by Jerry ElengicalMay 25, 2021
Incessant travels between Antwerp and New York in the last decade influenced artist Marius Ritiu a great deal. His complex and massive copper sculptures narrate those schisms of borders, nations, race, religion, gender and sex. As the Romanian artist constantly moves between Belgium and the US, he tries to shine light on what connects humanity.
Ritiu obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sculpture from University of Fine Arts, Cluj Napoca, Romania, and another master’s from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium.
In 2019, Ritiu, as part of his ongoing series Sisyphus, conceived of the project. The rock-like copper sculptures called Meteorites were placed at different locations across the world - inside a gallery space, on a shopping cart in a park or in between the wall of a house and a fence. The work hinted at the fragility of human existence and the fact that natural disasters don’t differentiate.
1. Please talk about your general practice.
My practice questions concepts such as nationhood, borders and nationalism, reflecting on global responsibility, collective consciousness, and citizenship, and suggesting the potential for immensely varied human experiences to unite.
Instead of being celebrated, our differences are made into symbols and ideologies meant to divide; they are turned into borders. The perspective of those who have crossed a few is worth reflecting on and from, but it is the astronaut who is the true skeptic: no eye that looks ‘down’ on Earth from space can see such perverse dividing lines. Now, this outlook invites radical revisionism.
Amongst other material, copper in particular has special significance in my practice. It straddles in its application in high-tech equipment and yet has roots in the evolution of mankind.
My own experience as a travelling artist and an immigrant, continuing crossing borders and witnessing variations in culture, religion, nation, race – undoubtedly informs and anchors my practice. But what it more importantly grounds is the quintessential to my work to comprehend and express the global through the local, the universal through the particular, the familiar through the alien. I believe that we are all connected.
I consider myself not only a sculptor but also a storyteller, one who wishes to create somewhat open-ended tales, later finalised in the mind of the viewer.
2. When and in what circumstances did you conceive this work?
Odysseus was made after my return from New York to Antwerp (during the lockdown I had to prepare my show with Slag Gallery, which opened on July 2 in Chelsea, New York). As I mentioned earlier, for the past 10 years I have had quite a nomadic lifestyle, which has enriched and inspired my practice. The three months that I spent quarantined in Brooklyn, have definitely left their mark on each aspect of my life and my return to Antwerp reminded me somehow of the Greek myth. I enjoyed this exploration and I finished the work recently.
3. What is the theme for the work?
The theme of the work is the story of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. Son of Laërtes and Anticlea, husband of Penelope, and father of Telemachus and Acusilaus. Odysseus is renowned for his intellectual brilliance, guile, and versatility (polytropos), and is thus known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning (Greek: μῆτις or mētis, ‘cunning intelligence’). He is most famous for his nostos, or ‘homecoming’, which took him 10 eventful years after the decade-long Trojan War.
4. What process was used to make the work?
Since 2016 I have been focusing on working with copper. It has become important to my work for both its physical and philosophical characteristics. It is the physical material that connects the world. Its incorporation into technology (communication, transport) has enabled and increased the mobility of ideas, goods, and people, impacting the nature and physicality of borders. In the classical world, alchemy associated seven metals with the planets (silver/Moon, mercury/Mercury, copper/Venus, gold/Sun, iron/Mars, tin/Jupiter, lead/Saturn). As one of these materials, copper has a direct association both with human history and the cosmos. I have been using a technique called Repoussé. This is a technique that does not require a highly equipped studio; rather it is more of a nomadic technique that I can use wherever I go, well-suited to my nomadic lifestyle and it implies heating and hammering the copper sheet by hand.
5. Why do you think it has not been shown yet?
This work is one of my newer explorations. It is a recent experiment, which will lead me to other works.
6. What would be the ideal (most desired) format to display the work if and when given a chance?
I believe that any of the enumerated options could work (biennale/triennale, curated show, public/private space), but the way of presenting the sculpture would most likely differ for each venue.
Curated by Rahul Kumar, STIR presents Unseen Art: an original series that features works that have never been shown publicly, created by a selection of multidisciplinary artists from across the globe.