Ion Bledea is not a typical sculptor. He does not have a formal education in sculpting and his starting point is rather humble. He began his ascension to fame in the halls of the artistic section of Sighetu Marmaţiei’s main furniture factory, some 35 years ago, during communist times.
His raw talent surfaced early on and he presented his first work, a series of wooden carved devils and devil masks, at Sighetu Marmaţiei’s museum. Immediately after the ’89 revolution his international ascension came, as he was discovered by foreign artists and invited to participate in various exhibitions and contests. He exhibited in multiple locations in France and Germany and won several prizes, among them the prestigious Grand Prize at the Liffol-le-Grand international contest of wood sculpture, in France, in 2001.
When I visited him, he was working on an effigy featuring a lion head (the symbol of the Romanian currency, the leu, and also the Romanian translation for lion) that was to be offered as a birthday present to the governor of the National Bank of Romania. Mr Bledea was to send it the very next day and still needed inspiration: a long white night awaited him.
In his cramped workshop abutting the Roman Catholic Church’s estate in Sighetu Marmaţiei’s main square, one can find a trove of sculptures of all sizes and styles, sitting almost one on top of the other. It was sad to see such treasures crowded in there instead of in proper exhibition halls.
Devils are Ion Bledea’s first artistic escapade, one that gained him fame some twenty years ago. Their devilish look, twisted pose and sheer wickedness sends one a cold shiver down the spine. Mr Bledea ceased making devils a long time ago. He told me a story about a near-death experience in a workshop accident when sculpting the last devil. It was almost an unearthly experience; he then understood that they, the devils, sent him the message that it was time to stop personalising them.
The breadth of his work is striking, ranging from small pieces to monumental ones. Much of his work has abstract, elegant, almost geometric shapes that remind of the most renowned Romanian sculptor of all times, Constantin Brâncuși.
For more photos of Ion Bledea and his work, visit The Artists section of this website.