Șerban Savu: Under the Radar
Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, London
25 March – 8 May 2011

Imagine you wake up one day belonging to another country. This actually happened, to millions of people, at the end of the Cold War. After living for almost 50 years behind the Iron Curtain, in 1989 they woke up in a new world, exposed to radically different modes of being and values. Almost everything changed: the space of experience, the radius of activity, holiday plans and even life plans. Seeking to make sense of the chaotic present, people have started to build a new logic for the future. How? Through routines of coexistence, of exchange, of everyday life.

Under the Radar portrayed precisely this: everyday banality, without bravery or romanticism, in a world where high frequency observation proves that truth is stranger than fiction. Șerban Savu’s paintings are self-contained episodes that contribute to a larger story of post-socialist life in Romania: people picnicking in communal gardens between blocks of flats, women bathing and men fishing in urban waterways, workers performing various jobs in neglected train stations or on brand new construction sites, prostitutes waiting, in full daylight, on the side of the road. They are frozen images of anonymous people in generic circumstances. The pervasive Communist censors would have contentedly approved of most of them, while Socialist Realism would have subverted them, making heroes of some and denigrating others.

Savu’s aim is, however, rather different: to examine and expose hidden or overwritten stories and their role in shaping memory and identity. What is the ‘new man’ of the new world order? Are streets, public squares, offices and cafés the new spaces of solidarity? In this, Șerban Savu’s first solo exhibition at a public institution, the artist explored the invisible, revealed the overlooked and disclosed the tensions underneath Romanian society.

Under the Radar was co-curated with Matt Price. You can see additional pictures of the exhibited works here.