Meet the book writer and abstract artist Gheorghe Virtosu
The contemporary artist restless universe
23 June '18
artist Gheorghe Virtosu

by Adina Scutelnicu

23 June '18

Meet the book writer and abstract artist Gheorghe Virtosu

The contemporary artist restless universe

Meet the artist

Gheorghe Virtosu was born in 1968, in the Republic of Moldova, and is living a tumultuous life, after dramatically oscillating between failure and success. At 15, he started to create a path in life on his own merits, leaving behind the idyllic world of childhood for that of “city scholar,” and then for a military career in the Soviet army. During this periplus, he accumulated more frustration and anger than wellbeing and tranquility; after the fall of the Iron Curtain, he simply went out into the world, like many other wanderers of Eastern Europe, settling in London in 1992. Important World Artist Title Holder and Global Art Award Finalist, he lives and works in London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg. Having lived through the Cultural Revolution, Virtosu often focuses on his knowledge experience in his work. He depicts social phenomena and characters in abstract style. Today he is one of the most respected contemporary art representatives.

Book writer

I have met him a few years ago, as the author of an unusual collection of books dedicated to both children and parents, with a title that sounded odd – A Little Frog’s Heart. I was even more surprised when I found out that the total number of these volumes will surpass 80 and that his published works had been already translated into ten foreign languages. The author of this river-series, Gheorghe Virtosu, declares himself as a man whose essential landmark is simplicity and whose muse, both in literature and art, is Solitude. What is more, not any kind of solitude but complete isolation, and I am using here the purest sense of the word. The artist was signed by Austin Macauley Publishers New York, the first book on US soil will get released in 2019.

Gheorghe Virtosu novelist

Controversy - The Road to Art

Social quarantine was imposed on him with preemptive purposes, during an investigation triggered by an accusation of fraud. During the first part of the isolation period, he wrote two novels, after which the author confessed to me that he couldn’t write anymore. And because he wasn’t finished by saying what he had to say, he simply translated the words into images and oil paintings, channeling his anger and negative emotions into a sort of artistic positivism.

Abstract art - telling the story

The thousands of sketches have later become oil paintings telling the story of an in-love Quasimodo, of Zainab bint Muhammad, the oldest daughter of the prophet, of the judgment of Jesus; but also of gender themes. Disputed or loved, the artist's abstract painting has started becoming part of private collections.

Quasimodo in Love abstract painting
Quasimodo in Love (2017)
Zainab bint Muhammad abstract paintng
Zainab bint Muhammad (2017)

The most important landmark of my life is simplicity. Everything that emerges outside the confines of simplicity brings unhappiness. What led me to this existential juncture? Perhaps the strong bond I had with my mother, whose courage, which she passed on to me, helped me conquer my fears from the first years of my life, and to make my own decisions early on. Perhaps the hard-hitting connection with being abroad, which has also guided me towards the person I am now. Perhaps every success or every failure that I have experienced and recognized as my own. Perhaps the taming of solitude.

Leitmotifs behind the artist creativity

Isolation and solitude are beyond the shadow of a doubt the leitmotifs of Gheorghe Virtosu ’s oil paintings.

“It might seem surprising, but this solitude has helped me (re) discover and most importantly synchronize time as to have it flow in my favor under any circumstances, precisely as when you can enjoy a permanent moment of freedom and a circle of trusted friends. All the hardships I have come across under their numberless facades throughout my life have done nothing more than to refine my love of the beautiful, love which I felt all my life, in the smallest of details. Thus so happened that the primary form of native talent, which I am absolutely aware of, has flowered over the years. I must say however that I have thoughtfully cultivated these passions, I am sustaining them and making sure to always be able to improve them.” - says the artist.

Egyptian cat abstract painting
Egyptian Cat (2016)

Heroes and heroines in the oil paintings, art themes

In his works, vaguely figurative characters, well determined in space, wander through an empty yet chromatically restless universe. Regardless whether we are talking about the representation of a solitary Egyptian cat or of a celebrity (art themes from the political, religious, or show business world), the central character of the work is found in a barren space, oftentimes dark, yet tremendously vibrant. Nevertheless, the contemporary artist chose to underline that the heroes and heroines of his oil paintings are isolated only from a physical perspective and that their spiritual and mental world is abundantly creative, dynamic, and colorful. Each of these illustrates an ambiguous and distorted interior, sometimes confusing, portrayed by contrasts but also by sensitive chromatic juxtapositions. The character line, at the borders of the metaphorical and the abstract, sometimes exaggeratedly deformed, is determined, visceral, and also has unexpected twists and turns; scattering sinusoidally between up and down, between positive and negative, between hot and cold, between love and hate.

The idea of line

However, he detests the idea of line because he considers his characters to be free spirits, interdimensional, characters that a line can restrain, limit and force into a determined space.

“The characters are the ones who decide whether the beholder can enter their world or not. If you are chosen, they will protect you as they protect their own integrity. They manifest the most profound form of human expressiveness, describing fundamental aesthetic experiences on knowledge, perception, imagination, intuition, and exercise,” explains the artist. “And color?” I ask.

The color

“All color does is to replay their intensity.”

Indeed, the palette of Gheorghe Virtosu is astonishing, reminding us of modern art masterworks. He encapsulates vivid colors and shattering contrasts in feminine and sinuous contours, which he integrates with that absolute void.

“The themes of my works are both poetic and fierce. Thus the chromatic you are referring to. To me, art is a unique form through which I relate, through which I protest against the numberless forms of injustice and crookedness of the world. It helps me illustrate hardships unimaginable to a human being in an elegant form of expression, redirecting any reaction towards the elaboration of the oil paintings I create. Working continuously, I can overcome any kind of anxiety, of anger or frustration, channeling my energy towards such projects that bring me joys and satisfaction,” he explains.

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus (2016)

Artistic process

He paints under the impulse of revelation-ideas born as sparks impossible to control, which light an entire series of subsequent actions. He admits that changes can occur during the artistic process, especially regarding the dimensions and colors used, bust sustains that the spark, as a moment of inspiration, is the one deciding how the work will eventually look. He works outside of time, outside of any canons, rules, norms. He does not affiliate itself to any style; he works freely, under the impulse of suffering, hoping that his message will be perceived as a positive one – a struggle that must never be abandoned!

Sacrifice is natural when it comes to creating something unique, something majestic.

A chessboard with just kings and queens

“I am highly empathetic. I am affected in an unbelievable manner by the suffering discovered around me. Everything that has affected me, but to which I could not react in any other way, was recaptured in my paintings. I am talking about global events, which were meant to shake the entire world – the so-called brilliant revolutions of the second and third millennium, which I consider to be unworthy of contemporary civilization,” explains the artist the inner contrasts of his characters.

As a portrayal of the way contemporary events affect his artistic vision, he offers me the example of Libya’s ruler’s death, Muammar al-Gaddafi.

“It has profoundly affected me, although I have a substantial military background, and it is not about fear. I never agreed with his politics. The facts are indisputably abominable. But I was shuddered by the manner in which our level of consciousness has manifested in regards to the way we reacted towards the pettiness of the aesthetic aspect of these actions. Gaddafi was ‘a creation’ of the entire society, not just of Libya, creation which in the end, no one owned up to. I wanted to talk about the barbaric consequences of such actions.”

Gaddafi Sentence
Gaddafi Sentence (2017)

Symbolic functions

One of the features of the works he signs is the transformation of characters into symbols. The figure for the representation of the real is invested with symbolic functions through attitudes and the interacting with the ambient space.

“My muse has always been Solitude. Solitude as the living character, as a trustworthy interlocutor. It overwhelms you with gifts when you understand and appreciate it. And I describe it to the world from this perspective. I transform both pleasant and unpleasant experiences into symbols. The symbols appear spontaneously, but I believe that is in what the success of an artwork resides. The beholder, in order to understand my works, is invited to a game of chess with two adversaries, so to speak: precisely, they must play also with me, and with the leitmotif of each painting. It is a chessboard on which all the pieces are kings and queens. Thus, I invite the beholder to emerge from the quotidian, from the here and now, and enter the universe which I have created in my work. Only this way can they understand.“ adds Gherghe Virtosu.

Ultimate color - continuous transformation

Paradoxically, although he uses a vivid chromatic, he does not have a preferred color, at least not in the physical form in which we usually define color. As he explained to me, it is the ultimate tone which could emerge from the blending of all the other colors, in their infinite versions.

“This ‘ultimate’ color, aside from being something unique, inimitable, also contains something of the infinity of those existing until it. Such as the last born of a family is a miracle, unique as all individuals in the world, but becomes the archetypal element for the entire generation of his kind or how the ephemeral moment of the present is the miraculous or disastrous effect of past times. Fascinating, this ‘ultimate’ color is in a continuous transformation. In each fraction of a second, we will, in fact, have something else, another shade, another color. And I will forever be the admirer of the latter.”

The century of duck
The Century of Duck (2016)

The meaning of life

Asked in an interview for Excellence Reporter about the meaning of life, Gheorghe Virtosu answered:

“We can’t say: behold, this is the most difficult question. No! It seems that we all know about philosophy, as we do about sports. It’s difficult to say precisely how many stars there are in the sky, what are the limits of the universe, or why not, to mention the anniversary of Death. Because it is an immense enigma, what was born first: Life or Death? But perhaps the human brain could make even those calculations at some point. Our question sounds as natural as possible; it sounds so innocent and at the same time it is so complex. It appears to be the divine spark from inside us, but in contact with the immensity of the human mind, it gains the explosive magnitude of a volcano."

Although my art has grown out of suffering and pain, it conveys a very optimistic message: people should never give up fighting for what they believe in. Sometimes we have to part with what we hold most dear in order to fulfill our destiny, but this is a sacrifice which comes with the territory.

Eternal life as the light of a sunbeam

How could I conclude? I am a living being, a fragment of this life. I am at the level of a cell in regards to existence and yet, for a limited time, I inherit the infinite dimensions of life itself. Precisely in the same manner can our answer to this question be reported, because our mind, the human brain is much more capable of complicating than simplifying. Personally, I don’t think that man will ever be able to formulate an answer to define the meaning of something that is a meaning in itself. But maybe our evolution as human beings will someday lead us to such possibilities!

We have endless thoughts in our possession, each one capable to define in its own way the meaning of life, one definition more complicated than the other. So we are not able to offer a single answer to this question, both innocent and complex at the same time. We should be able to condense the whole of life into one single moment! Which would immediately be contradicted, because the many consider eternal life as the light of a sunbeam, without beginning and without end.

It is what has existed since forever and what leads us into the eternal. They would never report the eternity of life to the magnitude of a moment. I thereby consider that you cannot answer in a simple sentence to the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ because the meaning of all that was given to us comes down to a single moment. Infinitesimal, yet encompassing everything. It is the moment in which you see everything, no matter how much everything represents. Because a single word can render the universe, the same as a single moment can render the whole of life.

The dimensions we are given are simple instruments, illusory too, while we play being the Creator. We give names to things and beings, we baptize seconds, hours, years, thinking that we have discovered the meaning of life when we define a color, but then we can’t have enough brushes and vastness of canvases to give birth to other thousands and thousands of nuances, which would logically translate in just as many other meanings of life. Definitely, the discovering of the first musical note could have been interpreted as a beautiful meaning of life for someone, but then the mind, the heart, the infinite search led mankind towards intoxicating symphonies for hearing, which has shadowed the value of the first note…

Prisoners of our own web

That is not how one defines the meaning of life; not by attributing dimensions, colors, values which give us a certain comfort in the ‘dream’ we are finding ourselves, thus making our existence easier.

On the contrary, these continuous searches do nothing but torment us. Searching with such ardor, not even knowing for what, we find ourselves not knowing what is happening to us; we no longer understand why we are born and why we die. We become prisoners of our own web, which we are weaving from the most dangerous of traps, created by our own mind. We no longer know where we came from and why we need to leave this place if we are only just adjusting and learning to love it? Where are we going and why? Until we will not find out the answers to these questions, we will not be able to answer that question.

Yes, we are entitled to have an opinion. But the more we dissipate ourselves into finding interpretations, the farther we get from the real answer, therefore emphasizing our helplessness, the limitations specific to our status as human beings. We will search restlessly, meanwhile, the meaning of life, the moment which we are talking about will be right under our eyes. The meaning of life will then have the magnitude of a moment; as such, the answer must be confined in the same dimension as a moment. Something that no one has ever been able to do.

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