On the other side of a brightly lit hallway, through thick black curtains, a dark and empty room is revealed. As it takes a while for the eyes to adjust to the change in environment, a closed space with murals in wild brush strokes and dim projections on the walls start to form.

This is what one should expect to see when they walk into the “Ai de capu’ meu” (“Woe is me”) media installation, taking place between the 28th of May and the 14th of July at the Quadro 21 Gallery, as part of TIFF 17’s official line-up. Created by 29 year old Romanian animator, director and illustrator Paul Mureșan, the project uses a multitude of mediums and tools − animation, video, digital art, installation, sound, drawing − to take the viewers through an inner journey that can only have one destination: that of self-reflection and revelation of the “shadows” hidden within us.

That is essentially the message Paul Mureșan aims to put across through his art, not only with this particular show, but with other past projects. He is mostly known for his psychedelic animated shorts like “Pui de somn”/“Baby Nap” (2014) and “Mamă, tată, trebuie să vă spun ceva”/“Mom, Dad, I Have To Tell You Something” (2016), selected and awarded at festivals around the world such as Annecy, ITF Stuttgart, Cannes and Anim’est.

Some animations from “Pui de Somn”/”Baby Nap” were projected on the walls of the exhibition.
Artist Paul Mureșan introducing the exhibition to visitors. Source: Quadro 21 Gallery Facebook


All throughout his childhood he has been told that he is not talented enough and that he should give up on drawing, but that would only urge him on. People would tell him that his drawings were more “scribbles” than anything, that he had no style, and that was when he realised “Very well, if that’s the only thing I know how to do, then that shall be my style. I’m Paul who scribbles.”

This is why he prefers working with traditional mediums of expression, such as paper, ink, graphite, pastel, acrylic, instead of graphic tablets. Because, as he puts it, much like in life, one often makes mistakes that they cannot erase as easily as you can the errors in a tablet drawing. “If we could do that, nothing would be real. And maybe we wouldn’t even appreciate the beautiful things in life anymore,” he says. But, on the other hand, he considers it a blessing in disguise, at least in his art; the fact that scribbling is by default a mistake and, therefore, you cannot possibly mess it up any further.

organised mess

This so-called mess doesn’t only show in his illustrations, but also in the way the exhibition is organised. Or, more precisely, isn’t organised. “The visitor will enter an area in which A is not connected to B, B is not connected to C, but rather A is connected to G, to stigma and to other letters the visitor has never seen before,” he states in the official brochure of the exhibition. He believes that, just as we do not have a clear order inside our heads, the display itself doesn’t have one either and it doesn’t matter where you start and where you end up, as long as you see it in its entirety.

Another pivotal aspect of the experience is the score that accompanies the projections, something that he created himself as well. Amongst ambient sounds such as a train in motion, or the whistling of the wind, there is one in particular that Mureșan holds dear to his heart. It is an audio recording of his mother cooking that he slowed down 2,000 times. Just like many of his sources of inspiration and elements in his art, this one is something fairly mundane, but, when put into a different light, it adds a special and extremely intimate touch to the exhibit.

“That’s what I want to say, that we are all a little ‘broken’, that we are imperfect, but that the way we are is okay.”

This intimacy that one cannot help but be enveloped by when walking through the different rooms is perhaps the whole point of the show, something that Mureșan underlined. “I want to invite people into my head to see that I’m a little scared, maybe a little scared of myself, scared of what I think about. And then they will probably say: ‘Oh my God, I have weird things like this in my head as well’. Because we all actually want to give the impression that we are very balanced, (…) but, in reality, we aren’t really. (…) That’s what I want to say, that we are all a little ‘broken’, that we are imperfect, but that the way we are is okay.”

“Ai de capu’ meu” promises an intimate and self-reflective perspective on the process of growing up, from both a human and an artistic point of view. As Mureșan himself states in the brochure, “we use our minds as a kind of carpet under which we sweep the thoughts we don’t want to have such ready access to” and whether this exhibition successfully manages to put the viewer in a state where “we can look at the unpleasant part of the mind as if it were a spectacle performed exclusively for us” is up to each individual to discover.

Paul is currently competing for the Orange Click for Flicks Award with his 2018 animation “Ceva”/”Something”. The winner can be nominated by voting here before February 8th, 2019.