ALINA LEDEANU: My dear Geta, right here, in your studio, a kind of poster-manifest hung on the wall, an A3-sized one with large lettering, whose text I simply cannot forget: „I have met / different angels, / the daimons / who sweep the world. / They raced my vehicle, / THE STUDIO, / they appeared to me, / and we sang together / incomprehensible songs.”
Along with The Daimoness, the work that has kept you company to this very day in your studio, that text was featured in the 2006 exhibition „The Traveler”, that Teodor Graur set up for you at the „Hanul-cu-Tei” (Linden-Tree Inn) gallery. Is it also, The Daimoness, an artistic self-portrait? A metaphor of Geta Brătescu the artist?
GETA BRĂTESCU: Indeed it is. You put it right.
A.L.: Let’s talk, then, about your relationship with the studio as a concept and every-day athanor.
A.L.: Your work is so powerful, so vast, and so complex all at once, that life itself appears as a reflection of its own creation. Let me quote just some of your cycles: Aesop and Nasreddin, Faustus, Medea, Drawings „with Closed Eyes”, Athanor, Vestiges, Costumes for Ephemeral Holidays, The Game of Forms, The Ingenuous Bearded Man. Ever since your early prime, as you said, you had that heel nudging you, that „imperative of creation”, or „imperative of creation as a syndrome of youth”, as you called it.
G.B.: Yes, but I was also lucky to have those around me: first my parents, then Mihai, my husband. […]
A.L.: You have often recalled your great teachers: Ressu, Călinescu…
G.B.: Ressu and Călinescu were indeed my Teachers.
A.L.: At some point in your formation, did they also become your models?
G.B.: First of all, I would make a distinction between teachers and models. A model gives you a form, a shape, whereas teachers give you more than a form. They give a…, they give a form to your thinking. Yes, and they also give you freedom. That’s a pinnacle: the teacher being the one who gives you freedom…
A.L.: … the freedom of being yourself.
G.B.: Yes, of being yourself, without… how should I put it? The teacher gives you a well-thought freedom, whereas the model doesn’t give you freedom. The model stalls you.
A.L.: …because it imposes itself on you.
G.B.: Exactly! It imposes itself. Whereas the well-thought freedom goes like this: what I want to do is, look, this thing, so I think: this form, does it match what I want it to be? I mean, I try to detach myself from myself. To become my own teacher. And then, after having detached myself from myself, to look and say: Well, yes, it’s good or it’s not good.
A.L.: But have you also had models? Or just teachers?
G.B.: I haven’t had models, no. Well, of course, I’ve had encounters, favorable intersections. It goes without saying I had those. There were artists who told me: „Look what he did, that guy!” Very well, what I’ve done is not the same thing, but it’s equally free, this is what I mean. For instance, when it comes to „major encounters”, there was my meeting Doinaș.
A.L.: Your meeting Doinaș – what did it mean to you?
G.B.: Doinaș encouraged me, for one thing. He was most delighted with what I did, so he gave me courage. My major encounter with Doinaș occurred when he published Faustus. It was about my illustrating Faustus, which, as I have said already, was not actually an illustration.
A.L.: Obviously not. It was your diving into a philosophy and a text, both fundamental.
G.B.: Yes, and Doinaș liked this. He liked it very much.
A.L.: Geta, you work an awful lot. This studio of yours is rather like Ali Baba’s cave… Which is your working schedule?
G.B.: In the morning, I can hardly wait to sit down here. At noon, I eat swiftly, almost hurriedly, I lie down some ten minutes and then I sit down here again. And I draw.
A.L.: Since we’re talking about your studio, what has it been, for you, over time, to work not for The 21st Century, but work The 21st Century itself?
G.B.: Well, The 21st Century is no text for me.
A.L.: Of course it’s no text, and it’s no illustration, either, as far as you’re concerned. It is much more, it’s a genuine construction.
G.B.: It’s a construction, indeed.
A.L.: A construction I have always conceived of as being a part of your work as well. That’s why it seemed only natural to me that our issue from 2001, at the turn of the century, when the journal also turned from being The 20th Century to being The 21st Century, should have more than a work of yours on its front cover, that it should have something of your own being – your hands. Their clenching on the front cover of the very first issue of The 21st Century, dedicated to Nietzsche, was also a metaphor of two eras that were still together, but predictably separating from each other.
G.B.: I have always worked The Century with great pleasure, because I’ve been very free. If I hadn’t had that freedom…
A.L.: …you’d have given it up.
G.B.: Yes, but so I played along…
A.L.: I wouldn’t call it playing! Maybe playing inasmuch as there is so much ludicity in your work. Here’s what impresses me: at the beginning of every year, you ask me: „When do we get to work?” Is it pleasure? Is it responsibility for a part of your work, that’s been built up over the decades…? For this construction that is so much yours? No, I don’t think it is just playing…
G.B.: Well, yes, of course… I like it, I like it very much. With The Century, I’ve always been given freedom. Even under communism, I was given freedom. I couldn’t say I’m a victim of politics – I couldn’t say that. Politics had a certain respect for The Century, because it needed it for the outer world, as a shopfront journal, obviously.
A.L.: But a journal that has made enormous services to several generations of readers.
G.B.: This is also very true.