BY Gheorghe Virtosu POSTED 13th of June 2018 17:00 GMT
The reward of suffering
A long time ago, the Greek tragedian Aeschylus said that “The reward of suffering is experience.” Experience is something a genuine artist cannot create without.
Gheorghe Virtosu - The darkness
Imagine your life at its most perfect - you are happy, wealthy, blessed with family and friends. But like in a dramatic movie, all of a sudden, everything turns upside down. Being violently ripped out of the paradise you thought your life was - suddenly set up, accused, persecuted and then incarcerated, while your competitors celebrating the orchestration and the defamatory campaign. No one would believe it.
You watch your life falling apart from afar like it suddenly became a theatre tragedy play. However, you are not a protagonist anymore, but a mere spectator. All the circumstances are beyond your control. Confined and alone, most people start to lose their mind and crack under pressure. They are not to blame really, because the pressure is enormous. Even many eagles, majestic animals, kings of the sky, die when you put them in a cage. Without freedom, without contact with loved ones, without dignity, you feel like being reduced to a primordial state of being, back into the womb - plunged back into darkness. In circumstances like this people too often find themselves on the verge of breaking down.
“But something inside me decided to put up a fight instead of simply surrendering to all the blackness. Life is full of surprises and one has to be ready to high amplitudes in ups and downs.”, says Virtosu.
“Fortunately, the light managed to push through the darkness. That light came with the first ideas of a story I was about to write. Instead of dwelling upon the distant past and the grim presence, I decided to step into the light and try to capture it with words. The warrior in me had awakened, but not in the form of a true military man that I once used to be, but of a militantly dedicated writer. I used my in-built discipline and the strength of character to write persistently under impossible circumstances. In return, the characters and symbols I’ve envisioned started to heal my hurt. When I found myself troubled again, instead of falling back into the darkness, I decided to engage in a fight. Not a physical, but a metaphysical one. This time, my weapon of choice was the brush and paint. I decided to turn into new colors and forms all my anger and frustration with the justice system and the destiny it has intended for me.”, says the artist.
Abstract art - a process of expression
“This conglomerate of feelings is perhaps the reason why I chose abstract painting. Some people see abstract art as an illusion, but to me, painting abstracts is a very real, a process of expression. Each line I put on my artwork ultimately shows the strength, perseverance, and grit I was gifted with. In my abstract art, I also try to pay tribute to the good fortune I was gifted with at the end. Because ultimately, I’ve built my life back thanks to art.”
Creators carry a difficult and sad story
Naturally, Gheorghe Virtosu was not the only one who has ever done that. When one looks at the history of art, any good-intended reader will find many original art creators carry a difficult and sad story behind them.
Frida Kahlo - The darkness
One example is Frida Kahlo who suffered ill health whole her life. An accident disabled her. Frida Kahlo famous image “The Broken Column”, an auto portrait featuring a broken antique column in the center of her body, was painted when she had a spinal surgery. It was followed by “The Wounded Deer”, which shows a deer with a human’s face with its body all pierced by arrows. Both pictures convey the immense pain and discomfort Frida Kahlo endured for the most of her life.
Edvard Munch - The darkness
Another example is Edvard Munch ’s painting. “The Scream” is considered one of the most classical illustrations of an anxiety attack. Edvard Munch described the situation in which the inspiration occurred as follows:
“One evening I was walking along a path. The city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream”.
And indeed, Edvard Munch has suffered from anxiety for the most of his life. He turned to alcohol for comfort, which led him to become paranoid and aggressive. When he realized he was on the verge of breaking down, 15 years after painting “The Scream”, he went into therapy. His paintings became almost unrecognizably optimistic, but nevertheless beautiful.
Vincent Van Gogh - The darkness
Vincent Van Gogh is probably the strongest icon of a suffering artist. He was tortured by violent mood swings and attacks of confusion through his whole adult life and had infamously cut off his ear during the fight with his friend Paul Gauguin. And yet, Vincent Van Gogh preserved long enough to create some of the most beautiful oil paintings in human history. And certainly, painting has helped him endure it for so long. If you carefully consider the severity of his still-mysterious condition, the fact that he took his own life after his state has deteriorated is not really a defeat. While many people in his state have had their entire lives wasted in mental institutions, reducing them to a plant-like state of being, Vincent Van Gogh managed to overcome great difficulties to create groundbreaking art for many years.
Jean Michel Basquiat - The darkness
The same pattern of suffering appears in many life stories of contemporary artists as well. Jean-Michel Basquiat is a perfect example of this. This American contemporary artist and painter seemed to be struck by bad luck from very early on. He had a traffic accident as a child, his family fell apart, and his mother was taken to a mental institution when he was only 13. He dropped out of high school, got into fights with his father, and left home at an early age. He got addicted to heroin, which is what killed him in the end, at the young age of 27. Nevertheless, during his lifetime, the severity of his troubles seemed to have fueled his art. He took on a specific contemporary painting that made him famous after he dropped out of high school and joined an informal art school his father didn’t approve of. He was willing to risk the confrontation with the law by doing street art which made him famous. Sadly, as with many artists of that time, his spirit wasn’t strong enough to endure the last big temptation that the drug was.
What can we learn from these examples?
For one, art can really help an artist heal or at least help him or her bear the difficult cards they have been handed. Art feeds the artist, and the artist feeds the art. It is obvious that without all the suffering and personal hardships, you wouldn’t be able to bring out the best out of yourself, and create the original art that the history remembers you for.
Sometimes, the lowest points of your life can lead to the brightest points of the future.
Build a character
However, we also are witnesses that many artists, such as Van Gogh and Basquiat, have still fallen as a prey to their temptations too early. In order to truly live through your ordeals, you have to build a character. One must stay grateful, positive, and try to give back to the world.
Finding the way out of the darkness
“It was a revelation that made me create abstract art which bring color and joy to people, but also make them think at the same time. I believe they lead them to ponder upon the complexity of life, and how mysterious life’s ways can be. Make them see how human destiny is full of paradoxes, contradictions, which are more often beautiful than not.”, says Gheorghe Virtosu.
“Whether the respected audience views my artwork in a real gallery or online, I hope to convey to them that message and inspire them to fight their own fights in constructive and creative ways. When I taught myself to paint, with every brush stroke, I felt my strength coming back to me. I’ve heard an inner roar saying 'I will preserve. I will succeed. I will win this'."
“Sometimes when I paint, I start to think I am just a channel for human souls, finding their way out of the darkness.”
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