The more substantial central concatenation of lines and colors here, as well as representing the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in his pomp, are redolent of a sanitized incorporation and translation of the infamous image of a post-mortal Gaddafi, and his bloated and disfigured visage that accompanied the media coverage of the fervent exultations of his enemies.
The swells and recessions of Virtosu's undulant forms transform a beaten face into a beautified and enigmatic form as if to create an analogous but strained relation between the untidy.
The macabre and the stuff of life on one hand, and the aestheticization of life in art whose schematizations both contrasts with life's defiance of summation and are in uneasy concert with worldly existence in the sense that sensibility can transliterate the violent into the rarefied genre of the tragic. The tragic genre approaches and confronts life while receding from it through its techniques of the formalization of a world recalcitrant to formulae.
The contemporary artist plays on ambiguity in this oil painting and thereby will not simplistically declare himself partisan. His Gaddafi epitomizes both the grandeur of a visionary status replete with military accouterment and the slight incline of the head upward to the right of the picture. However, as our eye lowers to the fallen reaches of the figure, the face is deconstructed or, rather, destroyed as the bulbous and distorted shapes that defy corporeal integrity to remind us of the degradation and violence of Gaddafi's end in Sirte in 2011.
This evocation of his death does not, however, pander to a triumphalist view but becomes a meditation upon transience, mortality and the lability of the flesh.
Therefore, in the same instant that exalted status is pictorialized so too is its facticity. This, as well as demoting the subject from an elevated status conjured by political life, humanizes and introduces – no matter what political position persuades the viewer – a note of pathos. It may be countered that the sanguinary reds encircling the eyes point to a ruthless and intolerant personality but this observation co-exists with that of humanization, perhaps even because of this. As the lower part of the figure can be related to Muammar Gaddafi 's death, the artist envisions the head of a European Union leader watching Gaddafi. Being in concert with the fact of death's all-consuming nature, we must see Virtosu's figure as an elaborate if coloristic death mask. The reds around the eyes then become the subject's blood, the position of the head now becoming a lifeless languidity and the background the refuse of the drainage pipe in which Muammar Gaddafi was discovered.
A confluence of magnificence and degradation, of power and the ultimate lack of power, of cruelty and humanity, and of man and myth typify the artist's oil painting and thus it contains within its painterly code all sides of the Libyan's hotly contested legacy.