University: University of Sunderland
Looking at the contemporary Romanian society from a post-revolution perspective, the artist Andreea Teleaga is seeking justifications and answers regarding the present status of the national identity. Several aspects that sustain a nation are in decline, such as history, traditions and national values. Questions come across often and it seems like the answers get to surface. After almost half a century of Communism and 25 years from its fall, its ghost is still walking through the former communist country. An entire national identity was eroded and the memory of the landscape started to fade away.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? For me, personally, the three year course was a continuous challenge to develop myself and my knowledge about photography/arts. I can say every moment has been a standout moment since I started the course: group and individual tutorials, the nights spent in the library researching and brain-storming. Finishing high school in Romania and going straight to university here, in the UK, had a great impact on my practice and enlarged my perspectives. I was challenged continuously to bring my culture and background in a different context. One of the turning points was in my second year when we had to create an installation, a project which had to be created in strong connection with the place where it was going to be exhibited. I created a Camera Obscura where I had been sitting for a week, waiting for people and explaining the reasons why I did it, why the certain place, how it worked and so on. This project offered me the chance to build a direct relationship with the audience for the first time and analyse my projects from their perspective as well. Another moment was creating a hand-made book entitled Communist Nightmare in Romania and exhibiting it at Artists’ Book Market in Newcastle. Again I had a great chance to talk to the audience and to listen to the impact my art had on people. I confronted my work with the public at my final degree show as well and it was a really important moment in my artistic career. My development as an artist was highly influenced by these moments.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I consider that my practice is a fine art response to the socio-political situation. It could be categorised as documentary, landscape, or portraiture, but it is also about how and where all the pieces are put together. I also enjoy the experimental side of photography, the one that does not follow any precise rules, where the result is unexpected, but it is highly considered. I could also mention the fact that I prefer analog photography in this context.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? During the three year course I found myself exploring and analysing my background, and my personal and national history. Coming from a former communist country, I focused especially on the impact the totalitarian regime had on society and history in the past and now. Having a strong interest in history and philosophy, my bodies of work have references in these fields as well.
Why did you choose to use sandpaper to alter your images? Did you experiment with any other options? The sandpaper is a straight reference to destroying without having a way back to recover what has been destroyed. I did experiment with black ink, black paint, and black permanent marker, but I wanted to achieve another level of ruining the photographic material. It’s not about covering the surface, but destroying it. If you managed to take the paint or ink out, then you get the image back. The sandpaper destroys in depth.
Are you trying to cover up a particular area in the landscape, or are the shapes and placement of the scratches fairly random?Seeing the images digitally, it may seem like they are random. But they are not. When the images are viewed in real life, the viewers can actually distinguish there is a shape or even a small amount of detail. It might have been a house, it might have been a church. I want this to be a mystery for the audience. Despite this, there are three aspects which I actually cover with these four images: history, traditions, and national values. I consider all these have been highly affected by the totalitarian regime and people should be aware of them.
How did you go about printing, scratching, and presenting this work? The images were made using a Mamiya RB67 and medium format colour film. The negatives were highly damaged during the process, and the final images being the best images I could get from them. After printing, I used sandpaper to destroy the negatives even more. The photographs are large, colour, Digital C-types (105cm x 84cm) making reference to contemporary documentary photography. I have also added a light box with the ruined negatives next to the series.
Who or what influenced you to create this work in the way you have? The starting point was the desire to know the history of my country as people experienced it and not as it is written in the history books. After two years of research, I discovered the book The Commissar Vanishes by David King which played a vital role. It presents the falsification of photographs and art in Stalin's Russia and how the identity of a person could be erased if he/she was not what was expected to be. My body of work is the sum of personal and other people’s experiences, a lot of research in regard to Communism and manipulation of the photographic material. It also includes my personal opinions in relation to the aftermath of politics in this context.
How much of an influence does engaging with your audience have on your work? From my point of view, the body of work has three elements: the artist, the images in my case, and the audience. The body of work is complete when the viewer comes into contact with it, the reason why I think it is vital to listen to different responses people have in connection with the piece of art. Saying this, I don’t mean an artist has to change a body of work according to other people’s opinions, but build the body of work using an adequate language in regard to the target audience. Because the artist and the viewer might not share the same experience, it might be that the work says something different from what the artist actually wants to say. I think engaging with the audience is essential for any artist. It is a different form of feedback and another level of understanding my own piece of work.
What do you enjoy most about bringing your background into your work? Do you think it’s important to share your experiences? I think artists inevitably bring their background into their work. I suppose there are different reasons why I do this more obviously. It might be because I talk more deeply about something I experienced rather than about something I didn’t. Also, even if I am a singular case, it can be generalised as I am translating a socio-political phenomenon in visual language.
Is there a photographer whose work inspired this series of yours? I have a great interest in documentary photography, especially what we now call new documentaries. Visually, Edward Burtynsky influenced my perception of the landscape, but there were other artists who had an impact on my art (not photographers necessarily) such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Anselm Kiefer and Shimon Attie.
What’s your biggest achievement since graduating? When I had just graduated I won The Best Student Achievements Award from North East Photography Network and it was an amazing moment. It has provided me with confidence in the pieces of work I created. Since then I moved to London and I have been focusing very much on research for my next projects and building a career in this direction. I think this is the biggest achievement; realising that I am on the right path, doing what I enjoy the most. Another fact which proved me so was making a short trip to Newcastle and some future photography students approached me (I didn’t know them) telling me they felt very inspired by my projects.
Do you have any visual influences that always inform new work of yours? There are some bodies of work from Anselm Kiefer, Abelardo Morell, Josef Koudelka and the book, The Commissar Vanishes, which are stuck in my mind and influence the way I approach a subject visually and conceptually, but I am always researching and I always incorporate new visual influences. I look at as many photographs, paintings, and films as possible every day and I am also up to date with most of the exhibitions going on in London. I feel like sometimes I am more inspired by paintings and films, and I experiment combining these mediums in order to get something new.
What are your creative goals for the future? At the moment I am focusing on creating a new body of work, publishing the book The Communist Nightmare in Romania and I also have other plans such as writing a Romanian history of photography.