|Eugen Florin Zamfirescu a multifaceted artist with many talents.|
Eugen Florin Zamfirescu is sitting in his museum-like apartment surrounded by paintings, stain glass artwork, books and sculptures of all sorts. Romanian-born, Eugen is a multifaceted artist with many talents.
A common theme seen in his work is depicting the cycle of mankind through a narrative that uses ships as metaphors for the growth, development, and destruction of civilizations. Wherefore rebirth occurs and so the continuum starts anew.
He enjoys Painting, Photography, Film, and Sculpture. One can come to the conclusion that Eugen is always occupied with creating ideas and developing new art. As we wandered through his apartment, with every step there is a new discovery to be made – metal pieces, ships, sculptures,ancient bottles, mannequins, a typewriter. We made the incredible discovery that he painted his floor, a true reflection of his zest for art and turning something mundane into a creative piece in and of itself.
What was your childhood like in Romania?
I have always been fascinated by colors and shapes, by light, space and its geometry as well as by taking things apart and putting them together, learning their magical inner workings. I remember as a young boy building my first camera out of a shoebox. That’s one memory.
For as far back as I can remember I see my parents and their friends gathered around our living room table discussing books, music, or politics; we had lots of books on arts and those were my companions under the table where I was eavesdropping, trying to understand this strange adult world. Another memory.
Romania was a communist country at the time of my childhood and well into my adulthood so in the evening the family will pull down the blinds and gather around an old radio, listening to forbidden broadcasts from Western Europe: Radio Free Europe and The Voice of America. Without me realizing it I was learning about democracy, freedom of expression, about society and its many facets and all that will reflect and influence later on my involvement in the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and the creation of the narrative series “Whispering Civilizations”.
I am always learning from the artists of the past as well as the ones who are my contemporaries. To give just a few names will mean leaving out so many others. With some, it is about the light, or color or texture; with others, it is an idea, a subject, or the way the story is told through painting, or photography, or sculpture, or film. Is not just artists that influence my work, though. Scientists are also my heroes. Their struggles to uncover the mysteries of the great unknown are inspirational. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants and with each new discovery we are seeing a bit farther. The universe is fascinating and mind-boggling.
Where did you receive your training?
My formal introduction to art was through the study of both photography and cinematography in Romania. My most beloved instructor, Mircea Gherghinescu, was one of the top professors of cinematography at the Institute for Theatre and Cinema Studies in Romania. We will start the lesson each week by looking at and analyzing a famous painting. Then, my task was to recreate that painting as a miniature film set. Light and shadow, dynamics and composition gave those paintings life. So that’s how I know a lot about and why I am fascinated by light. It plays a central role in expressing the subject matter in my artwork.
I always wanted to paint and I did it as a child, up to adolescence. I thought I will take it up again one day, more seriously, most likely when I retire. But one day I started to paint again and never stopped since. I am a self-taught painter so I took my learnings from books and museums. While I was living in the UK, I remember going every week to the National Gallery or Tate and staying for hours in front of one painting. I think many of the museum attendants got worried and probably found me suspicious.
You are a multifaceted artist. Which medium do you prefer to work with the most?
I do not have a preference, I need to move from painting to photography, to sculpture, to video, back to painting, or photography and so on. I get inspired and energized that way. While I might work on one medium as the main project, I need to have other smaller projects going on at the same time. I am fascinated by time, old instruments, intricate machinery, the laws of physics and humankind’s connection to past, present, and future. Common to all is my quest to unravel the stories within, to reveal the inner beauty of my subjects and capture their elusiveness and sometimes painting might be the best medium to express all that, at other times it could be photography or mixed media, or film.
How did you make the transition from Romania to Toronto, Canada? What are some of the cultural differences?
My trip from Romania to Toronto actually happened via England, where I lived for about six years before emigrating to Canada. So in many ways my arrival in Toronto was not a shock.
What shocked me though was to discover for example, that while in Romania we’ve had equal pay for men and women for equal work, and many women in leadership positions, here that was and is still an issue today. During communism – and we were considered backwards – we were all about recycling, ecological bags and so on, while here anything of the kind is seen now as forward thinking and innovative.
The more you buy, the cheaper it gets, encouraging you to be a consumer. It might look good to have 30 types of cereals, or fridges but the reality is we deplete our planet of essential resources and we waste our time trying to make sense of products. So, in the beginning I was blown away by variety, by quantity; now I get more philosophical and I question our endless need for more, bigger, faster. I think we can do better, this society has the potential to be a better one.
One thing I love here is the multi-faceted society, with all and/or despite its many challenges. I really felt that this summer when I went back to Romania on holiday. I enjoyed it of course but while there, I missed the mix of cultures, of languages, the diversity of Canada. In many ways it is for sure way easier to run and manage a society where all people have the same beliefs or language or appearance. But, one does not have the same effervescence of ideas, the differing points of views which I think is what drives progress as well as makes life more interesting and exciting.
Tell me about your “Lanes of Quantum Memories” collection. How do you substantiate memories and thoughts into this body of work?
With this photography series I am taking the viewer on an imaginary journey into the realm of the human mind. What is unraveled is that the very process of thinking might be, in some ways, altered by the interaction between neurons and the forces of quantum mechanics. Our brains are continuously subjected to a myriad of waves: electrical, magnetic, gravitational and ones currently unknown; whether these forces originate in the vastness of space or the invisible realm of the sub-atomic, together their whispers transform our thoughts, memories, and ideas in ways unimagined – until now.
You recently presented your work at the Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair. How was your photography received?
Participating in the Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair in Toronto is a wonderful experience. Each year the fair brings together many talented artists and that in itself is deeply inspiring. It is also a place that offers artists a great way of interacting with the public. It provides wonderful exposure as the fair attracts 15000+ viewers. People stop by, look at the work and many express a desire to know more, to understand what I want to say through my art, what is the process I follow, how did I make it all happen.
It is truly rewarding and energizing to see that people are receptive to and love what you create. My favourite experience was last year when fellow photographers participating in the fair brought their friends to see my art. A few said that mine was their favourite booth at the fair and the place they came to get inspired. It is gratifying of course to have the appreciation of the public, but special, and rare for any artist is to receive the respect and recognition of his/her peers.
How do you split your time between painting, film and photography?
Most of the time I paint. I paint in layers and that takes a very long time, each of my paintings might take me a year or close to a year to finish. So I need to work on other projects at the same time or even stop painting for a while, work on a different project and then come back to painting, with a fresh eye
I noticed you choose earth tones and a lot of gold and brown colours. Is that a personal preference?
Yes, I love earth colors, just a personal, maybe impossible to explain preference. Interesting to note though that my art beginnings were non-figurative, all bold colors so maybe my choice of color now is all a reaction to all that.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a new photography series, still in research phase and in parallel, on a project titled “Books Transcending”. From the beginning of time, the written word had direct lines of communications with our brains, our hearts, and souls. Inside books we stored knowledge, dreams, experience and fantasy.
But, while the stories in the books are timeless, like everything else, the physical books are afflicted by time; entropy is doing its implacable work forcing everything into one direction only and books, like all of us, develop unstoppable “time afflictions”.
By transforming books into artworks I attempt to slow the implacability of fate drawn by the hands of entropy and save them from the ravages of time. This way books too, alongside us, become aspiring entities at transcendence into another realm.
What is your favorite area of in your apartment?
I look at my apartment as a small museum in which I happen to have a bed to sleep on. For many years now I’ve been collecting the different objects captured in my paintings or photographs. Each object is a trip to an antique shop, a curiosity store, lengthy rummage through piles of stuff and conversations with shop owners. At times an object might come with a story. But more often, that story is unknown, lost somewhere under the dust of time. In some way, those are my favourite objects as they allow me to create and tell their story, to imagine their path through time and take the viewer on a trip along it. Most of those objects are in my apartment.
My favourite is the studio area as that is where my mind goes wild with all the possibilities out there. I have a variety of stimuli in the studio: a good collection of old instruments, electronic drums, pianos, my easel is there, the paints and brushes, telescopes and radio-telescopes, gigantic lenses, and then books on arts, science, politics, technology. The studio is my own spaceship.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I love music. My mom used to sing, I grew up with a piano at home, I took some lessons while a kid but abandoned them quickly. As an adult, I’ve always been frustrated by not being able to play an instrument and regretted not continuing my lessons. Recently I took on this new challenge and started to learn to play the piano all by myself. Every night for the past two years for one or two hours, with an app and an IPAD. First the right hand, then the left, then both. The joy I get now from playing is the same one I get from painting or taking photos. The level of artistry is different, though.
What is some of the best advice you have been given?
My girlfriend Elena is the one that told me not to wait for retirement to start painting. She told me, I would say pushed me, to just follow my dream. And here I am, following it…and it is still the best advice I’ve ever received.
Thank you, Eugen-Florin Zamfirescu for sharing your adventurous home and studio with Lambo & Friends. To learn more about Eugen’s work please visit his website.
Interview + Art Direction: Rachel Lambo
Photography: Juliet Christy
Rachel Lambo 11/5/2016