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Teodora Pica’s recent series of vibrant, high-octane urban landscape paintings titled City Works combines the real and the imagined, and in doing so, renders the otherworldly hometown familiar and the ordinary tantalizingly enigmatic. 

Painted with seeming effortlessness hiding years of disciplined mark-making, Pica’s spontaneous line (her media are combined acrylic paint and acrylic paint marker) captures the essential energy, density, and anxiety of contemporary urban life’s constant motion and metamorphosis. However, as much as City Works exhibits virtuous drawing and painting, and in this way is process-based, the paintings are ultimately about imagery. And the imagery holds surrealistic overtones even though the depicted city experiences ring real.

The architectural structures that stand out amidst the animated cityscapes are partially abstracted, but they still can appear either industrial or futuristic. They loom over interwoven looped conduits recalling rollercoaster tracks that capture the ride through traffic chaos more effectively than straight representations of expressways.  Smaller dark grey (39” x 27”) silhouette paintings on paper collectively titled Elevation centre on individual architectural forms similar to those populating the larger paintings en masse. In both Elevation and the larger City Works paintings, (5’ to 8’ approximately), the depicted architecture appears temporally displaced. In other words, we wonder if these buildings are the stuff of sci-fi novels or the coal-stained industrial age.

Indeed, while we can see and feel, and with only just a little effort, hear and smell the city in these paintings, we remain unsure what cities we are beholding and from what era they hail. City Works accordingly exudes a mysteriousness that draws us back to them, over and over again, so that we may explore their nooks and crannies to discover, for instance, the odd juxtapositions of the rich pink petals of a giant flower floating before abstracted buildings and surrounding streets or pathways (City Works #4).


We have much to take in as we behold the peeled-back multilayers of urbanity in City Works. For some, the paintings will evoke urban memory spaces; for others, a fantastical future. Certainly, Pica has gifted viewers the freedom of multiple readings of her retro-futurism, a seeming paradox that in fact captures with accuracy the blend of old, new, and imminence that defines our metropolises. 

Earl Miller

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