Syncretism and revelations in the painting of NikolayGutsu

       The Latin America’s House hosts the painting exhibition of Nikolay Gutsu, a prominent representative of the Bessarabian contemporary art.
Born in 1954 in Siberia, into a deported Bessarabian family, educated in Moscow and co-opted by a group of artists diverging from the official direction of the Soviet art, Gutsu preserved his national identity, remaining true to his Romanian origins. Even if this is not necessarily noticeable in the artistic syntax chosen by the painter, it can be perceived, though, in the internal thinking of his works and in subtle constitutive elements. The current exhibition presents three directions in which the artist conceived his work, all figurative, but oscillating between naturalism, with escapes into surrealism or symbolism, and a synthetism with a humorous note.

       One first direction is that of the sacred themes painting, in which the author gives personal interpretations to the Old and the New Testament. These are not elements of dogma, but only of a formal covering, a deviation from the erminia and a representation of biblical characters according to the painter’s own impressions. Most of these characters have assuredly had a model used by Gutsu in materializing their respective traits: Adam and Eve are two happy and healthy youngsters, whose bodies merge into the trunk of the apple tree whose branches grow foetuses instead of fruits, as insurance for the proliferation of the human kind. Eve, in the composition showing her ready to bite from the fruit of knowledge, has her look covered by a green, scaly hand, belonging to the demonic snake. This transposition of the biblical events and characters into realism is able to humanize and make the great mysteries accessible for the understanding of common people. Salome poses, content, with the tray carrying the head of St. John the Baptist; on one hand she wears a long ball glove, stained with blood, and throws flirtatious, entrancing and promising looks to the outside, like a courtesan in search of admirers. In Paternity, the head of Holy Lord Sabaogh has a triangular shape given by the long beard and hair, concentrating in this way the idea of Trinity. His haloed hands sustain the Holy Child – and not the mature Son, as represented in the erminia – over a cathedral floating in the air. The Fire Steps are, in Gutsu’s vision, the symbols of the Resurrection: on the barren land, cracked by drought – where an incandescent fault appeared, on the shape of the cross that has detached from the ground, with the Saviour floating on it in robes of light – the Roman guards, terrified, throw themselves down. The cross arms hold the bread, the crown of thorns and the Holy Grail; an angel bows down to the Heavenly apparition. The components are the same as usual, only the arrangement differs, unconventional and absolutely original. Particularly evocative is the composition Disintegration: on the Romanovs’ throne, covered with the imperial mantle from whose collar emerge the heads of the crowned two-headed eagle, wearing on the neck a collar with the Bolshevik red star – sign that the Tsarist empire was replaced by the Soviets empire (actually, in the very texture of the mantle alternate, as a pattern, the star and the eagle...) – sits a monster preparing, fork and knife in hand, to devour the Mystic Lamb, already sacrificed. Under the throne legs carved as claws struggles the humanity, nude and pure, crushed under the burden of an oppressive system. The irony residing in this painting, exposing the syncretism produced in Russia during the last 80 years, is equally dramatic and caustic.

  From the rich, bright palette of the religious or socially inspired images, or of the social criticism ones, Gutsu evolves to a blue period, with quiet compositions and tones. The mythology plays here a defining role, as if the artist wanted to illustrate, in evenly intense bluish shades, all the constellations on the firmament and the corresponding zodiac signs. Unicorns, Graces, Icarus, Castor and Pollux populate his paintings.

   The third proposal of Nikolay Gutsu is a synthetic painting, whose origins mix cubist, futurist solutions and suggestions of the children’s art, retrieved from the path of Kandinsky – Klee – Miró. A concentration of faces, sometimes interfering and concealing each other in the centre of the painting, composes a series of character studies with allusions to the contemporaneous. The mimicry and the gestures are meant to bring out specific traits of some fellow-citizens, rapacious and abject, swindler and poltroon, avaricious and miserable or spendthrift and insensible to the human values. The palette is, this time, in pastels, and the outline has its importance for the unity of these divergent faces with centrifugal tendencies, by their very diversity of feelings and perceptions. Ironic and playful, these compositions let the viewer relax after the concentration experienced at going through all the pieces invested with such a great symbolic meaning, in the series of religious themes, brought to life with talent and dedication by Nikolay Gutsu.

Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, Cronica Română, January 26-27, 2002