Bucharest, Romania born 1955

  • Australia from 1980

Ithaca II 1999 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: not signed, not dated, verso, u/l, blue felt tip marker, "Aida Tomescu/ 'ITHACA II' - 1999/ oil on canvas"
Dimensions: stretched 1835 h x 1530 w x 45 d mm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2000
Accession No: NGA 2000.16
Image rights: © Aida Tomescu
  • Ithaca II has its origins in the religious imagery of Moldavian frescos in northern Romania. I revisited these churches in 1977 – a visit prompted mainly by the SBS film on the poet Paul Celan, partly shot in north Moldavia.

    Ithaca II was the first, and paradoxically also the last, of the 1999 series of seven paintings (as I scraped off and repainted the whole upper section of the canvas, after completing the rest of the series). My main concern throughout was to find a reality which I could not deny or make unreal, an image with its own sense of coherence.

    I kept returning to Celan as a way of discouraging aesthetics. I needed to break through the surface illusion of paint and find an opening into the work. Painting has always been a gradual construction of something that exists independently of me, but with this series it felt more as a slow progression towards a state of stillness.

    Despite the built-up surface of Ithaca II, texture is never a concern as I find that it is inherent to painting. The more fluid lower section of the canvas went through massive repainting and some of Celan’s verses from Crowned Out are buried within the image. It is more like painting something that you are not aware of seeing, but that you feel is there.

    A sensation of watery green-greyness emerged, images came and went and a more subtle, unexpected presence surfaced in the work, a substance floating somewhere in this indeterminate space – independent of and quite outside the imagery I’ve been working with – a curious extra intention that I’m not responsible for, an intention by the painting itself.

    Aida Tomescu, 2002

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002