Hervé Constant ‘Constant Traveller’
Museum of Suceava, Bucovina, Romania
19 May – 17 June 2023
Interview between Hervé Constant and Madelyn Freeman
1. For many people here in the UK, Romania seems far away.
What were your impressions?
Attractive, and pleasant to be able to live there. Romania is
a big country, with a very agricultural landscape. The colour
of the ground, in most places, look very fertile.
2. Did you have any previous thoughts, ideas or expectations
about your journey to Romania?
Not at all. I very often had in mind to visit its capital
Bucharest. I always loved the music, the classical as well as
the folk and the Romani music.
I would go very regularly to the Romania Cultural Institute
in Belgrave Square, London, to listen to this music.
I was always impressed by the level of those presentations,
especially the musical events. The venue is welcoming and
3. What are your views of Romanian cultural heritage? What did
you discover during your time in the country?
I realised that there are different influences – German,
Hungarian, Austrian - even French.
I was pleasantly surprised that the people I met expressed a
great interest in everything French.
Some were learning the language and had a good knowledge
of French literature.
The exhibition included my two new portraits, one of Emil
Cioran, the philosopher, and another of the poet Paul Celan,
both of moved from Romania to Paris.
4. What were the people like?
Most are friendly, though appearing to be distant or a little
suspicious. My feeling is they can very quickly warm up to
you and change their behaviour.
I recall an experience arriving at Gara de Nord, in Bucharest
from the airport.
I arrived in Bucharest around 1 am. My next transfer to Gara
de Nord was by 2 am. My train to Suceava was around 6:30
am. Therefore, I could not book a hotel to stay and have a rest.
I sat on a bench and waited. Later, a short while later, a couple
passed by. The man asked me something in English. I must say,
I was quite surprised.
They sat down not far away. We then started a conversation,
talking about one thing and another. A very pleasant, generous
couple and we got on quite well. They are Romanians now living
in Washington DC for years.
5. Did people at the Museum and at the University want to know
about your life in London? Were they curious?
I would say yes, they were curious. We (the events manager
at the Museum and presenter David Greenslade along with his
wife, the translator, Georgeta Bradatan) went thoroughly
through a list of questions to give a larger focus on my work
to make it interesting.
The audience wanted to know many things.
6. What impressed you most? What impressed you least?
I very much like the churches of Byzantine influence. Especially
the one close to the hotel, called St John the New Monastery,
where I was staying in Suceava, which was in the center of
the town, close to the Library, the Museum, and the University.
This monastery was only a few metres away. The scale and
quality of the paintings on the outside walls was very impressive.
Another Church I also appreciate very much was on the way
from Suceava to Iasi. It is a monastery called Probota built in
I went there by car. The monastery is isolated and does not get
many visitors. In that case, the outside walls were not decorated
with many paintings and much has also disappeared. The inside
of the Church, however, was regal and beautifully maintained.
It is looked after by the nuns and has a very comprehensive
display of frescos, paintings, and artifacts.
7. Would you return to Romania and, if so, why?
My stay was short, and during that time I concentrated on
preparing for the Solo exhibition and meeting at the University
to arrange my presentation talk.
Therefore, my time available for travelling and discovering
Romania was limited. I would love to be given another
opportunity to return to Romania.
Visiting Iasi, a town situated in the northeast of the country
was a treat, a very relaxing outing and attractive, with
remarkable Museums, parks, and Churches.
One of the large Museums (Including four large galleries)
was situated near a large Mall. I must admit to feeling strange
going through the large shopping Mall, filled with so many
people, but later I arrived at the entrance of the Palace of
Culture which was empty. What a contrast.
Something that did surprise me was that I found many
Romanians appeared to be a little suspicious, not trusting. A
few times during my stay, which lasted over a week, when I
met people and asked them for directions, they were a bit
unhelpful, even to the extent of ignoring me. However, it is
also true most were kind, and generous with their time.
8. Can we discuss your Solo Exhibition?
Thanks to David Greenslade, a poet and curator from Wales I
was invited to have a solo exhibition at the Bukovina Museum
of History, Suceava, Romania. David and his wife Georgeta
travel regularly between Wales and Iasi, where they have a
home in a small village called Horlesti, in the northeast of
Romania. They have both been extremely helpful and generous
with their time and resources to make the exhibition a success.
I am most grateful for their kind support.
The show was very well received. Many people attended the
private view, including visiting writers from France, Germany,
and Australia who happened to be in town. A lot of Suceava
writers came, as well as students. The event was covered by
local and national television.
9. Which paintings did you choose to exhibit in Romania and why?
My selection of works was diverse - paintings, photos,
and prints - made in the last 10 – 15 years. At first sight, one
might be surprised by the seemingly disparate body of works,
since some are semi-abstract, figurative, or totally abstract.
Personally, it does not bother me, but I know it does to a few
visitors. I will see an abstract form in the figurative and in
the figurative an abstract form.
10. You gave a talk to students at the University. What subject
matter did you explore?
We made sure to cover different fields of interest to a public
based in Romania. The audience was a mixture of artists,
students, and visitors.
As I regularly give presentations at UCL in London and talk
to young students there, at UCL a number of foreign students
have travelled and seen a wide collection of artworks.
Therefore, it could have been a mistake in Romania to
make it solely an academic discussion.
We also discussed my working methods. The audience
responded very well.
11. Can you explain why you spoke specifically about the subjects
you choose in your talk?
12. What did you learn from your exhibition and talk?
That it is worth being honest and authentic. It might surprise
and unsettle the audience a little, but in the end one’s personal
insights come through.
13. What are your future plans?
NAPOLI Photograph by Hervé Constant
My next event is to attend an Artist in Residence in Turkey. I
will fly to Istanbul on the 14 July and return to London 24 July.
The residency Arnica Art Land Art Workshop exhibition will
take place in Adana, South Turkey.
Then 18 November I will read some poetry written by Guillaume
Apollinaire at the Haringey Livry Friendship Association in north
London. The event is to be presented by the writer David Hunter.
It comprises short films, poetry, and a documentary.
A group exhibition REGENERATION takes place at the Hansard
Studio, London, UK from 11th December 2023 to 13th January
2024. Curated by Phillipa Beale.
I have received an invitation to participate in an exhibition at
The Archive Vortice, Buenos Ayres, Argentina in 2025.
Curated by Delgado Garcia Fernando.
TRACES Oil on paper 55x45cm Hervé Constant
Exhibition: Hervé Constant "Constant Traveller"
Museum of History, Suceava, Bucovina, Romania
19 May - 17 June 2023
The "Lectora" literary festival, at the Suceava History Museum