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Garden of Secrets


Curatorial speech by Dr. Arch. Iulia Toader.


I asked Maria Costake why she had chosen flowers as a language for her ideas, and she explained with her characteristic tenderness that flowers actually speak about the world in a different way than words but with the same meaning. She talked about femininity as a state of mind and, thus, as a first layer of interpretation of her graphic decision. But when asked if she has had other subjects in her works, he showed me a collection of images in which urban architecture is actually swallowed up by a lush green vegetation, crying out to be perceived as the main character. The combination with architecture is what attracts me, Maria being a graphics arts graduate at UAR in 2018, she made me question the problem of metabolizing reality in the act of creation. Architecture metabolizes the inner Reality of the architect and changes the real world, establishing itself in the latter. (Maria's) art metabolises physical reality to change the viewer's inner world, establishing itself there. This difference between architecture and art was most powerfully explained to me in a discussion by the curator Erwin Kessler who pointed out that while architecture's primary purpose is not to fall on man, art aims precisely to "fall" on man, over the one who perceives it. A significant difference where it is not a matter of a gravitational fall but, rather, of falling back into a garden of spirituality, of inner heaven. A garden of secrets.


It's a wonder how, floating through Maria Costake's artistic universe, we won't realize if we're falling back into this secret garden of juicy and tender heaven, or if a shower of fresh spring flowers isn't falling over us, a lacy vegetal deluge, kaleidoscopic, with shifted colors, metabolised by the artist's sensitivity to shades that have supernatural, dreamlike references.


The search for meaning is the very artistic experience itself. Sometimes a small lilac flower is extracted from the graphic lacework and exposed intentionally, as a visual center, the counterpoint of the abundance of flowers, at the same time the abundance itself, a small flower in which the perfection of creation shines, simplicity and complexity coexisting, in a work whose architect is supreme. Sometimes an element of architecture, a window, is invaded by ivy and made to speak like a flower, receptor of light filtered by a created, planned structure. Both are evidence for the demonstration of the teleological theory of the universe as intelligent design (see Paley's watchmaker analogy argument).


We wonder if the thorough, extremely complicated unfolding of the graphic line has anything to do with the dream world, and if we could, in accordance with Jung, establish causes and effects for the rigor and perseverance with which the artist marks the thick Hahnemuehle paper, as would be the anchoring of one's own reality in a dream of perfect, accepted femininity, springing from the meanderings of the vegetative nervous system, of the kind we find in Emily Dickinson's poems in which nature is, likewise, an external alter ego of the poet:


Ample make this Bed -/ Make this Bed with Awe -/  In it wait till Judgment break/  Excellent and Fair. / Be it's Mattress straight – / Be it's Pillow round – / Let no Sunrise' yellow noise, Interrupt this Ground –

a sleep that becomes a metaphor for the vegetative state that all this greenery obstinately exposed to the gaze evokes, an incipient state of the physical world in which the individual had not yet appeared, and all was one, an occult reality nourished by the sap of deathless life. The vegetative dream.


But in the same logic of cause and effect, we find the fascination of flowers as a Gothic symbol for impermanence and death. In their perfect, archetypal beauty, each flower is a reproduction of the archetype of the perfect flower: thousands of peonies, each different, yet conforming to the archetype of the peony flower idea. The flowers, as a whole, each unique, but consistent with the idea of ​​a flower: a symbol of passing. A poetic insinuation of the death and resurrection of the same flower idea, in another physical form, different but still the same. There is no more beautiful poem about death and rebirth (Renaissance) than the image of a flower.


And then, a final layer of meaning, perhaps the deepest. The one where subjectivity and objectivity shape our reality: we remember the koan of the shower of flowers. A monk was sitting under a blossoming tree. The gods tell him that they like the monk's speech about the notion of emptiness – void, absence, sunnyata. The monk answers them that he didn't talk about emptiness. The gods answer: you didn't talk about the void, we didn't hear about the void, this is the true emptiness – This is the true emptiness. And the flowers of the tree fell upon the monk like rain. The depth of the concept of emptiness, of absolute absence, is given by another Zen idea in which we are thought that "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form" and that existence is born from emptiness. So we can look for the empty space between the words or the empty space between the flowers of the artist, there, in the absence of painstakingly drawn flowers, we will find the gentle gaze of a goddess who created the model of the ideal flower, who lives in all flowers, be they natural or drawn, but which no flower is perfect enough to touch. All flowers fall and decay to a rebirth of flowers. Void for the gods.


It is also important that the artist chose to print her flowers on this ethereal material - silk, so linked to femininity - silk scarves, silk evening dresses, silk underwear, silk curtains, silk tights , silk robes. The secret of silk was kept for thousands of years in China, where only women, with their finest hands, could spin and weave the precious threads that ensured the well-being of communities and trade with the west. It is interesting that after countless attempts to spy and buy the secret of silk threads, a monopoly so well guarded by China for thousands of years, legend has it that it was a young princess who smuggled silkworm donuts into Khotan for the precious garments without which she could not live, leaving for her wedding with the chosen prince. Historical reality would tell us that the secret of silk was bought with heavy gold by the Byzantine emperor Justinian from some monks who stole the silkworms hidden in bamboo sticks, the craft of sericulture being deepened and then brought to the Venetian weavers. Silk, then, seems the quintessentially feminine support on which to unfold Maria Costake's secret garden. Whether we resort to psychoanalysis or not, the repetitiveness of flowers, their weaving into intricate patterns and the emphasis on flowers and sometimes fruit with a calm plasticity, is strongly linked to feminine sensuality, to reproduction, to the ever-reviving, fractal beauty of the living world , a drop of life in a flower-universe. The flowers of the secret garden are looking for us, each of them has a favorite viewer already chosen, predestined, and the light of our eyes will see in Maria's art more than a flower, exquisitely painted after nature, a moment of life suspended for careful research . We will see that primordial, perfect flower, that flower of all flowers, the absolute idea of ​​the flower: life, death and rebirth.