Mircea Suciu and Maire Bovo, Belonging Artist Talks

Marie Bovo

Marie Bovo is a Spanish-born artist based in Marseille, France, where she moved with her family in 1971 to escape the Franco regime. She trained as a photographer in Aix-en-Provence, and has had solo shows at the FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Marseille, France, 2017), Rencontres de la Photographie (Arles, France, 2017), California Museum of Photography (Riverside, USA, 2016) and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris, 2010). She participated in the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2013), the São Paulo Biennale (2012) and the Venice Biennale (2011).

“Light” is the keyword for understanding Bovo’s art. Her photographs take the relationship between luminosity and architectural or urban structures as their subject. She frames the intangible dialogues shared between buildings, their legacies and their immediate environment. The viewer is made to feel a sense of belonging in the narrative, as her photographs are carefully composed of objects from our contemporary society: balconies, attics and courtyards, exempt from any human presence, and yet somehow brimming with life. Bovo is interested in minority communities and has dedicated most of her career to photographing their dwellings in Marseille. Her practice moves seamlessly between palace walls and urban ruins in a way that has significant political implications, refusing to prioritise the celebrated over the marginalised.

In Grisaille 223 (2010), purchased by the EIB in 2011, the artist presents a vertical view of the ceiling of an abandoned building in Marseille, revealing the vestiges of its former glory in the intricacy of the mouldings, ornaments and decorative frames. Bovo conducts a visual reportage of the decaying architecture in the area of Marseille‘s harbour (Quai de la Joliette), where the Haussmann buildings,
once elegant and bourgeois, now display their remains. It illustrates Bovo’s interest in the history and transformation of old buildings. Initially used by the French bourgeoisie, today the derelict buildings are home to undocumented Algerian and Tunisian immigrants. They are signs of the passage of time and of urban decay; images of cultural heritage sites that are being desecrated. In future years, this
deteriorated architecture will be replaced with modern and functional buildings, thanks to an urban redevelopment programme within the city of Marseille. Therefore, this photograph also documents a fleeting present, a depiction of a reality that will soon be history. However, Grisaille 223 is about more than simply recording architecture: despite the lack of human figures, the photograph records human presence, with markings on the walls that show where footballs have been kicked between friends. Bovo reveals the intimate relationship between humans and architecture, and presents derelict buildings as a metaphor for marginalised communities forced to live in illegal accommodation.

Mircea Suciu

Mircea Suciu is a renowned Romanian contemporary artist who lives and works in Cluj, Romania. He received his BFA from Cluj Visual Arts University in 2003, specialising in painting. He has had several solo exhibitions in galleries throughout the world and his work has also been shown in institutions. Suciu achieved prominence for his figurative artworks, which often draw their inspiration from vintage advertisements, newspapers or magazines.

Suciu isolates his figures, rendering them in monochrome charcoal or a muted paint palette. The identity of his figures is often hidden, whether they have their backs turned to the viewer, their heads in a box, or their faces covered with objects or sunglasses. In this way, Suciu invites the viewer to interrogate individuality, isolation, and censorship.

The painting he is speaking about – ‘Wow’ – was painted in 2007 and acquired by the European Investment Bank the following year. It depicts a row of children holding on to a fence that rests in a body of water. Cropped so that the nearest shore is not visible, and angled so that the identity of the children is hidden, the viewer is left suspended, with none of the narrative answers that are traditionally provided in a figurative oil painting. With their backs to the viewer, the children look outwards. The painting is ironically titled Wow, as the figures appear to look out into a foggy nothingness. The children become progressively less defined as the row goes on, finally appearing as silhouettes in the distance. However, there is no decipherable light source to explain this dramatic shadowing, giving the seemingly realistic painting an air of unreality. In this state of confusion, the viewer is invited to dwell upon childhood.