Art Critics’ Reviews
Mosaic art for Lilian Broca is a way of recapturing a triple ascendance and giving shape to a profound identity, simultaneously artistic and human. Her themes are Judaic, drawn from the Old Testament, but her technique, while Byzantine in manner, reflects the post-Byzantine and Orthodox Romanian milieu in which she grew up. As well, in her work the figurative code of the image, the powerful articulation of its corporality, and the illusion of three-dimensional space all point straight to classic West European Renaissance forms. Consequently, for an artist of such complex sensitivity as Lilian Broca, mosaic represents more than just its materials and techniques; it serves as a magic mirror in which, through contemplation, the artist regains her past, preserves her present and foresees her future. The medium also acts as a receptacle in which the Middle East and European hypostases – from East to West and all the way in its extension to North America – co-exist and express themselves as an indestructible entity of astounding inner coherence.
What a visual treat! Your idea of Judith is strong, powerful, and spiritually seductive, just like Artemisia Gentileschi’s. The use of mosaic for this and your Esther narratives is brilliant, as it links the imagery to ancient tradition, and appropriately evokes permanence, stability, and history for these biblical women. I like these images very much, and am glad that my Artemisia work has been a reinforcement for you
Broca’s artistry and skilled storytelling reassess the role and potential of women in ancient society. Broca has rightfully positioned Judith in the mosaic genre. Judith’s epic story feels at home in mosaic form where the remarkable deeds of ancient heroes from myth, literature and history were traditionally commemorated, brilliantly illuminated in glass and coloured stone mesmerizing viewers for many millennia. Broca’s new series has much in common with the famous mosaic depicting Alexander the Great in the private residence of the House of the Faun in Pompeii and the monumental and public mosaic portraying the Empress Theodora in Ravenna. Broca’s work can been seen as a continuation of this great and still meaningful tradition of art.
On the occasion of my visit to Vancouver to deliver a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls a few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting artist Lilian Broca. In making her acquaintance, I discovered the exceptional character of her professional work as a visual artist working in mosaic and especially her interest in feminist topics. At that time, she was searching for a powerful woman as the subject for a new body of work, as she had just finished her mosaic series on Queen Esther. It was then that I suggested that she explore Judith as an especially appealing heroine of the Jewish Apocrypha. This way, Broca’s work might shed light on the different models of women in ancient Judaism. I am proud to have been the inspiration for this project, and I believe that Broca’s artistic interpretation of this intriguing biblical character will prove a significant contribution to the already long list of works by exegetes and artists who have attempted for the last two thousand years to unravel the mystery of Judith.
What does a Canadian artist living in Vancouver know about the Byzantine Empire? Everything, because she was born in Bucharest, Romania. She returns to her roots in this series, and the biblical story of Queen Esther. As a feminist, it was particularly easy for me to relate to her work that deals with women in society, both historically and currently (we still get less than our male counterparts in the arts because of gender). It is curious to note that in the biblical literature (written by a man) mosaics were first mentioned in the Book of Esther. Broca punctuates, in her triptych, how women had to get permission to speak to their masters and husbands – by using the weapon that women have historically used, their sex appeal, in order to control the situation. Current merchandizing that we see on TV and in magazine ads show and encourage women to be objects of desire. Have you ever seen an ad showing a woman 60 years or older other than those that show pampers for adults or emergency bracelets for infirm adults? Will we always, in the patriarchal society in which we live, have to accommodate, cooperate and negotiate in order to convince that we can be leaders with wisdom and vision?
For centuries the most serious art in Italy was laboriously crafted in mosaics. It was taken for granted that the Bible’s timeless stories deserved the timelessness of polished stones. The Bible came from the East, like the Magi, and the sparkling jeweled surfaces of Byzantium were assumed to represent the highest pinnacles art could reach. It’s an old idea but Lilian Broca sees the point. Ancient art was contemporary art when it was made. Lilian Broca makes contemporary art with the merits of ancient art.
Lilian Broca is an artist who works in many media, but who truly understands how to use mosaic to create art. She has exhibited works in series before, mainly in graphics, but the underlying connection has been a common theme. Her panels in the Queen Esther series are connected by a continuous narrative. …..The artist must provide the continuity for the viewer both visually and intellectually. This is a form of visual shorthand which was practised and developed from the third century to the fourteenth century, as may be seen in mediaeval mosaic such as those in San Marco, in Venice. But also in common with the mediaeval artist, Lilian is not just telling a story. She has taken a tale from antiquity, and is using the narrative to convey a wider contemporary message, which here is that of the role of women in self sacrifice, and the promotion of non-violent negotiations for peaceful conflict resolution. ….She works with colour and light to achieve her goal. But the success of these panels lies not only in Lilian’s ability to weave a narrative. Her understanding of colour and how it works is superb. The three dimensional effect which is achieved happens because of this understanding. …Many people try to work in mosaic. Few achieve such successful and professional results.
For her, it’s not just art for art’s sake – which, at times, is the highest calling – but rather art for the sake of and the benefit of creation. Lilian Broca herself has become the archetypal instrument through which the biblical women are given voice, form and personality. She has created what might be called a visual midrash. She doesn’t just draw. Lilian is one who studies in depth… She is a researcher and a recognized independent scholar.
I think Lilian Broca is “out” of the Modernist paradigm, and would more likely fit comfortably within the pluralistic “Postmodern,” especially in that her art questions notions of traditional authority, exemplified by Foucault’s various studies, etc. According to Whitney Chadwick, most Feminist studies are derived from much of Foucault’s lines of inquiry. Also, while formalism is certainly important to Lilian’s work… everything is so structured, so beautifully composed, I really think she takes her cues from Neo-classicism and the “Grand Manner,” which were very formalistic as well.
Lilian Broca is an accomplished artist, a superb draughtsman, who knows about art history. …a committed artist producing a significant body of work… She is discovering things in our present and past that are keys to understanding heroics in life.
I think Lilian Broca has done a remarkable job with the colour and using a very modern palette, and they have a very contemporary fresh feel to them. The imagery is so complete and well thought out and the narrative aspect of it is such a key feature that I think it truly picks up where Byzantine mosaics in San Marco and Ravenna left off… and a welcome injection into the “post” postmodern world of fragmentation, simulation, and disorientation. Apart from my formal observations – I find her work definitely loaded with passion and a certain energy and aura, which is a quality that certainly can never be reproduced and makes her original work all the more valuable.
Standing amid Broca’s creations as Wosk spoke – not only the mosaics, but the sketches and paintings that preceded them – one could easily relate to his words. The artwork is visually stunning. It is colorful, luminescent and skilfully put together. But what is most compelling is the depth of character that Broca communicates in her depictions of the Purim heroine. Broca’s Esther is intelligent, sensual and strong; an ancient role model worth emulating in today’s world. An award-winning artist, Broca has taught for many years, has had more than 60 exhibitions in North America and Europe over the last 30 years, and her works are found in public and private collections around the world. Yet, she remains humble and down-to-earth.
Beneath the glittering surface (of mosaics) simmers a rich stew of Broca-esque themes: Sexual oppression and power, deadly secrets and deceit, sacrifice and death – the stuff of life, according to an artist who literally vibrates with emotion when she talks about it.
From Lilian Broca’s troubled brides to her triumphant Lilith, the suppressed heroism of women becomes manifest. The artist has documented woman realizing and fulfilling herself as an equal representative of humanity…. Lilian Broca’s work appears in the contemporary context like a troublesome apocrypha to art’s recent history.
Whether depicting brides or angels, Broca’s painting and drawing techniques add credibility to her subject matter.
…the Lilith works are the most powerful in terms of content and the questions they raise about women’s position and plight. Like Symbolist painters before her, Broca has taken the myth of Lilith and launched a reassessment of an ancient character’s impact on contemporary society… Praise to Broca for bringing these issues to the light…
The power of Broca’s work lies in her individual style, a complete rejection to follow mainstream styles, and a hyper-sensitivity to the role of women in society expressed in their mythical and spiritual dimensions as well as their social and economic contexts. Broca’s exploration of the Lilith theme has yielded a rich body of work. Her meticulously drawn figures on especially prepared spackle ground, and the use of graphite with some subtle touches of colour have captured the angst of the women in the 1990’s.
Lilian Broca’s solo exhibit, Brides Goddesses and Heroines was as luminous thought-provoking and empowering as any show we’ve ever seen… Huge panels that proclaim Lilian Broca as an artist of immense stature, as well as a visionary futurist, guarantee that this exhibit will not only be well attended, but will provoke a lot of reaction from all those fortunate enough to witness her art. This incredibly impressive one-woman show continues at the Richmond Art Gallery to Sept 27. Don’t miss it.
…In the two series “Brides” (drawings) and “Goddesses and Heroines” (paintings), images with icon importance permeate her (Broca’s) work. Broca uses subjects and painting methods to recollect ideas and resonate thoughts across generations in time… Her art reflects cultural influences and it serves social and psychological purposes, both for the artist and for the viewer.
…Throughout her career, Broca’s work has consistently dealt with the human figure and human matters. The works of her last ten years have shown a considerable leaning towards symbolism as a vehicle for exploring various personal and social concerns. In her 1992 exhibition entitled “Brides” the artist has examined the widely accepted image of a bride through an unusual frame of reference – fairy tales – which compel an honest and genuine (albeit unconventional) reaction from the viewer. These brides question the accepted “role model” images which come down to us through centuries of stories, legends and fairy tales. Broca challenged the notions of “virtue as the ultimate winner” and “they lived happily ever after…” through work which states that, as our perspective of “virtue” and “ever after” has changed, these role models are obsolete.
Broca’s version of Lilith rings truer than what you find in the feminist media. Broca draws the wings and the warts – the love and the anger. Her art embraces not only the politically correct birth from the soil of Eden, but all the nastiness of Lilith’s life after the fall.
Recalling the Symbolist ‘femme fatale’ of the late nineteenth century, Lilian Broca presents at the end of this century an archetypal Lilith charged with creative and destructive energies. From a thoughtful, well-researched study of Lilith’s origins and interpretations, and with an imagination that understands and dreams angels, Broca reconstructs Lilith’s mythological tale. In the process Lilith’s story becomes a women’s collective narrative that explores what can happen when as Broca says “the world puts a lid on you… when you have a sense of dignity and somebody tries to oppress you.” In a language reminiscent of William Blake who created angels at once figurative, conceptual and personalized, Lilith’s expressive body, projected against a drama of light and darkness, turns into Eve’s other as female exile and alien.