Aida Tomescu (Biographical details)

Aida Tomescu (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; Romanian; Australian; Female; 1955)

Also known as

Tomescu, Aida

Biography

Text from Stephen Coppel, 'Out of Australia: Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas', with a contribution by Wally Caruana on Aboriginal prints, BMP, 2011.
Tomescu was born and brought up in Bucharest in Romania. She trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Bucharest where the students drew the same subject repeatedly from plaster casts, initially working in pencil and then in charcoal. In 1977 she graduated with a diploma in painting and two years later she had her first solo exhibition in Bucharest. Abstraction came to replace her early still life and landscape work. Important formative influences were Cézanne and Willem de Kooning, whose work she saw in an exhibition in Bucharest prior to her emigration to Australia in 1980.
Arriving in Sydney at the age of twenty five, she began to make collages of torn up paper which had been extensively worked over in an abstract expressionist idiom. Her work was shown in Sydney in various group exhibitions, including one of women artists at Gallery A in 1982 and another titled 'A Different Perspective' at Artspace in 1983. After completing a graduate diploma of art at the City Art Institute in Sydney in 1983, she had regular solo shows of her dark abstract paintings at Coventry Gallery in Sydney over ten years from 1985 to 1995. Cool neutral tones of slate blue and grey dominated her paintings of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2003 she won the Dobell Prize for Drawing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 'Negru III' and 'Negru IV' ('A candle in a dark room'), a pair of drawings in white pastel over deeply etched black prints made the previous year. A radical change of palette to fiery reds and shrill yellows governs her paintings from the mid-2000s in which the highly charged colour masses are layered and worked over with calligraphic markings. In 2009 a survey of her paintings, drawings and prints made since 1993 was held at the Australian National University's Drill Hall Gallery.
Printmaking has been an integral part of Tomescu's work since 1986. In that year John Loane, master printer and founder of the Victorian Print Workshop (established in 1981), invited the artist to make etchings in Melbourne after seeing the rich textures of her painted collages. The idea of working in series across a number of etching plates appealed to her as it offered a platform allied to her method of layering paint on canvas. In 1993 Tomescu made a breakthrough series of large-scale aquatints entitled 'Seria Unu'. Of dramatic intensity in their deep blackness and contrasting fissures of light, these were produced with Viridian Press, the print studio and print publishing business which Loane had set up in 1988 after leaving the Victorian Print Workshop. Other intaglio series made by her with Viridian Press include 'Ithaca' (2001,1125.2(8) and 2001,1125.2(9)) in 1997 and 'Seria Neagra' in 1999.
In recent years Tomescu has taken to making annual pilgrimages to Europe primarily to see paintings by the masters she most admires - Bellini, Piero della Francesca and Titian, as well as works by Cézanne, Malevich and Pollock. Yet living and working in Sydney she remains fiercely attached to her adoptive country. As she explained in 2009: 'The move to Australia was right for me. The distance and the isolation are crucial for my work. From feeling closed in [when she was in Romania], I stepped outside. Even though I need to travel in Europe, gaining strength and clarity from revisiting works I love, I wouldn't want to paint there. I need the space. I don't think I could have done this work from living anywhere else' (cited in Hart, p. 11).

Bibliography

Anne Gray (ed.), 'Australian Art in the National Gallery of Australia', Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2002, text by Aida Tomescu on her painting 'Ithaca II', p. 419; Deborah Hart, 'Aida Tomescu: Paintings and Drawings', exh. cat., with foreword by Nancy Sever, Canberra: Drill Hall Gallery, The Australian National University, 2009; Cathy Leahy, 'Spitting and Biting: Ten Contemporary Artists and the Print', exh. cat., Melbourne: Monash University Gallery, 2000