Octavia Forster, Save Hoia 

I have started and completed this work during quarantine and it is intentionally similar to the corona virus appearance, I feel that people will instinctively know it was made during this period. It is inspired by Romanian wall hangings called PARETAR, made by peasant women and usually containing texts and life lessons. It measures 42cm/42cm. Lockdown has meant that I have had more time to dedicate myself to art but it has also brought an element of hope as well as death into my work.

The image is an interpretation of a photograph of the Hoia Forest, located in my home town of Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania. The forest is said to be hunted and there are a few people who have committed suicide there. Personally, I have never experience anything other than sheer joy and peace there, walking and having picnics there as a child with my family, attending music festivals and working in the open air section of the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, which is located on site.

In recent years, Hoia Forest has been subjected to deforestation as there are interests to build a residential area there. I am using my work to draw attention to this and help save this forest.

The text is a poem by the Romanian poet Paul Celan who killed himself in Paris. It speaks about dreams of belonging and of a “root that firmly grasps the dreamer”, a fate that any immigrant, myself included, will understand. Just like the image of the forest, the poem “suggests an undercurrent of horror. There is also desolation (is it the dreamer himself who is “no longer visible to anyone”?) and confusion and deterioration (can he be seen by the things with eyes … is he both no longer visible, and no longer able to see himself?) Even the line breaks in the last stanza seem to suggest that the narrator’s speech is slowing and disintegrating.” (Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh). Celan was a Holocaust survivor and I am hoping the forest will survive urbanization and not fall victim to greed or to indolence and stay visible and safe.

A major theme in this work is death; I want to use it as a rebirth of sorts, just as decay and rotting in forests help the birth and growth of new life.

This piece is made with watercolors, ink, beads and cotton thread on cotton. It is framed in a wooden box. It is meant to be illuminated so it reveals the hidden messages around the embroidered image, written in very diluted and otherwise almost invisible watercolor, which say SAVE HOIA in Romanian, English, French and Chinese. The lights come on triggered by a sensor placed under the frame whenever a person passes by.

O Little Root of a Dream.

O little root of a dream you hold me here undermined by blood, no longer visible to anyone, property of death. Curve a face that there may be speech, of earth, of ardor, of things with eyes, even here, where you read me blind, even here, where you refute me, to the letter.

Octavia Forster

I am a textile conservator and artist, working with mixed media, mainly tapestry, graphics and embroidery. My love is conservation and I have worked in museums in Romania, UK and Qatar.

Instagram @ aticavo