One of the most respected Romanian artists working today, Ion Grigorescu has had a vast and diverse practice for more than fve decades. He is a pioneer and highly experimental video and performance artist, with many of his early pieces done clandestinely during Romania’s dictatorship era. His deep yet idiosyncratic faith has played a major role in his life and creation, visible in many of his pieces done across media and in his almost parallel life as a church painter.
For years, Grigorescu would often spend months in a particular village in Romania under a commission to paint the murals of the local church, within the strict con fnes of the Romanian Orthodox art canon. While his practice, with all its con ficts and quests, should be read in its heterogeneous unity, his contribution has often been sliced into easily digestible parts by the often miopic Western curatorial world.
In his own words:
“While working as a church mural painting restorer, I arrived at the situation of having to paint icons as well. Sometimes it’s necessary to put back a missing fresco piece, or even to conceive an entire ensemble. In order to do that, one must know the iconography…In common knowledge, the icon is perceived as something fxed, like the canon itself. Something that encompasses the idea of labour, of torment - of punishment. The icons rooted in tradition are in a way already represented; it seems futile to want to add something, it seems one has no room for their own understanding or feeling. But I have chosen another way instead. I wasn’t doing re-representations. I was painting non-typi fed subjects and images, guiding myself after the biblical text or after The Lives of the Saints. In Orthodox art, not everything has yet been represented…I was encouraged to work by the fact that at the beginning of each (evangelical) pericope there is somehow an invitation at looking; by reading carefully, one starts to see. And my way of seeing resembles to a certain degree what in the Middle Ages was called speculative thought. Speculum means mirror, thus image. I use the term ‘to speculate’ with the meaning of making images.”