Florian Doru Crihana – The Artist
by Elena Susanu
The story of the Romanian artist Florian Doru Crihana began in 1958. He was born in a communist country, in a city in the southeastern part of it, a town surrounded by three waters, the Danube river with its tributaries the Siret and the Prut rivers.
He could easily draw since he was a child. His teachers from the general school noticed his talent and encouraged him to take part in drawing competitions, where he won some awards. Challenged by his teacher, „the little artist” began to ask as many questions as possible trying to discover drawing techniques, tools used, colors, tones and shades.
Although he did not want to become a painter, attracted by mathematics and the exact sciences, he did not give up drawing and began his studies alone, without any help, trying to reproduce in as much detail as possible various famous paintings.
The paintings were made directly on cardboard, thus he become aware of the support he used and how important it was to be properly treated. He started as any child with drawing classes at school, watercolors scattered on the desks, cuffs, clothes and shirt full of colorful spots and little by little the autodidact Crihana began to appear.
The passion for painting was easily increasing and combined with the artist desire to get as close as possible to the original model chosen. The future artist continued his education in school. He attended the Naval High School and later the Faculty of Naval Architecture in Galați city. These studies allowed him to continue his artistic training, as he was continuously challenged to draw.
The close attention to details, the desire for knowledge, the repeated drawing attempts gave rise to the future naval engineer and artist. He is a complex artist: an autodidact, a cartoonist, an engineer, an analyst, a historian and a humorist.
After he graduated the faculty, he got a job at the Galați Shipyard, and at the same time, the young artist Crihana began his artistic career publishing cartoons in different magazines, local and national newspapers.
The detailed study of the painting techniques, the careful analysis of the artistic movement, and also the political and social situation at that time in the country (they were the last years of the communist dictatorship), made him migrate to caricature, because that way he could express himself freely.
The caricature with a very fine satirical touch, much more offering, began to dominate his heart as an artist, and leaded to many cartoons published in the magazine “Urzica”, a national humor magazine. For the artist Crihana, the caricature was the international launching point. He began to take part in exhibitions and competitions abroad.
Although the communist regime was in full force, this side of the art was less pursued, but it offered more and more subjects worthy of the master’s brush. The analyst Crihana quickly realized that in order to continue, he should not have to become very acidic to the political environment of the time (because there could be repercussions), and he began a detailed analysis of the graphic techniques used in caricature.
Working hard, drawing sketch after sketch, he improved his technique and managed to better know his basic material used, the cardboard. After repeated tests and studies, he finally understood that he could use untreated cardboard. All this lasted for a while and at the same time he continued to participate in several international competitions in which he won many prizes.
His participating in international competitions helped him evolve and surpass himself. The prizes awarded were the proof of his self trust and his hard work. Florian Doru Crihana was considered a “bizzare” artist of those times because he used oil on cardboard for his works, but at the same time his quality and unique drawing way was unanimously recognized.
He took a step forward in his career as an engineer, getting to work in the graphics division of the Naval Design Institute in Galati. This was an important change in his profession and a great blessing for what would the artist Crihana become. His desire to integrate graphic elements into his caricatures became a challenge, but he quickly realized that this could be a step back in his further development as an artist.
I asked him if he could estimate, at this time in his career, how much of his professional training as a naval engineer could be found in his present-day works.
“Maximum 20%”, he answered, “and I must say that it helped me a lot with my work as an artist. Thus, I was able to see the technical details of the buildings or the different solid structures that I reinterpret in a painting. For example, if I am asked to draw a building, I study it in details, its plans, its pictures, sketches. I get information. I read a lot, sometimes the study can take two weeks or even more. Then I choose a suitable angle from which I draw the building, taking into account the exposure to the sun at different times of the day, then I draw the foundation from the desired angle and I start building it.”
I have to point out that he wanted to add the fact that he saw the real buildings after he had painted them. The technical training is the basis of today’s artist and it wonderfully combines with the real talent of the artist.
Between 1986-1989 (before the Romanian revolution that led to the fall of communism) the artist drew only caricatures and participated in many international competitions. All these contests and exhibitions were an opportunity that helped him stay focused on his evolution as an artist at that time.
The universe had a plan for him and therefore, at a competition in Poland, he met Dieter Burkamp, a German great lover of satirical graphics, whose wife is an art critic. This one took an interest in the artist’s work and suggested their first collaboration. Their working relation lasted for 20 years.
This collaboration played a decisive role in the development of the artist, who was influenced by the German rigor, the military and orderly style. Also, Crihana acquired the desire for permanent evolution and especially to be unique from a technically point of view.
The art critic Mrs. Gisela Burkamp was also a great help. She knew when to encourage or criticize him and she always put his creativity to the test, constantly asking questions. It came the moment when the artist felt it was time to give up his job as an engineer and dedicate entirely to his art. He was already known abroad. The artist’s definition of the cartoonist is “a philosopher who makes you happy with an ink pen or an oil brush”.
The present day painter followed the many years of hard work in creating caricatures. The process of drawing cartoons taught him how to paint the smallest details and the finest features of the human face with a characteristic amount of humor. The political events important to the cartoonist and which were the source of his humor fade away. Thus, his inspiration source disappeared. “The EU foundation united the East and West and made the satirical political cartoon going away.”
The analyst, historian and fine observer of political events realized the change in his career again. It was important that the artist be satisfied with his work. Later on, at an exhibition in Germany, the critics said about him that he was “the artist who predicted the fall of communism a year earlier”.
The emergence of the European Union was the moment when the analyst Crihana decided to change his career as an artist. He gave up caricature and switched to satirical painting. He publicly assumed and declared that he would no longer participate in caricature competitions.
The “birth” of information technology (the mobile phones and smart laptops) led to hilarious themes in cartoon competitions, as they wanted more publicity at any cost. The artist then decided, “All right, I’m going to paint history!”.
His love for history easily led him to his first favorite themes, starting with Venice, the Titanic and the Eiffel Tower, reinterpreted in a satirical graphics way.
The artist continued working on the themes confident in his vision and hoping that he would exhibit them. And indeed, his friends from the international competitions helped him with having the paintings displayed in Poland and Belgium – Venice and the Titanic collections and in Bulgaria – The Eiffel Tower collection.
This was the beginning of the international career of artist Crihana, who changed his strategy again and took the important decision of rendering emblematic places and buildings full of history in big cities.
The Crihana analyst, the self-taught Crihana and the historian Crihana mixed together and came into being as one. They all started drawing the unique story of his own thinking of the historical elements.
Thus, one can be easily noticed that, in his paintings, he builds a bridge over centuries, bringing together emblematic elements of the past and giving them his personal view.
The today’s painter Florian Doru Crihana is the product of his hard work over the years, his experience and permanent study and repeated attempts.
In his works, he uses his unique technique: on a clear format of 30/40 cm of cardboard, he adds color over color, absorbing the oil from the tubes if necessary. In the end, the cardboard shows us the unlimited imagination of the artist.
All this technique together with the details study of the working theme, plus the historical elements and the original satirical touch, make the painter Crihana a “bizarre” – as his colleagues used to call him. However, I should say he is a wonderful bizarre person.
I asked him if he had a favorite series, or a favorite painting and he calmly replied me “I don’t have any favorite one, they are all dear to me, but I’m constantly having in view my development”.
The artist, painter Crihana began receiving invitations for exhibiting his works in countries Belgium, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and many more. “The people from abroad who came to view my paintings, especially the elderly, were astonished to see things, places and historical events that they did not know about their cities.” The impact produced by the personal interpretation of the artist reached the ears of officials of the cities, and thus new opportunities of exhibiting my paintings appeared.
We might say that from this moment the artist Crihana was better known not only in Romania, but in many countries in Europe and in the world. A simple listing of the cities where he had exhibitions may sound like Curriculum Vitae, but I’d like to know the complexity and originality of the artist Crihana in everything he does.
I asked him how he would define himself now, at this point in his career, and he simply replied “I’m an artist all day, but a painter just a few hours a day, when I get my hands on the brush”. The artist Crihana is continuously looking for new information and details and keen on knowledge and new experiments.
He organized exhibitions in various places, such as classic art galleries, to cafes, company headquarters, embassies, libraries, and even in a medieval prison in the south of France, in a tailor’s shop, in private properties, wherever he was invited. He is delighted every time he is asked to take part in organizing an exhibition.
It may be strange, but the artist Crihana chose this nonconformist path as he loves what he does and each an every new element it’s a challenge in itself. “I was at a medieval prison in the South of France. One of mine exhibition took place there. One day a visitor came and asked me: “Are you the artist?” I said Yes and he asked another question: “And what do you smoke?”. This visitor liked a lot the exhibition and he was amazed by my personal view on the historical moments and events that I showed in my paintings. He also told me that I was very courageous to use an old prison as an exhibition hall for my art works.”
He has already made about three thousand paintings, using his own ideas about the historical past of some great cities in the world. Crihana would like to continue painting all the amazing old cities world wide and sometimes thinks about how many lives it would take to finish his work.
However, the artist Crihana reinvents himself at every moment. He easily moves on to other themes, such as opera, steampunk or the Danube sturgeon. Crihana is also attract by the Philadelphia Experiment, a topic he thinks to approach in the future.
The Romanian artist Florian Doru Crihana is having a huge ability of understanding, an unlimited desire for knowledge and love for history. He also is having a keen sense of humor and is able to analyze and synthesis the political and social contemporary events.
He didn’t attend an art school but he keeps on developing himself everyday. He himself learnt how to paint moving from one stage to another. Time and hard work shaped the today’s artist. The burning passion for painting brings up new and varied ideas and themes full of beauty, essence and history.