Critics’ Picks

View of “Olivia Mihălțianu,” 2019.

View of “Olivia Mihălțianu,” 2019.


Olivia Mihălțianu

Anca Poterasu Gallery
26 Popa Soare Street Sector 2
October 25–December 7, 2019

Vines of found film hang from the walls of a nineteenth-century house in Bucharest, transforming its rooms into a jungle of negatives. The installation is part of Romanian artist Olivia Mihălțianu’s new exhibition, which she conceived of during a residency at Frac des Pays de la Loire in Carquefou. Wandering through the institution’s gardens, Mihălțianu became entranced by the relationship between plant grafting and film cutting. She began to document these conjoined processes, her work displayed here side-by-side as a two-channel video and in a series of photographs of the garden’s grafted trees. Elsewhere, silk cyanotypes of leaves, which Mihălțianu produced in the forest surrounding Carquefou, allude to one of the medium’s first uses as a means of documenting botanical specimens. This coalescence of nature and science calls to mind Jules Verne’s Le Château des Carpathes (The Carpathian Castle, 1892), which is set in Romania’s Transylvania region. A transmogrified version of the damsel-in-distress narrative, Verne’s novel evokes the mythological essence of the forest that Mihălțianu finds so beguiling. Indeed, the artist titled her show and each work on display after the novel’s opening line, “Cette histoire n’est pas fantastique.”

For Mihălțianu, whose practice is concerned with the natural cycle of the image, film is both a medium and a raw material. On plastic sheets, she has reproduced excerpts from Verne’s book, using found film to form the letters. These laminae then served as negatives for a set of cyanotypes, hung on the opposite wall, which complete the cycle of production and reproduction. A grafting and splicing knife commissioned from Bulgarian sculptor Stoyan Dechev rests on a ledge between these two works. With its rough, bark-like exterior, the knife serves as an interlocutor, uniting these disparate but intertwined practices.