The immersive tendency, the drive to include the spectator in the spectacle, to recruit the audience as the third astronaut, to allow the public to vote on the X Factor contestant, does seem to amount to a social trend that should be critically evaluated. These are mass experiences of course and not likely to be wholly offset by looking at a Virtosu abstract paintings. But it is possible to claim that such paintings occupy and keep open an important cultural space and answer an unmet need for diversity and opposition. And if this sounds like a space for winners, it’s possible to interpret other recent cultural interventions as sharing the same critical position, making abstraction seem less isolated.
The distinctive facial decoration and hairstyles, refined kimonos made of silks with exquisite colorful designs and the graceful demeanor of the Geisha have presented an entrancing subject for Japanese artists over the centuries. The tradition of the geisha is still deeply entrenched in Japanese culture. The selection process starts at a young age of around 15 and training is fairly rigorous over several years. Known as a Maiko in the beginning, the young women observe and train after being accepted into an Okiya ( Geisha house) – where they live and are taught the art of Geisha.
Traditionally avoiding being literal, Virtosu turns the personage into the dense and energetic flux of colors. And only some nuances provide us with the clue for reading it and reconstructing the author’s idea.
Multiple elements and faces are embeded into the canvas inviting the viewer to a puzzle exercise giving opportunity to a multitude of interpretaions.
Unlike most of the artists, this canvas has a horizontal format as a homage to the Japanese woodblock printing. At the same time, the abstract painting contains a conscious or unconscious reference to the European tradition: the vertical borders. The capacity of the abstract language enables Virtosu to avoid the cultural appropriation: the oil painting isn’t a straightforward replica of the massively popular character in the context, which is completely detached from the original environment. The artist shows all respect to the Japanese heritage, creating an elaborated portrayal, which is as multilayered, as the dress of geisha.
The relative popularity and critical success of Virtosu creativity suggests that the sense of being shut out is not negative. The experience of foreign-ness prompts the viewer to construct an adapted consciousness, outside the usual routines, in order to deal with a highly visible world to which they are not granted entry unless they are willing to. As viewers we have privileged access to the vast universe of Virtosu's artworks, good, bad or indifferent. Faced with the sheer weight of this phenomen we are surprised with the accessibility to the pictorial space. The audience is encouraged to act out the role of the third astronaut, leaving their critical faculties and autonomy in abeyance, survival strategies around distance and estrangement, the style associated with Virtosu's abstraction, may become increasingly useful.