Exhibition by Mirela Bistran at St Oswald's Church, Durham
Today I visited St Oswald's Church in Durham to see an exhibition of paintings and prints made by one of my colleagues on the Master of Fine Art course at Newcastle University.
Mirela Bistran moved to England from her Romanian home in 2008, and one can see the influence that her culture has on the art she produces.
Often using warm, earthy colours, I find Mirela's work comforting and welcoming. I liken this feeling to being wrapped in a blanket, and when speaking with Mirela she explains that she is inspired by the Romanian tapestries that are often displayed on the walls. One of the purposes of these tapestries is to provide a warm surface when someone leans against the wall.
Just as tapestries sometimes depict a narrative, Mirela's work often has a story behind it, or is related to personal experience. Her soft and peaceful personality is echoed in her work. The series of three paintings titled Embrace were made shortly after she married, and when creating these works she was thinking about how two pine trees grow and interconnect or intertwine with each other.
Mirela speaks of how she wants her work to reference "encounters; sometimes timid, sometimes explosive, close to recalling prayer.” I believe that she creates these contrasting emotions through her use of material, tone and colour. Pale, fluid washes are made with watercolour, giving a gentle and calm atmosphere. In other areas, layers are build up with more opaque, bolder colours, adding intensity and depth to the paintings. Similarly, she contrasts empty, or sparse spaces with highly detailed areas that draws one's attention into her inner world within the painting.
I admire Mirela's ability to represent the figure, and enjoy the spontaneity and freeness within her work. One can sense the connection that she has with the act of mark-making. In contrast to the fluidity of working with watercolours, Mirela also makes lino prints. This form of printmaking involves carving into a sheet of linoleum to produce a relief print. The linoprints in her current exhibition are monotone, black and white images. Whereas I previously thought of linoprints being rather hard and bold, Mirela manages to create flowing lines, and by removing lots of the lino, she creates space within the image.