Cornelia Tersanszki was living in her hometown on the coast of the Black Sea in Constanța, Romania when a televised interview changed her life. The interviewee was renowned Romanian artist Maria Constantinescu, who discussed painting reversed images on the back of glass.
“Until then,” Tersanszki says, “I [had] seen only icons and religious paintings made on glass. Maria left me speechless. I was mesmerized by her works on glass, [which] were anything but religious. Spiritual—yes, but not religious.”
As a deeply spiritual person, Tersanszki was drawn to what Constantinescu was doing and decided to try it herself. “There were no YouTube tutorials at that time,” she jokes. She learned the rare art of reverse painting on glass through practice and experimentation. Over time, she learned which colors created the feelings she wanted to convey and how to mix bronze powder with her oils to create the “special kind of luminosity” she strives to achieve. Later she moved to Bistrița in northern Romania and attended an art school there for three years.
Since then, Tersanszki has exhibited her work across Europe in cities like London, Vienna, and Florence. But the Hronicum Biennale in Brasov, Romania is the exhibition that stands out in her memory as a moment of high fulfilment. It was here that, much to her surprise, Tersanszki saw her works displayed next to the work of Maria Constantinescu, whose work had inspired Tersanszki to begin her artistic journey.
Tersanszki still lives in Bistrița and paints her reversed glass pieces in her home studio. She likes
painting after 10 a.m., when the light is good, and usually sets aside 4-5 hour blocks to create. After these sessions she usually has a lot of tidying up to do in her work space. “This is the disadvantage of not having a separate studio and having a very curious cat,” she says.
Though she works another full-time job, she manages her time carefully, dedicating as much as possible to painting.
When painting on the back of the glass, the first element painted is the first seen on the other side. In the beginning I normally make a drawing on paper. I need the drawing to support my imagination, but, when drawing, I “see” all the picture I am going to paint, from the beginning to the end. Of course things may change during the process (they often do), but the general feeling/the emotion that inspired me remains.
The second step is to “put” the drawing on glass: I use black ink.
The third step (not compulsory) is to make accents with bronze or metal leaf; then I add layers of colours, mix them on my palette, or mix them directly on glass, to achieve the profoundness I need.
Tersanszki can derive inspiration from almost anywhere: meditation, a book, a film, a piece of music, or just a feeling. Her spiritual practice drives much of her work.
One of her paintings, The Book of Love, was inspired by the song of the same title, written by Magnetic Fields and covered by Peter Gabriel. At the time she created the piece, her son had begun an online relationship with a girl living hundreds of miles away who was losing her sight. Something about the song spoke to “the magic, the mystery, the sense of something lost” in her son’s experience.
Tersanszki contacted Magnetic Fields and obtained permission to use the lyrics of the song in her piece. “I’ve chosen to construct the painting in the form of a playing card, remembering an old divination form,” she says, discussing the imagery she paired with the lyrics.
“I think all of my paintings have a special light and a force, something magic, something alive in them,” Tersanszki says. “After all, this is the point, my point: to transmit—visually—a feeling, an emotion, to transform the viewer. I know when a painting is done if I feel its force, not see it, but feel it.”
To see more of Cornelia Tersanszki’s work, visit her website at https://www.corneliatersanszki.com/445151378.
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