Paintings for Paradise
The paintings by Simona Mihaela Stoia (b. 1982) are sensuous, mysterious, compact, open, intricate and bold. In every work she tries to find a balance between a pale, thinly applied background layer and a compilation of vigorous, seemingly clumsy or very precise brush strokes which create pictorial space. At the same time, she tries to find another balance, namely between a finished and an unfinished appearance. And thirdly she is always in quest of new ways to transfigure figurative scenes into an interesting field of paint.
Her starting point, on the level of the image, are numerous historical attempts to represent the paradise of the Christians. This creates an immediate challenge, because the imagery is essentially of a fantastic nature and as such tends to tilt into ‘painting’ almost automatically: plants and animals are wild and weird, prehuman, untamed, nameless, multimorph and therefore almost made out of paint already. Brushstrokes swirl, intervene, impose themselves, dissapear, crush, hide and reveal. The subject lends itself to freedom, but a freedom secretly linked to the starting point: the wish to represent a (non existing) space and its inhabitants.
I have had the luxury to live with an exceptional painting by Stoia representing a small lemon tree bearing heavy fruit. On a thinly applied background, which transperces at several spots, she has applied some purple patches (typical for all her paintings, suggesting shadow, darkness or danger) and then a dozen different greens, ranging from olive green to emerald and hooker green. All these greens have been mixed by her with the brush, directly on the palette. Because the paint isn’t mixed into a homogeneous mass (unless this is required to paint a quiet, even surface) with a painter’s knife, but with the brush itself, particles of the original colours might get stuck between the hairs of the brush and appear suddenly within a wide brushstroke creating an unexpected richness of colour or effect of light. Thus, to represent the four or five lemons in the painting, Stoia mixes lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, titanium white and a tiny bit of yellow ocre and purple, but always differently, creating volume or shadow by mixing the yellow and the white with the still wet green paint beneath. Not one ‘lemon’ looks the same. The fifth one is only suggested with a green patch that has a sibling elsewhere in the painting, suggesting a shadow between two ‘lemons’. The painting’s surface is very lively, accidental, vigorous and tender at the same time.
To me, the highest example of literature – the place where literature comes closest to life, to flesh, to love and passion – is to be found in Virginia Woolf’s novels. Language seems to obtain a body in her work, while remaining highly vivid, inspired, spiritual, intelligent and sensitive at the same time. The same sensual encounter between body and mind seems to take place in these paintings: as vigorous, as bold, as sensitive and sensible. Stoia is a generous painter. She takes risks. She makes herself vulnerable. She creates freedom. She makes us happy with the paintings in front of us, while making us already curious to see the paintings to come.
Hans Theys, Montagne de Miel, 1 September 2019