Paul Neagu

neagu.jpg

Title

Paul Neagu

Type

person

Birth Date

1938

Birthplace

Bucharest

Death Date

2004

Occupation

artist, sculptor, painter, performance artist

Biographical Text

 Paul Neagu was a British-Romanian artist whose work included drawing, sculpture, performance art and watercolour. He was born in 1938 in Bucharest to a devout Christian family of six children. His father was a cobbler and Neagu worked in several trades (electrician, cartographer, draftsman, railway worker) before settling as an artist. He failed to get a place to study philosophy (which was officially confined to Marxist-Leninist ideology), so he instead studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Bucharest (1959-1965).
 
In 1969, when travel restrictions were briefly lifted by the Communist government, Richard Demarco visited Neagu in Bucharest and enthusiastically offered him a ‘first show/performance of palpable art’ in his gallery in Edinburgh. Neagu’s avant-garde manifesto promoted “palpable art as a new joy for the ‘blind’” and this event became a turning point in his life and career. He settled in Britain in 1970, just before the Iron Curtain tightened again after Ceausescu’s visit to China. Neagu was naturalised in 1977, but held firm to his Romanian roots while being regarded by critics as 'the most important Romanian artist since Constantin Brancusi’.
 
Neagu was keen to emphasize that sculpture should unify “an aesthetics of the organic”, while tactility and human interaction remained a cornerstone of his work: “You can take things in better, more completely, with your ten fingers, pores and mucous membranes than with only two eyes.”
 
His Generative Art Group was set up in 1972 with Neagu as group director, and four other aliases, each representing a fictitious alter ego of his visionary world. This fictional Pirandellian group attracted funding and critical attention and allowed him to work across a wide range of artistic forms. Sculpture intertwined with performance and film, and began to express his interest in Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy and P. D. Ouspensky’s esotericism. 

The performance piece, ‘Gradually Going Tornado’ (1974), was a pivotal moment in his artistic development. It was a synesthetic show involving roller skating, dance, compartmentalising the body, and discarding clothes, and which revolved around the idea of central vortexes and spiral movement, echoing spiritual, ecstatic rituals (“a dance which leads me in to transcendence and invisibility”).
 
Neagu’s first ‘Hyphen’ was produced in 1975: a tripod structure grounded in the cobbler’s last. Described originally as the ‘Subject Generator’, the Hyphen expressed in palpable form the inextricable link between each member of the Generative Art Group. Having a profound respect for sacred geometry, Neagu saw in this structure the symbolic potential of the Trinity, a source of all-embracing energies governing human life. From this sign of linguistic conjoining he developed ‘anthropocosmic’ figures and focused on the Hyphen for the rest of his life, creating many conceptual variations on it:

“Hyphen is my recurrent instrument of work as the plough is for the farmer. Conceptually it relates the essence of the earth to the body of man and to the ideas of the harvest”. (‘Paul Neagu’, Third Eye Centre, 1979)


Entry authored by Dr Alex Popescu, Dec 2016

Geolocation

Collection

Citation

“Paul Neagu,” Tyler Collection of Romanian and Modern Art: University of Tasmania, accessed September 23, 2017, http://tylercollection.omeka.net/items/show/906.