Stories Your Body Is Right

Teodora Ionescu: Art, Beauty & Perceptions

From actress to visual artist, Teodora is one of the rare complete artists that I know and she managed to find the magical formula to combine all her skills and talents in thought-provoking and often mind-blowing art performances. Mixing acting with projections of her art, music, dance, costumes and light, she creates theatrical experiments that are both interactive and also break the boundaries between classical performances and the new and revolutionizing multimedia video art.

New roots, photo by Viorica Cernica

In a society that has been drawn to virtual reality and has replaced most of the times the human feelings and reactions with digitalized robotic behavior, a gap between mind and body has been created, between logic and feeling, between a virtual world and reality. We communicate more often on social media, yet we fail to genuinely communicate in real life.

Teodora’s performances speak about this profound need of us to be genuine in our feelings, to show our emotions, to connect with other peers in real life, to exchange ideas, to share experiments and ultimately… to love!

Born in Galati, in Romania, she moved to Bucharest after high school to study Arts at the National University of Art and right after that, to enroll in the Acting & Drama department. Soon after graduation, she has embarked on a new journey that brought her in the Netherlands. She opened an art studio and began teaching art to children, while creating the art performances that provoke us all to see the world and our surroundings in a different light.

Photo by Cristian Calin
She studies the human body as well in her art, the young and the old, the different and peculiar, she seeks beauty in every feature, every look, every wrinkle, every touch and every mark that has a story to tell.
Disclosure – drawing, made in the first year in the Netherlands

We met while in Drama school and it was so great to meet her again now, after I have proposed an interview for the Your Body is Right campaign. She was so delighted and we ended up talking an entire afternoon about art and theater, memories from school, the roots that follow you wherever you go, the body and the way we see it and how children interact to the tabu notions that adults construct and use in such a wrong way.

It is so great to talk to you! Thank you so much for being part of this project!

Teodora: Sure, I love the idea and I like to discuss about these things. I believe we still have so many tabu and banned subjects. We evolved technologically so much, but with ourselves and the basic things that concern us directly, still have such a long way to go.

Still from the show Night Parade, inspired by Seherezada

You bring up these subjects into your performances which are beautiful and really thought-provoking. How do you feel about the way we react to the world now?

T: Thank you! I feel that we tend to lose ourselves in the massive social media tornado where everything is polished and all the relationships don’t seem so real. I have done a performance that speaks about this – “A measure of time” – that shows this isolation of humans and the relationships that lead from that euphoria of the beginnings to decadence.

A measure of time, photo by Viorica Cernica

It is a collage of monologues from Jean Cocteau, “Le bell indifferent” and Matei Visniec’s “Garbage bin man”. The performance is based on four monologues and I start with a very simple classical monologue without any effects or music, projections, dance and the next turn the show into a very dynamic performance with live music and live projections that also emphasize the decadence of the human soul. The more effects or filters we bring into our lives, the more we forget about our own beauty.

A measure of time, photo by Viorica Cernica

How would you define beauty?

T: Beauty is such an abstract term. It’s like music. It is so hard to describe music! It’s so abstract! It gets so fast in your heart and soul, under your skin and you can’t really define it. It’s subjective…

I look at an old woman’s face and I see a life story there. Every spot and every wrinkle has a story. That wrinkle next to the lip formed there because you smile more often or smile in a certain way, maybe a bit crooked and that is why that wrinkle was formed there. It’s your unique pattern.

Metamorphoses – installation

For example, I see a ruin and I fall in love with it. Why? Is it because I am an artist and I see an expression of time there? Maybe, yes! I see a story in a ruin, a place where I can create a world, but maybe someone else will see just a ruin, just an old damaged thing that has nothing to do with progress or the future…

I have always though about this perception. Since I was a little girl I was wondering if the things that I see are also the things that other people see. We do have different perceptions of the world, don’t we?

I thought about what other people see for the first time, while entering a new room. What do you see first? What draws your attention? is it the light or the shadow? Is it the floor or the ceiling? Is it a certain object – small or big? There are these questions and their answers are so unique for each and every one of us.

Painting, The beginning of a lie

What about our body? What do you see first in someone?

T: The eyes! They are the gate of the soul indeed, but it’s much more than that. The eyes are so expressive and so incredibly alive and different, so I am very drawn to them.

Painting, Awake
Painting, Organic Pulse

I have studied the eye, draw and painted it and you will see I have a special relationship with it.

Self portrait – charcoal drawing

I love the human anatomy and the human body – the expressions that we carry along, the expressive people who are not necessarily perfect, in fact – rarely perfect. They can be very skinny, with defined bones or quite fluffy. I see them all very differently and I feel I have 2 perspectives, 2 different “eyes”. As an actor I see them in a way, but as an visual artist I see them differently. I feel sometimes that two different persons live inside me with two different needs. They both have their concept and need of beauty and they both need to be nurtured with a certain type of beauty.

Human body, croquis

I also feel that society puts a big pressure on people, women mostly, to look in a certain way, act and even feel a certain way, but the key is to be comfortable with yourself, free and wild, dressing up as you wish, acting and reacting as you like and being eccentric!

Did you feel a certain pressure of needing to look in a certain way while growing up? 

T:Not really, because there wasn’t this huge competition that is today. There weren’t so many stores with clothes, so many affordable brands… 

We didn’t have social media so we didn’t need to show off our new clothes and I think everything was more uniformed. Jeans were the big trend and that was about it… everyone was wearing jeans. 

Attending an art high-school, everyone was hippie and boho. If someone showed up with the traditional Romanian “Ie”, everyone would want an “Ie” the next day. 

Do you also remember the black t-shirts trend?

T: Oh, yes! The famous black t-shirts with rock bands. Everyone was wearing jeans with that or all in black. We were really uniformed. There weren’t any other trends or genres like they are now.

Photo project Thijs Browers, Vincent Nijhof and Viorica Cernica

Do you feel beautiful and was there any particular moment when you felt that peace with yourself?

T: Yes, I do and I did have a special encounter with myself after I reached 30. I have started to appreciate myself more and the people around me, the world! I remember one particular moment when I was driving one morning. The sun showed its rays in the field and I remember just driving and thinking: “This is one of the most beautiful moments ever!” I was excited and so happy just to see this beautiful and delicate rising of the sun! It was that moment when I have realized that I have to cherish every single moment. We must cherish every second, life is short!

Structures – painting/drawing

That is so beautiful! You work with children very often. How do they see these labels that grown-ups have created?

T: Children are much more malleable and don’t believe in labels. They also get fascinated very quickly by ideas, concepts and different things or unique people.

They also have this sixth sense when it comes to people. They immediately sense genuine and good people. They don’t accept false people. 

Art class in Teodora’s studio

Children are taught these differences that exist in the world. They have school projects and books where different children are depicted from children with Down Syndrome to kids from different nationalities and with different ethnic backgrounds and they are always told that “Being different is absolutely normal.”

Speaking of children, if you could have a superpower what would that be?

T: That is challenging! I believe that I would like to make people not lie anymore. To always tell the truth, no matter what! To not have any more masks and most important, to not be afraid of always telling the truth…

Photo by Viorica Cernica

Thank you so much for the amazing talk and the great inspiration! If you want to know more about Teodora and see any of her performances, while you are in Netherlands, follow her on Facebook and check out her website for upcoming shows.

If you want to share your story and be part of the Your Body is Right campaign, get in touch with me and I would love to talk with you! We need to say more often the truth, without being afraid to do so, like Teodora said and we do have a voice now! Together we can make a difference!

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