From the Insubordinate Gardens

My yearly exhibition at TeodoraART Gallery is coming up on October 14

This is an introduction to my exhibition written by Toronto independent curator Earl Miller:

Amidst the rolling green hills and fields of Transylvania, dotted with terra cotta-coloured roofs and the sun-bleached white brick houses they top, stands a former castle now serving as the artist-in-residency where Teodora Pica completed a two-week stay. Surrounding the castle is the Jibou Botanical Garden – an exotic oasis of flora ranging from a bed of cacti, to a herbarium, to a Japanese garden. Imported as well as local plant species growing freely outside and in greenhouses juxtapose the wild and the manicured.

This natural versus cultivated contrast, which Pica deems “insubordinate” versus “subordinate,” serves as the conceptual anchor for a new series of acrylic and mixed-media paintings she created back in her Toronto studio. The artworks depict mysterious flora and seeds bursting with “insubordinate” painterly energy. Displayed like herbaria (preserved plant specimens), that is, as central images on white paper, her fantastical collection of plants and seeds stands equally as a testament of the flora’s “subordination” to orderly display and of the artist’s memory of the gardens. In other words Pica interprets her theme both literally and abstractedly; while she directly illustrates contrast, she grants equal focus to evoking the essential mood of the Jibou gardens.

Take for one instance a series of four small paintings in which bold, jagged outlines render seeds that sprout wings. The wings symbolize nascent unbridled growth, as stressed by the loose painting and scratched over delineations that render them. Simultaneously, their clean, spare compositions reflect the conscious, careful organization of a garden. As Pica wryly observes, plants “become subordinate when put in artworks.”

Here the artist implies that gardener and garden work together as a metaphor for the artist and the dilemma she faces in attaining that elusive ideal image: whether she should carefully, consciously control it, or whether she should let it take its own spontaneous course. The image, confined by the shape of the paper, the limitations of the media, and the standard rules of composition, struggles for its freedom. Ultimately, “insubordination” allows the image to bloom to its highest potential of beauty, as these splendidly uninhibited paintings perfectly demonstrate.