Vittorio Holtier

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Vittorio Holtier, "The Tower and the Island, a Shakespearian Universe, an Attempt at Approach by Means of Centrality Archetypes"

By Luminita Batali

The artist doubled by the intellectual, this could have been another subtitle, the one given by the art historians, critics or the competent observers, for the exceptional exhibition from the Kalinderu Center of distinguished painter and stage designer. One of the first names in Romanian stage design offers us a singular exhibition, able to highlight this rare and complex art, the sine qua non condition of each successful theatrical performance, for the well-advised audience, but larger than the stage design fruitors. Because, as Meyerhold said at the beginning of the last century, the scene tolerates neither absolute abstraction, nor absolute naturalism, and you need true calling to succeed in graphic completion of staging, and also to open an exhibition as one can rarely see in far-off countries (including the Prague Quadriennal) about the meaning of the graphic embodiment of dramatic and director's ideas.
But let's see the facts: at the first level of the exhibition we notice nocturnal and day-time elements of the artist's pictorial and graphic concerns. Light-colored signs, configuring a sword, for example, on a black background, have their counterpart on the opposite side of the exposition room, where the bright day-light setting of the works illustrates sensitive things, such as the foliage of a tree. I believe I haven't seen in the Romanian painting such a vivid illustration of the light among the leaves, such a delicate yet strong declared exposition of nature, since Luchian. I think that in this work Vittorio Holtier’s work we are dealing with an explosion of his painter side that the theater man must often dedicate to another aim than painting, even if for an equally great aesthetic success.
I am not one of the critics that lose their self-control in front of great art, but that Vittorio Holtier’s study is an astonishing reunion with the light of Romanian painting, with the Romanian landscape, with that old light, of a long ago country, that seems not to have even existed if it hadn't been for Luchian or other artists to have the gift to remind us of it.
But, as I first said, we are dealing with an artist doubled by an intellectual, by a mind that investigates, speculates in a philosophic manner and transfers these explorations to the graphic, painting or stage design sphere.
In “King Lear”, performed a few years ago at Bulandra Theatre and stage designed by the artist, we met with the creation of some costumes full of power and visual impact (about which I wrote at that time) and with a scenographic symbol of the whole play, a wooden structure, the boat on which Lear stands at some point, at full storm. In Vittorio Holtier's creation, along with the sensitive nature that seeks the landscape, we could also talk about the existence of a rough, lucid side that leads to the creation of these structures, the sophisticated wooden scaffoldings that hold a completely different message than the landscapes, the flowers or the photographs. It is a message about power, about the destiny's mysterious meanders, not always benevolent to man. Otherwise, in his creation for “Arden of Feversham”, maybe the most powerful stage design of an entire decade in Romanian theatres, we assisted at such a display of forces, given that Vittorio Holtier has always chosen the hard road when conceiving stage design, just like ancient Herakles.
At the second level of the Kalinderu expositional space, we notice one of the powerful wooden structures from “Arden of Feversham”, with the ascension element surrounded by drawings and projects for different plays that the eye greedily deciphers.
But let's say a few words about the “Arden” stage design… The robust and sophisticated wooden structure managed to combine and express the idea of London Bridge and also the medieval atmosphere. It located the place and time unostentatiously, cleanly, with rare asceticism and visual efficiency.
And still about “Arden”… I confess that during the show I was puzzled by the modeling of the stage itself on which actors stepped, with some heavy eiderdowns that made the steps very difficult. But their effect on the actors' performances, the effort that they made in order to step, explained to me the fulfilled intention of the artist.
It is a rare thing in the multitude of exhibitions that say little, to be successful in a captivating exhibition, and even more, in one that brings close the fact, the stage design creation. The simple approach, as a visitor, to the great and mysterious wooden structure brought from the play “Arden of Feversham”, induces a vaguely restless feeling, given the features of the object, but also the joy of knowing what the actors feel when they perform in such spaces. And this coming near also helps you to understand that they can only perform splendidly.

This text was presented during the “Fine Arts” broadcast, Radio Romania Cultural, December 2005.
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