*27 February 1922 in Bucharest, Romania
+14 May 2012 in Paris, France
Horia Damian was born in Bucharest, Rumania, in 1922. He soon starts to develop a great passion for painting – first as an autodidact – and paints copies from the Old Maters. Above all Rembrandt and Velasquez fascinate him. At the age of 18, he already exposes his works publicly at the Salonul oficial al Primaveri. He soon wins national fame. After the second world-war he moves to Paris, where he is first student from André Lhote and later from Fernand Léger. From 1950 on, he begins to develop a work shaped with an incomparable singularity. Exhibitions in important museums and galleries follow, for example at the Musée d?Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, in 1972, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1976, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in 1980, the Neue Galerie, Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen, in 1974, or also at the Galerie Leo Castelli, New-York, in 1957, the Galerie Stadler, Paris (during the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies), the Galerie Denise René, Paris, New-York, in 1978, 1980, 1988, and the Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, in 2002. Among the very important stops of his artist-way, we may underline his participation at the Dokumenta IX in 1992 and at the Biennale from Venice in 1993. Damian works and lives from 2000 to 2012 in an unused factory in Châtillon, near Paris. On May, 14th 2012 Horia Damian passes away in Paris at the age of 90.
Damian’s picture world imposes silence. In his often monumental works, he confronts the spectator with metaphors of existence and human wounds. Whereas this humanist artistic expecting finds its climax in the latest works, it is also already to be found in Damian’s early works. Horia Damian, born in 1922, has been witness of the atrocities of the second world-war. The tragic death of the mother in 1944 leads him to meditation about human existence and transience. After his arrival in Paris, European art capital at that time, in 1946, he first has to endure some difficult years, during which he meditates about another theme of his work: loneliness and isolation. He soon becomes Fernand Léger’s pupil, what gives his artistic career an impulse. At the beginning, he paints abstract geometrical compositions in pale, delicate colors. Until the end of the 50ies, he comes closer to what we would call today informal or gestual painting. His compositions are always abstract, rich with substance and executed in oil and resin. In 1963, Damian’s technique changes suddenly. He arises a pyramid, a wood relief. From then on, he will choose his subjects about the same theme: a mystical universe dominated by imposing architectures. Most of his works are three-dimensional and monumental. The latest years, Horia Damian’s oeuvre takes a new direction. His last work cycle, including creations from 2000-2005, distinguishes itself from the entire oeuvre in that the artist develops new thematic fields as well as a new technique combining different mediums. These pictures are paintings but not in the traditional way. Damian realizes collages, wood, cloth or cardboard assemblages fixed on painted ground. This playing with the two- and three-dimensional confers to his works an incomparable power and profundity. The monumentality is of course the effect of the big sized works (often more than 2 x 3 m) but also of their thematic. So in Damian’s picture world one can find realistic representation of resting or laying human beings, sarcophaguses, windows opened on starry skies or accumulations of cloth sacks. With extremely simple stylistic means and a representation concentrated on the essential, these works constitute modern allegories of classical painting themes. Primordial and timeless reflections dominate this picture world. The artist presents different versions of his own conception of the Vanitas. Because if we absolutely want to interpret these colossal pictograms, it is only to be done in this way.