Creation of Adam

“The men where you live,” said the little prince,

“raise five thousand roses in the same garden-

– and they do not find in it what they are looking for.”

“They do not find it,” I replied.

“And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water.”

“Yes, that is true,” I said.

And the little prince added:

“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart…”

― The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Last year we were fortunate to have the exhibition Embraces by Safet Zec hosted at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo. I say fortunate, because Sarajevo has rarely  good exhibitions of internationally recognized artist or even popular bend concert. Culture in this city has been on route degrade since the end of the Bosnian War. Newly established ruling class in combination with raw capitalism and kleptocratic system that praise only small, decadent parts of “own” history and culture, follows mediocre tradition of overgrown villages. National interest reflects personal interests of “prominent” families. It is a toxic soil for exhibitions or self-presentation and therefore many artists avoid exhibiting here. Diversity is only a written word in a tourist pamphlet, rarely really welcomed and accepted. So having exhibition like Embraces is a rare and scarce event.

Although I am not fond of neorealism or poetic realism in painting I must admit that I was deeply moved by the theme and its realization through the works presented. Effortless strokes in what appears as incomplete, unfinished painting process create powerful contrast to the seemingly untreated collage surface that resonates to Japanese mu (無 – negative space) esthetic feeling. There is a notion of something unfinished, undeveloped, unspoken, because it was suddenly stopped by death itself. In contrast to the paintings exhibited, exhibition featured drawings and studies on small canvases, show that all this has been thoroughly planned.

It left a deep impression on me and I began to think about doing figural painting myself, specifically painting hands. But I didn´t want to do anything sad or depressing. So I was stuck for a while. And then I remembered the most famous pair of hands, Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. Everything started to set into motion. I was not into Michelangelo’s paintings as much as I was into his sculpture, especially during the first two years at the Academy of Fine Arts. And last year I already had a go at his Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica. When I hear Adam the first thing that pops into my mind will be my friend Adam (I only have one friend named Adam); and the second is Adam’s roses that my grandmother had in here garden and I decided to play with that idea. Now you have to understand that I do appreciate Michelangelo´s works but more like his entire life´s work. Not specifically the paintings he has done, since I am not fond of classicism. I think it is cheap and easy to like and most people I met that think classicism is a pinnacle in fine arts, tend to be white nationalist, fascist and racist or basically uneducated. I cannot enjoy works in the Sistine Chapel- to me they are just promotional billboards for Christianity. But I can enjoy Michelangelo´s paintings there if I try to read them out of the context of Christianity.

Can you see young man seducing older man in the Creation of Adam? I don´t want to argue whether  Michelangelo was gay or not, and for all I care I don´t mind if he was LGBTQ+ or hetero, but I do care for the idea that the Creation of Adam is potentially gay shunga where young man is seducing older man. What if that was what Michelangelo really wanted to paint? So I started working on that, two gay men sharing the bed, silk sheets with roses’ pattern, giving each other a rose, shunga in most inexplicit way. And rose is love, dig? And love is love, baby.

At the same time I was painting (I Think Her Name’s) Debra and I did the same building of the background for both paintings, but unlike Debra painting, here I had to connect two masculine figural hands with absolutely flat surface and the only way to do so is to look for solution in comics. I had to give up on doing basic reproduction of the arms in Michelangelo´s way. The easiest way was to apply outline to all elements. While doing this I remembered works of another great Italian artist who, unfortunately, died young at the age of 30 due to overdose. I am talking about Stefano Tamburini and his (and Tanino Liberatore´s) RanXerox. At this point I know that one day I will have to do homage to both of them.

At the end I believe that I have achieved what I wanted and if your eyes are blind, please, look at it with your heart.

Technique: acrylic on canvas

Size: 170 x 85 cm

Year: May 2020

Availability: In Private Collection

Utamaro Lichtenstein

After presenting/exhibiting first series of paintings from the 100 Views of Ukiyo-e, I immediately started to think about further development of my idea that Pop art and most of the modern arts are rooted in Ukiyo-e. In the 100 Views of Ukiyo-e I am trying to present Ukiyo-e prints as contemporary art, by giving them new “original” painting, new source. In the process of painting, more or less, Ukiyo-e prints are modernized to achieve more global symbolism.  What I noticed is that people still perceived my paintings as Japanese and even exhibitions are called Japanese art exhibitions, therefore failing to see that it became, in a way, Bosnian art, and that Ukiyo-e has still a strong global influence and should be perceived as one of the pillars of the global art, meaning not just Japanese/Asian but the World history of art.In the process of thinking I had to come back to the beginning of my research.  My research began with American Pop art and my interest for the fine arts began when I saw Roy Lichtensten´s Whaam! painting in some art magazine or a book. Printed on the size of the regular comic frame, even with the size written underneath the print, what I saw were just comics being recognized as fine art. One year later, I applied to Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo.  In the final year, I was able to research Pop art more actively and one thing led to another, and I ended up researching Ukiyo-e.

But what about Pop art and Lichtenstein and Ukiyo-e?

Lichtenstein’s work could be also perceived as Appropriation art, for its source comes from another visual medium. On the other hand, my art is mostly Appropriation art, and it usually deals with question of the copy and original. For example, all “original” subjects of my paintings are known to me through their printed or digital copies. I could only imagine their size, their colors, or their texture and surface relief. So my painting is alternative to original and in most cases it is alternated original. So if I say that Ukiyo-e is Pop art, am I not saying that Pop art is Ukiyo-e? And welcome to the birth of Utamaro Lichtenstein. It is a series of paintings that have source in Lichtenstein work, but they will be Japanized, as if Lichtenstein himself was Japanese, and we are all living in alternative universe where Eastern hemisphere and arts dominated over the Western. I chose name Utamaro, as it is one of the most mentioned artist who influenced Impressionism and I added Lichtenstein as in Ukiyo-e practice for artist to adopt family name of his school master. Painting will be comment to more contemporary subjects. As in early translations of Mangas (Japanese comics), where pages were mirrored to allow more left to right reading flow, all paintings will be mirrored to achieve right to left flow. All paintings will be signed as Utamaro Lichtenstein.