The Receptacle and Other Stories

by Anca Verona Mihuleţ-Kim

The transitory images, the fragments of memory or the sensations we record in blocks of time weave a magnificent history of the way in which imagination and reality infiltrate our mundane paths, often disregarding chronology or common sense.

        The gradual transformation of a woman into a plant in Han Kang’s book The Vegetarian opens new perspectives on how our inner life determines the shape of our personal universes and how the rules of nature have a tender way of imposing themselves upon us, whether we accept it or not. The process of perpetual transformation and the transgressions between the various states of matter are two internal mechanisms that have inspired Oana Coşug, during the past few years, to develop her consistent series of drawings. In her latest works, there is immediacy, there is expectation and rejection, there is contradiction and fear, all coexisting with a trace of the sublime and of collapse, and some shades of humor.
        The artist declares that her drawings “apparently look like ravings, with characters often surrounded by binders or abstracted barriers in spaces that render a feeling of claustrophobia. The geometric lines are combined in a game of abstraction. The portraits are not identifiable. The hands seem to look for something that is undefined, experimenting with an unknown space. The drawing is a means of recovering ephemeral and random images, most of the time insignificant at a first sight. The birth of the images is based on personal notes, influenced by readings, becoming a story in the making”.
        The drawings reunited under the generic title Hidden, which is the name of a future exhibition as well as of the catalogue, were produced under the influence of two books — Tout à coup je ne suis plus seul [Suddenly I Am No More Alone] by Jacques Darras and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison — the first, a romance novel and the second, an iconic post-colonial writing. This polarization can easily be traced throughout Oana Coşug’s practice — she explores the uncertain mix of identity within a couple, while the grids and obstacles, which most of the time are organic, offer the impression that the invisible Other is present. The bodies seem transparent and fragile, determined by both youth and senescence — the posture of the body resembles that of a young person, while the flesh seems to be hanging from an aging skeleton. The depicted plants are mature, at the end of their life cycles, oftentimes vividly colored and dominant, suggesting hope and eternal metamorphosis.
        One of the drawings displays two parallel orange stripes, crossed by two raw green branches, while in the upper part, two dark feet are hanging above the composition. In this perfect geometry, there is no beginning and no finitude — time stands still, projecting a suspended materiality.
        Another drawing depicts the body of a gracious woman with extremely long hair entangled in a mass of thorns, cactuses and dried leaves, all colored in black; on the right side of the paper, a glowing yellow ball pierced by a thorn brings softness and evanescence into what otherwise seems to be a landscape full of barriers and impossibility.
        There are two different types of bodies imagined by Oana Coşug — a positive and a negative one. Although the bodies usually confront themselves, out of the confrontation, a deep transformation emerges, leading to another aggregate. When this happens, the positive body delimitates itself from its functions, subscribing to a set of norms borrowed from a parallel universe and continuing to exist; the negative body loses consistency and all that remains is a reminder of its initial form: a shadow.
        Infinite stairs, unfolded cubes, grids endlessly reproducing themselves or transparent walls represent elements of solitude and confinement that can only be subdued by the vegetal order.
        Influenced by Louise Bourgeois, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Marlene Dumas, Maki Na Kamura and Nancy Spero, Oana Coşug comes from a generation of female artists who acknowledge their position and the experience accumulated before them, delivering a truly personal and nuanced discourse, without grey areas and not lacking in confidence. Although careful at the valences of art history, Oana Coşug rarely references historical events in her art.
        Hair turning into creepers, gravitating feet, arms becoming branches, skulls growing roots and leaves covering the body are phenomena hidden in the drawings, which delineate a universe where the vegetal takes into possession the exhausted body.
        While the bodies are usually stylized, the only emphasized components being the breasts and the hair, Oana Coşug treats the plants with precision and care, leaving a lot of space for developing a connection between the paper, the chromatics and the subject matter.
        A special place in her creation is represented by the series illustrating a sexless body in motion, the upper part of which is covered in a long mantle. This mantle is sometimes transparent, and sometimes it grows into a plumage of leaves or the tossed crown of a flower. One of the drawings from this series was titled “Interiority” and pictures a walking body covered in a greenish, stellar mantle, loaded with water. The hidden body is a reference to the unknown identity of the Other, that can represent either the emigrant or the untruthful self. The intriguing fact is what happens below the mantle, what can be imagined inside the mysterious cover. One of Oana Coşug’s black and white sketches describes the duplicated body of a woman turning her back to the viewer, under the translucent mantle, lifting what looks like circles from her head. It is a Romantic gesture and a reference to one of her favorite artists, William Blake.
        “Many Weights” is a drawing that presents a woman lifting a grid above her head; a colored block is partially covering the torso and upper part of her legs, revealing the fact that the weight inside can replicate and transgress into a physical burden.
        A couple meeting in what seems to be a suspended, open cage contributes a ludicrous note; a vertical, thick, yellow, and watery stripe balances the drawing and offers a lunar power to the female character, while the intensity of the male character is reduced by a brush of bluish watercolor, spread over his figure and by pink sparkles that come out of his body and seem to land on the texture of the female body.
        The neutrality and passivity discharged by many of the drawings are compensated by this type of unexpected details that move the composition in an uncanny direction and unlock the usual interpretation of how we perceive the visualization of relationships in art, of how the female body is not objectified or vulnerable, but rather hidden and transformed.
         Oana Coşug bypasses the recent paradigms in the interpretation of the female nature, dismissing the carcass and upholding the volatile interior that she treats as unbeatable but flexible, responsive to all external stimuli, and loaded with extra-sensorial capabilities.