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Florin Olari – the artist who excels in church painting and contemporary art

The story of Florin Olari, one of the most famous church painters in Transylvania and a prodigious artist who approaches contemporary art with a surrealist twist, fascinates with the effervescence of every slice of life.

Childhood – the cradle of absolute creativity

Born in Poiana Ilvei (Bistrița-Năsăud county), painter Florin Olari had a captivating childhood experience that admirably shaped his personality. His parents Liviu and Ilenuța Olari instilled in him solid moral principles, which only wonderful people who are extremely well anchored in social and spiritual life can do. Among their three children (Liviu, Emiluț and Florin), the youngest developed a deep passion for painting, passed on by his father’s spirit, who was also concerned with art.

„My father saw in me that painter who failed to be himself.”

Hard work is another quality of painter Florin Olari, which he learned from his paternal grandmother for whom there was no free time. The story of that woman, Ioana, who wrote poems and prayers with the simplicity and humility given by a life full of burdens in the mountain village of Bistrita, impresses with the relief of a strong and determined character: with two grandchildren in her arms, on her way, she was toasting, and the future painter enjoyed the strong arms and rough hands that offered so much warmth. Such an image, in the shadows of the night, delights and grieves, bewitching the imagination of any of us.

The artist’s childhood is like something out of a fairy tale, full of thrilling games and crazy ideas for handmade toys, escapes into nature and adventure novel-like antics. The experiences of this period are fabulous: the closeness to nature, the spectacle of late autumn colours, the greys of winter, the fresh, strong hues of spring and the golden yellow of the summer sun are etched in her memory. In fact, yellow became his favourite colour, found in every canvas he later painted.

Drawing and painting came naturally to the young artist who, from early childhood, experimented with drawing after icons in the house, the only representations he could relate to at that age. In secondary school he also studied the violin, the sound of which he became deeply attached to, but his channeling towards painting meant that this instrument remained a latent passion.

The trigger for contemporary art came when the child Florin Olari discovered a cupboard full of honeycombs in his grandparents’ house. Their shape, texture, smell and colour left an intense impression on him: the fresher a honeycomb is, the lighter its colour and the darker it gets as it ages, ranging from bright yellow to dark shades of brown. The honeycomb thus became, in maturity, his visual signature, the element that runs through all his work.

Thousands of square meters painted in fresco

His passion for Byzantine art was reflected in the schools he attended. After graduating from the „Corneliu Baba” High School of Arts in Bistrita, Florin Olari enrolled at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology (Babeș-Bolyai University), Cultural Heritage section, where he trained in the field of sacred art. The next step was the master’s degree with the dissertation „Divine symbols” and the doctorate with the topic „Symbolism of honey and honeycomb in religious and secular culture”, studies carried out at the University of Art and Design in Cluj. Painter and restorer authorized by the Romanian Patriarchate, Florin Olari paints churches „in the hope of being better and closer to God”. From master Dan-Mihai Ivanovici he learned that artistic expression is based on spiritual experience and that it is very important to know as an artist the life of the saint you are painting. The fresco is an emanation of spiritual life based on fasting and prayer. In the painting of a church, talent is not enough, it is complemented by a spiritual preparation through communion and trust that God opens the mind, conscience and horizon of the artist, so that the painting that comes out of his hands can be of use to the common man, who can reach perfection, like the saints in the frescoes.

Florin Olari’s painting is for those who come to the churches painted by him, an interaction with the divine essence, thus being surrounded by the gentle glances and fine gestures of those who have sacrificed their lives for Christ, the believer’s experience deepens in reverie and communion with the Supreme Being.

For the young artist, Byzantine painting is not a profession, but an intense and sensitive experience that exudes the message of the Gospel and the light of the Risen Christ. The 16 churches he has painted, together with the Strâmba Monastery in Sălaj (his latest achievement), bear witness to his prolificacy and talent.

Abstract art, a perfection of the ecclesiastical one

Without abandoning his spiritual side, Florin Olari succeeds in abstracting and polarizing the most profound concepts: faith, creation, infinity, goodness, freedom, hope, etc. Even if abstract painting with a surrealist tinge seems antagonistic to the coloristic and figurative canon of the ecclesiastical one, the artist produces extremely refined large-scale works. Modern and perfectly integrated into the contemporary spirit, the painting is a universe in which the honeycomb is enthroned as an exponent of the perfection of Creation.

Numerous solo and group exhibitions place Florin Olari in the gallery of the great names of contemporary art.

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