The full story
Bogdan Mihai Radu
Bogdan Mihai Radu is a Romanian born, London based painter. Primarily figurative, Radu is known for his dramatic, light-filled landscapes, sea-scapes, floral still-life’s and vivid, abstract paintings. While he grew up under the last years of communism, Radu had an idyllic childhood in many ways. He spent it playing in the iris-filled fields of Transylvania that surrounded the town of Talmaciu where he grew up. Talmaciu was where Radu discovered his fascination for art. As a boy he would visit his mother in the string factory where she worked in the cross-stitch section. Radu was mesmerised by the array of threads that were soaking in brilliantly coloured dyes. He was also fascinated by the cross-stitch kits themselves. The images that had been printed for people to stitch were Radu’s first introduction to art. It is interesting how different experiences at key moments in a child’s life can resonate later. The young Radu was very taken with the stories he heard about the owner of the factory, who was English. Perhaps Radu was more intrigued than most because his grandparents lived in a villa built by the factory owner. It piqued the young boy’s interest in England and the English, so much so eventually he found himself living in London as an adult. Several of the subjects depicted on the cross-stitch kits were by well-known English painters - John Constable being one of the reproduced artists. Constable has been a source of inspiration to Radu throughout his career, notably his treatment of the sky, light and his pioneering use of colour in landscape painting at a time when it was de rigeur to coat works with thick, brown varnish to ‘finish’ them.
Radu’s experience of the factory coincided with another formative event. He saw a film about an art robbery. Priceless, iconic paintings were stolen from museums and private collections and replaced by near-perfect replicas in order to ensure the owners would never even realise that the theft and swap had taken place. The intricate plot behind this film not only caught Radu’s attention, it inspired him to follow suit. He ‘borrowed’ the paintings of his grandparents and other relatives - claiming that he needed them for school – and set to work on the business of reproducing them. He then presented these beautifully executed reproductions to their owners. Just like the film, Radu’s family never suspected anything.
Although Radu had expressed a clear interest in art from an early age, his parents felt it best to enrol him in a local high school that focused on the study and workings of the railway in order to ensure him a future career. Radu had other ideas. He refused to abandon his artistic studies and as he became older, he decided to attend Friedrich Müller’s college classes and became a certified art therapist. Shortly after, he began volunteering in centres for disabled children. By witnessing the benefits to the children that art therapy gave them: their joy at making their own work and their willingness to participate in artistic activities - not to mention the miraculous effects of colour on their psychology - Radu was inspired. He determined to pursue an artistic career.
The artist had his first solo exhibition in 2002. Entitled Past Shrouded in Shadow and Colour, it was held at Casa Ille et Vilaine in Sibiu. The show was well received amongst Sibiu’s art community. In 2003, Radu was invited to became a member of the Union of Fine Artists in Sibiu. This paved the way for his participation in a group exhibition at Atelier 35 Gallery and for a solo exhibition entitled Reflections at Atelier 202 in Apoldu de Sus. Radu went on to have a number of notable solo exhibitions: Flavours of Sibiu at the Casa Luxembourg (2004)., Plunged into Colour at the Cisnădie City Hall in 2004, and Contrast and Colour in 2005. The same year, Radu was named one of the ‘Young Talent’ winners in a contest organised by the Art e Arte Foundation. Radu exhibited throughout Romania during this period. Selected shows include: Ion Dacian at the National Theatre of Operetta in Bucharest in 2005, Angels and Saints at the Comedy Theatre in Bucharest in 2006, and The Queen Mary’s Heart at the Charles I Central University Library in Bucharest in 2006.
In 2007, Radu was admitted to the Art and Design University of Cluj. In parallel with his time there, he attended master classes with Cornel Brudașcu – a respected painter from the older generation whose work has greatly influenced Radu’s practice. Following his studies, Radu continued to exhibit in Romania. He had an eponymous solo presentation at the Student’s Culture House in Cluj and a show entitled: It’s tiring to be a painter at the Green Hours Jazz Cafe in Bucharest.
Ten years hence, Radu felt he needed to make some changes in his practice. His focus shifted, moving from floral still life’s and landscapes to sea-scapes and more abstracted works. After participating in the Oxford International Art Fair in 2018 (where he won First Prize (winning painting above), which resulted in him being invited to present his work as a special guest at the Tokyo International Art Fair), Radu moved to London to draw inspiration from a different culture and environment. Even before he began absorbing London life, it is apparent from the reaction to Radu’s work that people could sense his anticipation and excitement about moving to a new city and country. Richard Knight from Christie’s, Oxford, commented on Radu’s paintings at the Oxford Art Fair:“A Romanian artist whose works spoke volumes at the entrance to the show. On an immense scale that’s immersive, Bogdan’s abstracted expressionism is bold and striking, dense with mood and emotion”.
Moving to London
Radu exhibited twice at the Romanian Cultural Institute after arriving in London: Tony Blair visited his 2019 show: Searching for Life, and after the second exhibition there in 2021: Eight Regained Moments, the artist was included in Paul Kenton’s book: ‘Children of the Night’. In the same year, Radu had a solo exhibition: The Heart of Queen Marie, at Mogosoaia Palace, near Bucharest, and his painting: Yellow Flowers (2021) was shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition.
In November 2020, Radu received an order of merit from his country, or more precisely: ‘The order of Cultural Merit in the rank of Knight, Category C, Fine Arts’, for his contribution to arts and culture. This was in recognition of his own talent, but also an acknowledgment of his part in promoting a positive image of Romania in the UK. Radu’s works are included in several important museum collections - one of the most prominent being the Cotroceni National Museum in Bucharest, Romania, and in notable private collections, including the Romanian Royal Family.
Radu continues to live and work in London and has recently taken British Citizenship.
A text by Jane Neal
2020 | Member of Artists Union England
2019 | Friend of the Royal Academy
2020 | The Order of ‘Cultural Merit’ in the rank of Knight, Category C – ‘Fine Arts,’
granted by the Romanian Presidential House
2018 | 1st Prize at the Oxford International Art Fair, Oxford, United Kingdom