DSC Gallery

Alexander Tinei | Roots

29/10/2019 - 06/12/2019

For this, his first solo exhibition at DSC Gallery, Prague, the Moldovan-born, Budapest-based artist, Alexander Tinei has produced a body of work on the theme of roots.

The word ‘roots’ immediately conjures up a wealth of diverse scenarios. We use it to describe the complex tubers that tunnel in and out of the ground to secure and feed plants and trees; to refer to the source of an idea, a problem, family, ethnic or cultural origins – even to describe the embedded part of a bodily organ or structure. The evocative nature of the word and the multifarious images it can describe, make it an ideal source of exploration for an artist, and an especially unsurprising choice for this one, given that Tinei has become internationally regarded for his compelling and enigmatic paintings depicting ethereal figures marked with mysterious blue lines.

In the past these blue lines have served to connect Tinei’s subjects stylistically. Though initially suggestive of tattoos or even tribal markings, they are intended as signifiers of emotion: as physical symbols of the pain and dislocation felt by so many young people in contemporary society where community and family have ceased to be dependable units, and instead have become fractured and transient, often promoting a sense of fragmentation and dislocation as a result.

Tinei himself experienced this. He grew up in Moldova – a former satellite soviet state bordering Romania and the Ukraine. He spoke Russian, as opposed to Moldovan (a Romanian dialect), and underwent two years national service in the Soviet army. Tinei’s own family history reflects the pattern of so many families in Eastern Europe during the turbulent times of the 1980s. His parents separated and his mother fled for sanctuary to Siberia – a place many would have perceived as a region to run from, not to, especially during this era. At a certain point, Tinei experienced an identity crisis – he’d grown up as a Russian speaker, hearing Russian fairy tales, learning about Russian heroes and literary and artistic greats – and yet he was Moldovan – a place once described as the ‘garden nursery’ of Europe and regarded as a country known for its wine. Tinei started to look for a new identity which he found in his Christian faith and for an artistic father- figure and new way of working, which evolved through his discovery of Andy Warhol at an exhibition he visited after he moved to Budapest.

As Tinei moved west and started discovering more about recent art history and contemporary art practice, his own roots’ system expanded: his knowledge as well as his horizon widened. Tinei’s recent works reflect this journey. He has a new-found freedom of interpretation which allows him to openly follow his instincts. Looking to artists such as R.B. Kitaj, Edvard Munch, Albert Oehlen and Kiki Smith, Tinei’s attitude to painting and to depicting space has become more playful, and more about depicting a situation the way he imagines it to be – rather than being bound by 19th Century academic constructs which he found much of his early works to have been, thanks largely to his rigorous and strictly traditional art school in Chisinau. This newfound playfulness of Tinei’s has extended to his choice of materials. Through his use of masking tape to create lines or the ‘roots’ that demarcate these new paintings, Tinei’s practice has become as much about process and the surprises thrown up by the mechanics of repetition, as it has about constructing an image or mapping a space. Like Oehlen and the other ‘Neue Wilde’ artists before him, Tinei has become gripped by a fascination for the innate freedom of the creative act.

The new paintings are not purely reactive, however. There is a measured quality to these works. Yes, there is the excitement of allowing the random nature of process to dictate how certain things develop or fall, but collage brings texture and sculptural elements too. The works are interactive rather than reactive, and reflective of the complex webs of contacts and relationships that we have created for ourselves in our new, global way of living – something that chimes in acutely personal way with Tinei himself.

Our roots’ systems are no longer tied to one tree, they extend way beyond our original homes or even nations. They are not even contained to the human experience anymore, as our lives become increasingly affected by a growing dependence on the virtual world and artificial intelligence. Like a map of a rapidly growing brain, our roots are increasingly complex, but as Tinei’s paintings demonstrate on both a direct and an emotionally evocative level, though we need these new roots for sustenance, there is an unpredictability to our lives now that we will also have to learn to contend with. It might at times be unnerving, but just as Tinei has learned to allow for a certain randomness and development in his work, so must we accept that change and chance will be our future companions.

Curated by: Jane Neal