'Searching' - Bogdan Mihai Radu Interview

Painter Bogdan Mihai Radu has been chosen, alongside two other international artists, as a representative artist for this year’s edition of the Oxford International Art Fair 2018.
150 artists and galleries have been selected to take part in the fifth edition of this popular event that will be held from 23 to 25 February 2018 at the City Hall of this world-renowned city, home of the oldest university in the Anglophone world.

Oxford International Art Fair is focused on discovering and showcasing the works of prominent and talented contemporary artists in the global arena. It was born out of the English audience’s keen desire to meet sensational artists who strive to gain wider recognition. The effects the novel fair are already truly visible through plenty of success stories from the exhibitors those who support them. In fact, established art galleries in increasing numbers are choosing to represent more young artists every year who have exhibited at the fair, bringing them to the spotlight. The concept of creating a fair for artists, rather than galleries, allows independent artists to showcase their work and gives art lovers the chance to meet artists in person. There is also an award ceremony at the end of the event, judged by the curators and guest judges.

In Amit Waysler’s, the international painter’s agent, words: “I felt from the first time when I saw Bogdan’s paintings that he had real relevance for the international art market. And we decided to do it with small steps, choosing a “young” fair at the fifth edition, but with an extraordinary growth potential. And the fact that Bogdan’s works have been selected from hundreds, maybe thousands, is a cause of great enthusiasm and optimism, both in connection with the event itself and with what will follow.”

Born in Sibiu, Romania, Bogdan Mihai Radu spent his childhood in Tălmaciu, a picturesque little town in rural Transylvania. He was only seven when he watched a movie that would change his destiny. In it, the main character stole famous paintings from museums and private collections that he skilfully copied and replaced with reproductions. Fascinated by the film, little Bogdan ‘borrowed’ paintings from relatives to reproduce and then return as copies without anyone suspecting the trick for years!. It was the first success of the future painter who would, before long, became one of the most prominent young artists in Eastern Europe, despite the prejudices of his parents who opposed his desire to become one.

Bogdan gradually developed his own style of painting in the limits of impressionism and expressionism. He had a great weakness for flowers since they represent the ethereal in each of us, the fragility and the strength at the same time. Their vulnerability and femininity counterbalanced with as much masculinity through Bogdan’s sharp brush strokes on their petals that often resembled a painting storm over a cold sky.

His first international exhibition happened almost by chance in 2009. The universe conspired in his favour as a picture of his hometown’s church, painted whilst he was still a child, was donated by the city of Tălmaciu to French city of Vitré when they became twinned. The painting was very well received by the French, and their interest on his work grew such that he was invited by the organisers to exhibit in France.

2010 was a watershed year for Bogdan as he became bedridden, paralysed for almost a year, but doctors were unable to specify exactly what triggered his autoimmune disease. This happened at the time when his career was really taking off; he was a very active, rising artist with already many solo exhibitions under his belt. On the other hand his illness also brought him a wave of sympathy. Bogdan was quickly surrounded with plenty of warmth from people. Entire campaigns were created to offer him unconditional support. All this boosted him back to a speedy recovery.

Bogdan Mihai Radu is now one of the most wanted young Romanian artists of the moment. His paintings are found in collections around the world. He owns a stunning gallery in the old part of Bucharest, with all the grandeur of the Parisian art houses. The historic building tells stories about Bucharest᾽s notoriety between the two World Wars; le petit Paris atmosphere that is hard to forget. One dandy place with a large floor that houses his studio, the art gallery, and last but not least, his home.



Last time we talked two years ago you hinted to a change of style, even a new direction, towards more abstraction. We can see that in your new works. How exactly do you see your work has changed?

In the last two years I’ve been going through a deep soul searching creative phase. I call it exorcism, like I was ordering the chaos and this took me to a whole new aesthetic expression and this is how I came with the title of this new series of paintings – Searching. You know, painting is self-discovery, so your art evolves alongside with you. And so my work changed in the rhythm of my personal transformation. Becoming aware of my depths gave me the courage and freedom to evolve from the safer area of flower paintings to the more abstract daring paintings. Abstract paintings are confrontation with yourself, so these new paintings are the real me.

Amit Waysler (left) with Bogdan Mihai Radu

Four months ago a special and unexpected encounter ignited this process of unfolding the depths of my mind onto the canvas. Amit Waysler become in short time a friend, an inspiration, an emotional support who gave me the self confidence to go from the safe, almost naive area of flower paintings to the wild abstract painting. He also got involved professionally into taking me from the romanian art market to the international market. He is the one who submitted my paintings to the Oxford Art Fair because he truly believes in my talent. He actually made me understand that all the fears I had about going mainstream abstract were all in my head.

And then the universe conspired to almost oblige me to go further with this change of style by another spectacular encounter, after I got enrolled in the Oxford Exhibition an art-loving lady visited my studio to offer me the financial support of the Cambridge School of Bucharest.

Have you also incorporated changes in technique or materials?

I started to use a mixed technique of oil and acrylic, with rich texture, vibrant colours.

Your work usually depicted vegetal motifs, is a constant trial of colour domination until they reach a state of euphoria. There is a new kind of euphoria in the paintings that you are bringing OIAF18, but reached through tempestuous tonalities and brushstrokes, and new rich textures. How much of this was a premeditated change or driven by these new experiences and the unconscious?

It was conscious with regards to my decision to put on the canvas the diary of my raw emotions and this way the unconscious got a voice in the paintings. An infinite minute of a mood that inhabits my mind becomes a story on the canvas.

“Paintings are faith, and so they do not need the rational validation of public opinion but an emotional ineffable resonance of the collective unconscious with some archetypal yearnings of every human” – Bogdan Mihai Radu

What are your expectations from your participation of OIAF18?

I don’t want to sound too narcissistic, but I expect the jury whom, so far, put me already in top 3 on the front page of the official website of OIAF18, to give me the first place. Told you already that this new style of work is the expression of my liberated self confidence, so, there you have it.

What can you tell me about the other participants? What are the commonalities and disparities that you appreciate?

My only answer to this is that I like challenge. They are good, what we have in common is that we are artists and this is already a lot. The crazy in me recognises and honours the crazy in them. What differentiate us is probably the degree of self awareness that gets to be painted on the canvas. I’ve seen some interesting angles of expression in their work.

Do you already have a view on the UK market and the taste of our collectors?

That’s a mystery that still unfolds to me. It will be a discovery process but I know that modern collectors are into recognising authenticity so here I am, I know they will resonate with my work.

What are you working on at the moment?

I move forward with this new phase of going strong into the abstract. The more I work onto myself, the more creative I express on the canvas. Every painting has a life of its own, I just let it break through. So I’ll continue with the Searching collection and will see what it will be the destination of this journey. Sometimes when I get mad at a woman for example, that will be translated on the canvas in colours and brush strokes that will tell stories about the unspoken between us.

What other shows will you be attending this season?

I have no idea. I intend a personal exhibition in London, work in progress as for the details. Best things usually come unplanned.

You also run a popular painting school back home. How is that progressing?

That project is closed for now. I want to focus exclusively on this new phase of my work. You can teach people a technique, but you cannot teach them craziness, freedom, rebellion. All you can do is give your own example in terms of the art of living. The emancipation of the mind is each individual’s challenge.

To know more on Bogdan Mihai Radu’s work, visit www.bogdanmihairadu.com

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