Vlad-Vasile Toca: “I feel like home here”
Romanian art-historian shares his impressions of Armenia
It’s already 5 years State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia has been cooperating with the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca, Romania within Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility programme. The head of International Relations of SAFAA Mary Patvakanyan noted that we were also positively influenced by the financial assistance received from the art universities of former socialist countries that further took the path of independence and were integrated into EU, like Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Poland.
Such opportunities helped the realization of cooperation and real student and teacher exchange with Romania, the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca (UAD). Throughout these years 3 students from SAFAA were on exchange studies at UAD Cluj-Napoca and 1 teacher for delivering one-week lecturing again within Erasmus+ ICM. This year, in 2022 another 2 teachers from SAFAA will visit UAD for the same purpose. At the moment both universities strive to foster cooperation to enhance the mobility levels and numbers also to motivate the Romanian students to pay attention to this direction as well, rather than Western Universities.
This time SAFAA hosted 3 teachers-artists, art-historians from UAD Cluj-Napoca; Mr. Vlad-Vasile Toca, Ms. Veronica-Ioana Rus-Cacovean and Ms. Roxana Modreanu. The lectures were around the following themes; an overview of Romanian and/or Transylvanian art, with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries, avant-garde art in Romania between the two world wars, art in Romania from the 1960’s to 1989, art in Romania after 1989: the case of the “School of Cluj”. A separate chapter was dedicated to Cluj-Napoca, how this small town, far away from Bucharest succeeded to gain fame and be popular due to its artists and art created by them throughout the recent thirty years. The lectures also focused on Romanian and in particular Transylvanian art in the 14-19th centuries, and its present conservation state, through a series of case studies that gained status of historic monument, or others that were abandoned and neglected in spite of their aesthetic and cultural value.
Mr. Toca is an art-historian who took another trip to Armenia after his first visit during the previous year that made great impression on him. This time he came with another two colleagues to get to know the Academy itself to get a better insight of the institution and foster Armenian-Romanian ties, discover the country and further to present all of this to the Romanian audience. Taking into account the reality that students both from their side and from ours are more focused on Western culture and Western universities there is a real demand to motivate them and change their scope of interest directing them to the East as well. As a solution to this issue the International Relations office suggested some ideas to further discuss and develop.
During his previous visit and this time as well he managed to visit many sights in Armenia and in Yerevan as well and was very impressed by the art and urban architecture created in the mid of previous century. According to him it was completely different and has a unique Armenian style.
– What peculiarities did you notice in the Armenian art, Armenian reality during your two visits to Armenia? Are there any similarities? What parallels can you draw between the two cultures and ideologies?
– There are more similarities than differences, due to the historical events of 20th century in particular. During the recent 20 years Armenia entered another historical stage. Today’s Armenia reminds me of Romania a few decades ago, before taking the European path.
– What influence did the freedom and independence from the Soviet zone and the events in the late 20th century have on Romanian art and social thinking?
– It depends on generations; everybody wants to change though as an exception I can mention only those artists who have confirmed themselves in the sphere, who bear old ideologies in mind. After the integration to the European path, the social thinking changed in the core.
– You were impressed by the new architectural style of Armenia and what will you say about the old Armenian spiritual and church architecture? It is quite different from the architecture of Christian world.
– Definitely I knew about it from books, literature, photos, films but when you see it in reality especially for us for art-historians it was quite surprising; the fact that there was such architecture in the first millennium and even earlier. It is very important to preserve those architectural forms also of Hellenism, old Roman art in terms of transmitting them to Europe. And there you can notice there was highly developed civilization in Armenia in those years at the same time observing similarities with the West and Eastern European culture. Summing up what I have learnt, studied and read about Armenian civilization I can note that it is an inseparable part of Old Classical World, as a Christian country it carries typical European values. Armenia is like a European island in the East.
– It is interesting and I must mention that one of our pro-Western politicians gave a similar wording, saying that “Armenia is the most Eastern guard, fence of Western civilization.
– It is definitely my impression too. Here you can feel European breath and the same time the breath of East. It can be noticed in the behavior of people. Armenia is a crossroad between West and East, like Romania. I feel like home here․ There is a very important Armenian community in Romania that have been formed since 18-19th centuries (Armenians have lived in Romania much earlier since 14-15th centuries – correction made by M. B.) and are fully integrated into the economic, cultural (especially through art), literary, as well as political life. There are Armenians among the members of Parliament in Romania and even a Minister of Armenian origin.
Translated by Naira Stepanyan