how embarrassing!) colorful. The canvas titled ‘Study’ represents a woman, in all her splendor, who is either studying herself or allowing herself to be studied by the viewer’s eyes or by eyes that do not look at us, it remains for us to decide. The crossing of the legs, in the case of this character, is somewhat motivated: the intention not to fall into the pornographic by exposing the entire female corporeality and, for the viewer’s double pleasure, concealing certain parts of the body that remain to be intuited. The position of the arms is what throws us into ambiguity, what induces the dilemma – studying herself or being studied – through the right arm passing between her breasts, like a field worker wiping away sweat, and the raised pinky finger seemingly over the roundness of the breast, makes us believe that she is studying her anatomy. However, the left arm pulls, as if to cover her nudity, an almost invisible veil, as if pulling the whites from under it, i.e., the white canvas on which it was painted – giving the impression that she is admired by someone and, quite rightly, feels a bit intimidated – and her gaze is directed in the same direction she is trying to protect herself with that veil. And if we look even closer, she seems to have blushed a bit.

Of course, I could talk about many more enchantments of this young talented painter (when I speak of talent, I always remember a line from a Henry Miller character who said that every sincere person has a grain of talent), but I realize that at some point, all my observations are subjective and are absolutely tied to my experience and views on things. And if, by now, you’ve wondered how this young man dares to talk about painting without mentioning, except vaguely in one place, colors? I will answer that: not only color gives substance to a painting.

Article written by Victor Fala – a young debutant poet from the Republic of Moldova whose poetry challenges, arouses, and sensitizes at the same time.

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