The multifaceted possibilities of abstract art in Gibraltar have just taken a spherical dimension with the fresh contribution of Romanian painter Raluca Veronica Negus to the latest collective exhibition recently held at the Fine Arts Gallery.

This was the artist’s debut on any gallery wall, after her talent was put on hold for decades while her life ‘happened’. Her small but mighty artwork attracted onlookers’ and critics’ attention – if not the adjudicators’, alas – for the simple but nifty visual impact of her colourful circles like colliding planets sparking new universes.

It is the shape of raindrops and celestial bodies.

Raluca is working on a collection of abstract paintings which elaborate on the theme, often with the added effect of texture and three-dimensionality to give the illusion of sphere on canvas. She describes the circular and spherical shapes as complete, self-sufficient, perfect, primordial eternal and sidereal, a whole world that encompasses, includes or isolates, nurtures and preserves. It is the first shape that babies learn to recognise, the shape of raindrops and celestial bodies, the shape blessed with the outmost surface tension and smoothness, geometrically without facets or, better said, with infinite facets.

“I believe in letting my inside feelings express themselves through my hands which just become the instrument to brushing the free flow on canvas,” she says. “Colour and movement tell a story, not just my story but also the ones of those enjoying my artwork.”

Raluca introduces an ulterior dimension in her creativity by making her paintings the very models in her photoshoots, and creating composite images of photographic pictures with painted pictures as subject matter, because she believes that locations consistent to her artwork can only enhance its significance.

For example, she painted a large canvas titled Rumours: here, a multitude of marbles of different sizes and colours seems to bounce on a metallic surface, and the colours of each marble recalls some of the colours from the previous ones and some from the next ones, so that the ones at opposite sides of the rectangle are left with little colour in common. This of course symbolises the Chinese whispers’ morphing from one station to the next until it turns facts into artificially nuanced fake news.

And what better venue than a crowded Main Street as the backdrop for this painting’s photoshoot? Raluca relishes the idea of Main Street as the city’s largest parlour where improv meetings are held, friendships forged, and gossip milled from Casemates to the Convent and back!

“For this particular picture, I came up first with the concept and developed it from there, but it usually works the other way around: I doddle and pick the colours, and later I name the message that my creativity has allowed my subconscious to express.”

Her largest work so far is Interference: it incorporates discreet figurative elements in the shape of some trees blooming into the bubbles burst on canvas: “Interference shows my circles being invaded by some sort of disturbance blossoming into trees. I like trees as symbol of rebirth, stability, longevity,” she says.

Here trees glisten with metallic hues and float away in search for favourable soil to dig their roots into – that Raluca earmarks as… the airport! “I’d like to photograph this painting in the middle of the runway strip, which in my opinion symbolises so much to Gibraltar. The first touchdown point for immigrants in search of a new life and rooting, like myself; the point of departure towards international cultural exchanges; the line that frontier workers must cross every day to gain their livelihood, blurring the border between the fortress and the world. There’s political interference, cultural interference – in its positive sense – or atmospheric interference when cross winds prevent planes from landing.”

While I helped her making it, I felt almost reborn.

Painting means ‘me time’ for Raluca: “I have such a hunger for art sometimes I don’t sleep to finish my painting if it has meaning and purpose to me. I rediscovered this passion only recently, thanks to my daughter who made a picture of a tree with handprints as leaves. While I helped her making it, I felt almost reborn, and I realised it was time I got back to my teenage years’ passion for drawing. My grandfather was a religious icons’ artist, but when it was time to select my university career, my dad, like his dad before him, advised me to go for something that would ‘put butter on my bread’, so I pursued political science and public administration, keeping art as a self-taught discipline that progressed with dedication, until it sadly dwindled when no room for easels and brushes was left in my student-shared flat.”

She continues: “When I graduated, it was kind of expected from me to find a job in the profession I had trained for, settle down and start a family, so my artistic ambitions were relegated to the backburner. When I moved to Gibraltar seven years ago to seek a fresh start in life, and my daughter was born in Spain a few years later, I made room for art in my everyday routine.”

She wants her circles to mean different things to different people, and her artwork to be affordable so everyone can buy them and hang them on their walls, not as just another piece of furniture, but as the focal point that makes them feel better in a fast-paced life of ‘running around and worrying’, when we actually need to be reminded about the importance of mindfulness, insight, empathy and positive energy.