The City Is Beautiful When Asleep

An interview with Dumitru Gorzo by Andreea Ciupercă

Dumitru Gorzo
from Maramuresh made friends with the Capital that gave him everything, and now he's heading for New York. 'The first time I came to Bucharest, I thought I would die after three days. I somehow got to Berceni, I stayed on Oltenitei Road, there was the tramway and I couldn't sleep. I had come all the way from Maramuresh, some 12 hours by train, arrived at about 6 o'clock in the morning and couldn't have a nap until the evening.' These are the first memories the painter Dumitru Gorzo has about the Capital. But this was 17 years ago, and Bucharest has become a friend meantime. More than that: a good friend. And, just as in any other relationship, they sometimes fight, then they make it up, but the most important thing continues: they are close to each other when times are rough. 'Bucharest has given me a lot. I couldn't have done my most important projects if I hadn't been here. And, even if this is not obvious, a lot of my works are inspired by Bucharest. By the opportunities Bucharest gave me,' he confesses. But he still doesn't sleep, and still also because the city doesn't let him. 'The city is beautiful at night. Particularly when it rains, when it's wet the light and the colors change a lot in the City. That's when I like it best. When it sleeps, the City sleeps beautifully. That's when things settle down and it's peaceful,' Gorzo says, happy he has a reason to give up sleep.
Inspired by the CapitalHe is well-known for the stencil with Ceausescu in it, perhaps better-known than he is, called 'I'll be back 5 minutes' for the Lard Church build in Carol Park – where the Cathedral for the Salvation of the Nation should have been – which brought him public disgrace and the label 'anti-orthodox'. Which he is not: he simply felt he had to do something for the City. To save it from the smokers' disease: lung cancer. The lungs that parks – few as they are, anyway – represent. The cathedral would have taken about half of Carol Park. Most of his projects have come to life in Bucharest. 'It is only fair to do something for this city. This is where I live and it did a lot for me. Now, I'm giving it back my art,' he explains the deal with his friend, Bucharest. That's why he walks up and down in it. For some good time, he used to draw in a backyard in Tineretului neighborhood, close to what he calls 'the pole monument'. 'It's something incredible. You won't find its like anywhere else. It's a pole on top of a pedestal. How can you not like Bucharest?' he laughs. He's also happy because he can still find walls to paint on. That's no exaggeration and the Cocoon project is one of these examples. 'Bucharest let me hang my pictures on its fences and sell them. And I let it tear them off, draw on them, do what it pleased. If I had been anywhere else, I couldn't have done it,' he admits. I missed Bucharest's smellHe says wherever he goes and stays for more than just several days, he misses the Capital. There was just one city that didn't give him this feeling of alienation. 'In New York, that's where I didn't miss Bucharest. And I stayed there for several months. Well, I sometimes missed the smell, because the city smells in its own way, and also missed some people.' But, for the rest, 'I liked it there,' the painter admits. From his point of view, his Bucharest mission still has some objectives to achieve. One of them is 'the biggest wall I would ever paint on', namely the Văcăresti Lake, in Vitan. A concrete platform, 'which you can see from the Moon' as Gorzo puts it, which Ceausescu meant to fill up with water and turn into a lake. Now though, there are some tents there, a cart with recyclable iron comes every now and then, and it's well looked after by packs of dogs left from the days when there were flocks of sheep which took their siesta in the area with their shepherd and flock of sheep. 'Do you realize what could be done here? It's huge and I would work like steam only to sweep it up with a broom,' Gorzo says, who finds the idea of doing one of his largest works very appealing. Meantime, he's flying to New York where he's going to stay 'more this time, as if I were going to live there for a while.' PlacesHe would take his friends everywhere, with 'Harap Alb' ('White Moor', his car. Its name comes from the main character of a famous Romanian tale written by Ion Creangă who, at some point, makes and travels with several friends who help him out from difficult magic challenges.) When it comes to being a tourist guide, Dumitru Gorzo says he would take his friends 'where I need to go'. This is not because he doesn't know what to show them, but because he wouldn't know where to start and what to choose. But he wouldn't protect them from whatever mischief Bucharest might play on them, because, as he puts it, 'the same way I can't tell where I'd take them, I can't tell where I wouldn't take them. I'd take them everywhere, I'd show them Bucharest at night. Apart from that, it's also important to bear in mind the kind of people who would ask me to show them Bucharest. I'd find something to suit them,' Gorzo says, admitting that no matter how much variety Bucharest has, not everybody likes it. But it's a good thing that it has some areas which might be liked by everyone. Moreover, the experience would certainly be challenging. Gorzo drives 'Harap Alb' with difficulty, but fondly. It is not terribly brave, but it used to be in its days. It's a big jeep which climbed mountains and faced swamps. Now it's only fighting the holes in the roads and technical problems. In spite of that, 'Harap Alb' has its personality. It's white, complete with little flowers, bees and leaves in spite of its 'tractor-like' bodywork. It doesn't always make it at the traffic lights, nor does it like the high gears. But it looks imposing in the city. And Gorzo is crazy about it.
Evenimentul zilei
(Daily Event) newspaper, Saturday, August 9, 2008
Translated by Maria Bebis

by Andreea Ciupercă; Dumitru Gorzo