Paul Neagu

Paul Neagu

b. 1938, Bucharest, Romania - d. 2004, London, UK

Considered one of the most important Romanian artists, Paul Neagu had lived and worked in London since 1970 until his death in 2004. His complex artistic practice integrates performance, sculpture, drawing, painting, video and photography, inside his original, holistic, metaphysical view on art. Tactility underlines one of Neagu's enduring aims: to refute what he perceived as the primacy of visuality within art. His ritualised performances often left a trail of sculptural objects and created immersive, sensory experiences. In 1970, by way of an exhibition in Edinburgh, he resettled in London, where his international outlook and rich, original work made him an influential teacher in art schools there for decades, with a decisive influence on a generation of sculptors, including Anthony Caro, Antony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor, among others. In 1972 he founded the Generative Art Group, which consisted of five fictitious members, each representing different parts of his psyche.

His works can be found in many public collections amongst which are The Arts Council of Great Britain, The National Museum of Arts (Romania), The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh), The Tate Gallery (London), The Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Kontakt Collection (Vienna) and have been recently shown in exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute (solo show, Leeds, 2015), Vienna Biennale 2015, New Museum (group show, New York, 2014), MACBA (group show, barcelona, 2011), etc.

Paul Neagu, "The Retrospective”, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, 2021, installation view, photo by Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich, Copyright: The Estate of Paul Neagu, All Rights Reserved, DACS
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Recent exhibitions (selection)

2022 The Retrospective (solo show, Bruseum, Neue Galerie Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria)

2021 The Retrospective (solo show, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein); What do we want to keep? Works from the Collection (group show, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein); The Geometry of Language (group show, The Gallery of De Montfort University Leicester)

2019-2020 Paul Neagu. Room 6 in Performer and Participant (solo presentation, Tate Modern, London); 24 Argumente / 24 Arguments (group show, MNAR – The National Museum of Art of Romania)

2019 Perspectives (BOZAR, Brussels, part of the Europalia Arts Festival Romania); Displacement and Togetherness (group show, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek Grimbergen, part of the Europalia Arts Festival Romania, curated by Salonul de proiecte); Partea asta care parcă are nevoie să iasă printr-un loc al corpului meu / This Part That Seemingly Needs to Be Extruded Through a Place in My Body, group show, Salonul de proiecte, Bucharest; Collective Exhibition for a Single Body – The Private Score – Vienna 2019, group show, Haus Wittgenstein, Vienna; Ex-East. Past and recent stories of the Romanian avant-garde, Espace Niemeyer, Paris

2018 Double Heads Matches (A selection of contemporary artworks from four Romanian private collections), group show, New Budapest Gallery

2017 Rodin. L’exposition du centenaire, group show, Grand Palais, Paris; Situations and Concepts, group show, Salonul de proiecte, Bucharest; Beyond the Concept Frontier, group show, Art Encounters Timișoara, Romania; Everything we see could also be otherwise (My sweet little lamb), group show, The Showroom, London

2016-2017 My Sweet Little Lamb (works from the Kontakt Art Collection), group show, Gallery Nova, Zagreb; Elizabeth Price Curates, group show, The Whitworth, University of Manchester, Manchester, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, UK

2015 Paul Neagu: Palpable Sculpture (solo show), Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK; Blind Bite (solo show), Ivan Gallery, Bucharest; group shows: Mapping Bucharest: Art, Memory, and Revolution 1916–2016 (MAK Vienna, Vienna Biennale 2015); Thirty One, National Gallery of Kosovo; The 1st edition of Timișoara ArtEncounters, contemporary art biennale, Timișoara, Romania

2014 Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module (group show), New Museum, New York; Going Tornado (personal exhibition), Ivan Gallery, Bucharest 

2013 Paul Neagu & Geta Bratescu, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; Artists Make Faces (group show), Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, UK

2012 Cake Man (solo show), Ivan Gallery, Bucharest

2011-2012 United Enemies – The Problem of Sculpture in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s (group show), Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK 

2011 Museo de las narrativas paralelas. En el marco de La Internacional (group show), MACBA, Barcelona

2009 Gender Check (group show), MUMOK , Vienna; retrospective exhibition at ICR London, UK 

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1938 Born in Bucharest / Romania 

School years with average achievements in Timişoara (western Romania) within a socio-political context of post-war poverty and Russian presence (Stalinism) 

Baccalaureate; small employment; evening art and technical drawing classes; individual study of philosophy for university admission. Admission exams for several faculties: engineering, physical education, philology, philosophy. 

Admission to the Painting Department of the “Nicolae Grigorescu” Art Institute in Bucharest (former Academy of Fine Arts). Clandestine modernist abstract art, cubist and kinetics’ attempts.

Graduation. The diploma project, Girl Market – Găina Mountain Fair, to be continued as a series of variations during the following years. 

Work on A Mountain for Every Man (previously begun), The Light Mills and Cardinal. First model for folklore inspired monumental structures originating in his diploma work field of interest. Investigation and defining of geometrical forms. Married the actress Sibyla Oancea.

Major Altar / Big Metronome, Sandglass and Light Mill. Investigation of tactile and object- based structures. Quasi-geometrical paintings and drawings. Travels to East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary due to scholarship. Participation in group exhibitions in Prague, Paris, Zürich.

Series of tactile doored objects in various materials. Interest in materiality and the combining of craft and mechanical methods. Eclectic, pluralist searches using the tradition of performance and ritual. Development of the concept of “anthropocosmos” implemented in anthropomorphical modular forms consisting of geometrical cells obtained by using complex technical processes. Cake Man. First solo shows in Bucharest, at Amfora Gallery and Youth’s Athenaeum Gallery. Torino exhibition. Participation in the Bauzentrum Group Exhibition in Hamburg (with Peter Jacobi, Ritzi Jacobi and Ion Bitzan). Invitation to exhibit at the Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland where he also produces the “Palpable Art Manifesto”. Prize awarded for “artistic research” by the Union of Visual Artists (U.A.P.), the official communist structure handling the art production in Romania. Decision to leave Romania as a consequence of the stripping of the Romanian prize. First international recognition: artwork accepted by Moores Liverpool Exhibition. 

The 70’s 1970 

Research concerning representation and deconstruction. Egyptian Picnic: domestic objects, mummified tactiles. Emigration to France where he experiments with ceramics, then to Scotland. Permanent move to London where he begins collaboration with Sigi Krauss Gallery (Tactile Objects and Anthropocosmos exhibition).

Exhibitions. Installations, performances, objects made of multiple materials, box constructed human forms, “anthropocosmos”. Cake Man performance at Sigi Krauss Gallery, London (first performance in a series later to be entitled Blind Bite). Horizontal Rain performance at the Edinburgh Festival. Tactile Objects exhibition (Compass Gallery, Glasgow). Residence at Foundation M. Karoly, Vence. 

Generative Art Group (GAG) secretly established with fictional members (Philip Honeysuckle, Husney Belmood, Anton Paidola, Edward Larsocchi, Paul Neagu). Enamel painting, drawing on cloth, researches in flexibility and fluctuations. Anthropocosmos exhibition (Galerie Rivolta, Lausanne). Residence at Centre International de Rencontre des Artistes, Nice.

Copper engravings, ceramic works, “anthropocosmos”. Associated Lecturer, Hornsey College of Art. Commission by Merilyn and Alan Smiths, founders of the Ceramic Workshop in Edinburgh, for three ceramic artworks to be exhibited at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art during the Edinburgh Festival (Earth Images). Tactile and Palpable Objects exhibition (Serpentine Gallery, London). Arts Council of Great Britain Prize.

First draft of the Table with curved legs. Performance: Going Tornado. The Metronome. Tao Te Chi as dance, dervishes, divided man and reorganised man. “Anthropocosmos” as a whirlpool. The movement of “boxes”. The concept of “hyphen” as a subject generator. Drawings. Dynamic rituals. Gradually Going Tornado. Arts Council of Great Britain scholarship.

Development of Man-Cosmos/”Anthropocosmos” concepts. Map painting with pulsating centres. Going Tornado (3D installation with public participation). Mutants with scores of tactile objects. Seeks “governing object” in drawings and paintings. Ritual Nuts against the Wall with Horizontal Rain. Roller-skating in anthropic costume around 3-legged table Subject Generator / Hyphen. Birth of “hyphen” concept. First Hyphen for Oxford. Exploration of mutual relations between performance, ritual and sculpture in non-theatrical setting. Hyphen with 6 meter opening and ramp. Associate professor, Royal College of Art, London. Part time teaching, Hornsey College of Art. First travel to Greece and Italy (drawings). Workshop purchased in downtown London to be used as exhibition space for the Generative Art Group production. First major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford (Paul Neagu and GAG). Horizontal Rain – performance in three parts performed at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. Generative Art Installation (Arts Centre, Sunderland; Polytechnic Gallery, Leeds). “Tolly Cobbold” prize. British citizenship (1976). 1977 Hyphen series in a range of materials. Part time teaching (Chelsea and Hornsey). Publishing of A Guide to Generative Arts.

“Hyphen” developed as a shape. Generative Art (Polytechnic Gallery, Newcastle). Arts Council of Great Britain Prize. 

Generative geometry vs reductionism and minimalism. First Fusions in wood and soft metal. Installation: Three Hyphens in a chalk circle and Fusions. First works in steel. Durham Cathedral project: Starhead. Hyphen Installation (Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Third Eye Centre, Glasgow). “Northern Arts” scholarship by Arts Council of Great Britain (until 1981). 

The 80’s
1980 Strange forms developed out of triangles, rectangles and open circles. The geometry of the triangle. Research grant from UK Arts Council for his activity at Durham and Newcastle universities. Hyphen (Arts Centre, Norwich). Constellations (Project Gallery, Dublin). Hyphen Installation (Academy of Art, Liverpool)

Reflections on the organic nature of the “generative art”. Interest in conceptualism. Ascetic life training. Tactile Objects (Galerie Rivolta, Lausanne). Generative Art Installation (Ceolfrith Gallery, Sunderland). Visit to Japan. British Council prize for abroad exhibitions.

Drawings developing the bringing together of entities. Studies in visual hermeneutics. Meta-philosophical reflections. Worked on synthesis, selection and arrangements of catalytic forms, for a group of converging, catalytically orchestrated
sculptures. Anthropocosmos retrospective (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle). Visiting professor at Concordia University, Montreal. One week lecturing at British Columbia University, Vancouver (Fine Art Department). Further work on the “hyphen” in Vermont, USA.

Maturation of the catalytic sculpture project: Hyphen and Swinging Hyphen (later Edge Runner). The Three-legged Cross becomes A-Cross. Open Monolith (University of Liverpool). Enneagon in stainless steel and wood. First steel
spheres: Unnamed. Hyphen (K Gallery, Tokyo; Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo; Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto). 

Time and Space: a ten day workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. Prints from Alaska (Phalus- Hyphen-Self). Alaska Hyphen, in oak. Unfinished essay: “Visual Hermeneutics”. Unnamed (steel spheres). Open air experiments. More reshaped steel forms: Open Monolith, Starhead. Catalytic Sculpture series. Open Monolith (Curwen Gallery, London). Catalytic Sculpture (London School of Business). Part time lecturer at Slade School of Art, London (until 1990). Lecturer at Chelsea School of Art, London. Ten Years of Hyphen – medal commissioned by the British Museum in London.

Nine Catalytic Stations devised. Twenty-Four Arguments, variations of Catalytic
Sculpture (wood). Stations versions in wood with steel spheres, in association with friend Alisa Barry. Catalytic Sculpture – Yard System (K Gallery, Tokyo)

Won „Sculpture on the Strand“ competition in London (Charing Cross). Triple
Starhead commissioned for Charing Cross Station in London (to be canceled by the Westminster City Council). Nine Catalytic Stations (Serpentine Gallery, London). In-form-ings (Curwen Gallery, London).

Wallnuts studies – photographs and drawings. Unnamed Water. Steel spheres made in France. Yvonne’s Hyphen, wood and copper sculptures. Visit to Yugoslavia with Demarco Group. Nine Catalytic Stations (Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh; Traquair House, Scotland). Drawings and Sculptures (Narrow Water Gallery, Ireland). Prize for a monument project for Kingston-upon-Thames. Purchased house in Sumène, France. Death of mother in November.

Wallnuts, spheres, water. Retreat in Sumène. Kidney disease, 9 months of kidney dialysis. Time for meditation. Death of father. Communism collapses in Romania. 

The 90’s 1990 

Three Stars – red, yellow and blue (poster for Timişoara). Unnamed (Water), Essential Sculpture. From volume in sculpture to volume in architecture. Selling of signed steel spheres. Nine Catalytic Stations (Minories Gallery, Colchester). Paintings (K Gallery, Tokyo). Kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in London, due to donation by sister Rodica. 

Nine Catalytic Stations re-titled Epagoge (eleven wood, bronze and steel versions with compositional and formal changes ). Architectural sketches. Awarded Sargent research grant by the British Academy in Rome. First Romanian retrospective (Drawings 1970-1990). Commission for Century Cross, Bucharest. “Sargant” research grant at British School (Rome).

Back to London. Rethinking of the Epagoge installation (two bronze and steel versions). New Hyphen – various sketches using different materials. Romanian citizenship regained. Catalytic Sculpture (Emilia Suciu Galerie, Karlsruhe). Drawings (British School, Rome). Second Romanian retrospective (Drawings 1970-1990).

Nine Catalytic Stations and Unnamed (steel spheres) mingle to form a new steel ensemble (Epagoge) composed of Epagoge, nine sculptures and 81 spheres. Drawings and watercolours. In Betweenness (strings of beads mixed with Catalytic Sculptures in smaller versions). Synthetic form of New Hyphen (sculpture, painting, drawing). Catalytic Sculpture (The Economist Building, London). Epagoge (Flowers East Gallery, London). Associate professor at the Royal College of Art and Slade School of Art, London.

New Hyphen (Galeria Firts, Timişoara) and Unnamed. Reorganization of Nothing. Sacramentalia. Work on unfinished Epagoge continues slowly due to lack of funds. Small retrospective at Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu. British Council prize for exhibitions abroad.

Participation in the Table of Silence, International Brȃncuşi workshop, Bucharest. New Hyphen renamed Ten Right Angles/Ten Righteous Angels. Resumes work
on Sacramentalia. Scultura, una cosa mentale (Iorga House, during Venice Biennale). Ten Right Angles – Ten Right Angels (Hungarian Cultural Center,
Bucharest). Unanimity (Romani Alba Gallery, Edinburgh). Paul Neagu at Tochigi (Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Japan). Associate professor at Caen, Scarborough, Coventry, Winchester. Official registration of the “Generative Art Trust” in London.

140 works donated to the National Museum of Art in Bucharest. “Blue Ribbon” (Konjo Hosyo) medal awarded by The Japanese Government. 

Further development of the “hyphen” concept. Steel spheres experiments. Catalytic Bronze and hundreds of spheres. Ideas about performance art resumed (Going Tornado). 

Hyphen sculptures in different materials. Previous techniques adapted. 

Sculpture for a Magical Landscape – workshop in southern China. Five meter high steel Hyphen on a granite pedestal. Anthropocosmos – 300m diameter project for China. Monumental Sacramentalia cast in bronze. Selling of the house and workshop in France. Purchase of a new workshop in Curtea de Argeş, Romania. 

Derridean Tornado: Paul Neagu 1965-2000, a catalogue by Paul Neagu. “Tornado” – like drawings. “Hyphen” wing for “filtering tactile sculpture”. Sacramentalia transformed. The Neagu archive purchased by Tate Modern Gallery 

Dies in London on June 16th