MariaManuela’s pictures define the contrasts between the culture of the Far East and the western world’s pop-culture at the same time as they bring the two forms together. She derives her inspiration from classic Japanese woodcuts and their motifs of fantastically coiffured, cherry-lipsticked women, dressed in exquisitely patterned kimonos. But what she presents for the viewer are modern young Japanese women in mini-skirts, dancing among the cherry blossom and haiku poems. Her Pop Icons are painted in vinyl on linen canvas – layer upon layer laboriously laid down to achieve the effect of a printed, japanned surface. The lines of the lips, the semi-circular contours of the eyes and the billowing coiffures are expressed against a monochromatic background. Her advertisement-like images combine mystique with unequivocal simplicity, setting a stage for all manner of different facial expressions – melancholy, pensive, jovial. Born in Stockholm in 1959, Maria Manuela Vintilescu’s first serious encounter with art came at the age of seven. It was with fascination that she viewed Niki de Saint-Phalle’s giant sculpture She, then displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. After graduating from the Ecole Française in Stockholm, Maria took courses in painting, drawing and advertising. After ten years as a scene painter in the theatre, she turned to her own art. Her Pop Icons appeared for the first time in 1998. Two years later her Flower Year suite was exhibited in the Stockholm Spring Show at Liljevalch’s Gallery. These twelve female portraits were published in booklet form accompanied by Japanese haiku poetry interpreted by her father, Jan Vintilescu. It was his book that had first introduced this Japanese lyric form to a wider audience of Swedes in 1959. Since the exhibition at Liljevalchs in 2000, her Pop Icons have been exposed at galeries, art fairs and museums in Europe and elsewhere, like in Tokyo Art Factory in Japan, at Villa Tamaris-Centre d’art in la Seyne-sur-Mer and at SOMA Museum of modern Art in Seoul. In much the same way as the haiku moves us by the eloquence of its brevity, MariaManuela seeks through her pictures to convey situations, facial expressions and frames of mind by the most sparing and subtle of means. Her father had sought the same in rendering the haikus of the Japanese poet Issa (1763–1828) Seeing cherry trees in the blossomed parks of spring strangers become friends.

Johan Persson