Geta Brătescu – A Game of Forms

Lately I have been thoroughly obsessed with an amazing book which documents “Game of Forms” – the last large project of pioneering Romanian artist, Geta Brătescu.

game of forms, geta brătescu

In “Game of Forms” Geta cuts out shapes – “drawing with scissors” – and then arranges these shapes in different configurations, producing artworks in series. Geta’s productive play reveals how many different ideas can be pulled from bold cuts of black and red paper arranged against a sort of grey cardboard ground…

serial abstract images in red and black, against a sort of grey ground, Geta Brătescu

…how pink triangles and dark teal strips might be configured to produce a set of energetic, almost flag-like ideas…

pink triangles and deep teal strips, in different configurations, Geta Brătescu

…and how tiny variations in lines produced through careful tearing and cutting can produce a set of similar yet individual images.

torn pink paper pieces against small strips of red paper, Geta Brătescu

It just blows my mind and is such a fresh, thrifty and invigorating exploration of colours, shapes and visual relationships.

There are pages and pages documenting these investigations and I find them infinitely inspiring as considerations of pattern, forms, and iterative creative processes. The bright colours and forms are really vivid and energising and, at this difficult time when we continue to be in National lockdown, I find them especially comforting, because they speak to freedom and expressivity issued forth from close confines:

“There is a freedom and lack of constraint in Game of Forms, the artworks delimited only by the edges of the paper. It was an almost complete freedom that, paradoxically, was offered to her within the very cramped space of the studio: the freedom to be able to carry on “drawing with scissors”, setting out from the new ideas that came to her every day, ideas generated by the texture of the paper; by the simple, everyday materials and objects with which she always took pleasure in working”. – Marian Ivan

The appropriation of everyday materials (in this case, paper) and ability to create energising and exciting work within the parameters of limited physical space both speak to an idea of creative resilience and uplift which feels particularly important right now.

red, grey and black forms arranged in series, alongisde Geta Brătescu's notes, quoted below

“Perhaps because I no longer travel and no longer even leave the house, my memory, surprisingly, brings back to me images I experienced long ago. This evening I remembered that “once upon a time” I was up high, in the bell tower of a church; from there I gazed down on the crown of the city’s head, with its wave upon frozen wave of tin-and-red-tile roofs”. – Geta Brătescu.

Reading the lists of everyday objects which inspired Geta – “the wooden wands for stirring coffee; the pages of calendars; the cardboard from packages of photographic film; scraps of cloth; the handles of paper carrier bags’ matchboxes; even the tubes from rolls of toilet paper…” I found myself appraising some of the bits of paper from daily life that I have been hoarding and wondering if they might find expression in my own, Geta-inspired “Game of Forms”.

closeup of a bag of flour purchased at the near shop during lockdown; the design features a cheerful folk-art sun, and shades of yellow and red

A flour packet just too lovely, in all its details, to part with…

Torn yellow envelope front across the board backing of a DO NOT BEND envelope construction

…the cheery bright yellow envelopes from my cherished Procrastination Paper subscription (a much appreciated birthday gift)…

kraft paper with orange sparkly dots and red lokta paper printed with gold hearts

…wrapping paper I have saved, sharing Geta’s fondness for the stuff: “The wrapping paper of a present could delight her more than the present itself”…

large round gold disc stickers

…large, round polka-dot stickers of the type I accrued whilst working on Polkamania!

But you know what’s even better than playing “Game of Forms”? Playing it with someone else.

So yesterday I met my six year old niece online for an art class exploring the legacy of Geta Brătescu with our paper and scissors.

Zoom screen, gallery view, of mine and my niece's art materials laid out ahead of collaging

My niece had lots of sparkly and printed papers, but quickly set to the task of making “a volcano” “a moon” “a hill” with her scissors, while I worked at a smaller scale, in order to be able to fit my ideas onto a spread in my Bullet Journal. I proposed we begin with cutting up collections of shapes, and then spend time arranging them into different ideas. As the session wore on, there were more and more stickers involved, and we decided to initial our work with our rubber stamps so that, in my niece’s wise words, “nobody else can say they made it”.

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

collage of envelope, wrapping paper, flour bag paper, lokta paper and rubber stamp saying FF (after my niece insisted we must initial our work with rubber stamps...)

a grainy screenshot of the amazing set of different collage ideas spread across my niece's glorious page of play

We are nowhere near the level of Geta Brătescu in our ability to place and apprehend abstract forms in serial images, but I appreciate so much how the pictures in “Game of Forms” have reinvigorated the creative potentials of my folder of saved paper scraps, and given me new ways to think about how shapes and colours can be organised into visual relationships. And I’m thankful for the inspiration to share a little creative process with my family over distance. There is a beautiful film of Geta speaking about this project here, wherein she says “Art is a Serious Game”; I couldn’t agree more and am so excited to learn more about this amazing artist and her work.

Yours in appreciation for the work of artist Geta Brătescu,
Felix x

3 thoughts on “Geta Brătescu – A Game of Forms

  1. Beautiful ideas, reminding me that small and simple can be wonderful. Love your collages! So much fun to play around and see what happens. Nice to take a break from color knitting and use color in a faster, different medium. And thanks for letting us know about another artist.

  2. wonderful….so much out there to discover!!! I also found this book which is shape orientated…Dazzling Knits by Patricia Werner….playing with shapes , textures and colours

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