BY Shane Lewis POSTED 20th of June 2018 11:00 GMT
Socialist fraternal kiss. Painted 2016 to 2017 by Moldovan-born British contemporary artist, Gheorghe Virtosu, b. 1968. Oil on canvas, 136 cm high by 134 cm wide. 53 X 53 inches. - abstract art -
Without any doubts, art is the unique instrument for exploring the most general and catchall subjects, like relations, emotions, death, love, calling… And people turn to it in searching for some objective truth. However, art is impossible without subjectivity: creators have to base their works on personal observations and individual perspective to breathe some life into them and make their works more tangible. It is almost impossible to fake the sense of experience and sincerity in art – the viewer will feel it immediately. Completely aware of this, contemporary artist Gheorghe Virtosu is opened to sharing his thoughts and stories with us through his oil painting.
Now a citizen of the UK, Virtosu lived a large part of his life in native Moldova. Thus, he perfectly knows the life of his country, when it was a part of the USSR. He witnessed socialism in action. After moving to Western Europe, the artist found himself engaged in another, completely opposite situation - the realm of capitalism and democracy. And the contrast between the two systems was overwhelming. It was like suffocating for a long time and finally have a chance to breathe at the top of your lungs.
For the contemporary artist, the choky atmosphere of socialism is iconically represented in the tradition of the Socialist fraternal kiss - the emblematic act of greeting for the communists. This tradition is quite shocking for the Western mentality, which is very cautious about treating one’s physical space. Such forced demonstration of power by invading one’s physical space causes nothing but the feeling of disguise. Violating and even denying the very existence of private borders of people was typical for socialism. And to express it visually, the artist intentionally stresses the turmoil of the oil painting ’s design.
Usually keeping the texture of figures laconic in opposition to the emotionally rendered surrounding, this time he allows the painterly ‘disturbance’ inside the geometric shapes as well. Dots, lines, and careless brushstrokes create the noise to distract the attention from the outline and flatness of the oil painting ’s surface. Our eyes are forced to wander longer across the image; and as we reach the top part of the abstract art piece, one will notice the likeness of two kissing faces in the tangle of lines. The faces are heavily stylized and remind African masks - a nearly demonic attribute, which inspired the great masters of the 20th century, like Picasso and Matisse. And after that our brain immediately rearranges the seeming disorder of the drawing into hands, bodies of the ‘personages,’ and decodes the drama.
The fraternal kiss turns into the kiss of Judas, as the embrace of the red-colored figure (red - a common symbol of Communism) occurs to be the yellow ‘snake’ with silvery scales on the ‘skin.’ The ‘snake’ enlaces the deceived victim, the same way the USSR was taking over their ‘partners’ under the mask of friendliness. Hence, Socialist fraternal kiss is the loud warning against the nostalgia about the USSR and ideas of socialism.
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