Saturday, 29 March 2014

The best of the Little Beast: The controversial art of Vitaly Katkov

The best of the Little Beast:
The controversial art of Vitaly Katkov

It was a day ago when this writer got stumbled in an art page of the well known social critic Eduard Limonov.

Again, known for his opposition to Putin, "National Bolshevism", and his "Limonka" grenade, Eduard Limonov and his group had also fond for artworks that invoke the antinorm. Arts others would consider as "Avant garde" with a sense that it has to counter the prevailing norms and at the same time reflects the reality of a modern day society.

The page where this writer had sought had no background  regarding the artist except that he was from Ekaternburg and had fondness for EDM, tattoos, and anti-western sentiment. He may had been aligned with Limonov and his group with the latter featuring his works through its own art page featuring dozens of artworks. And since Katkov had came from Russia then it is one of the artists whose artworks are different from what Russian art often shown in mainstream media: be it as folkish like the Churches, or Neoclassical as the palaces, or Socialist Realist with its factories and offices with the latter being depicted thoroughly thanks to the cold war.

But instead of what is regularly shown, what Katkov did is sort of a combination of those whose intention is to mock the status quo.

The artworks featured in this writeup had much emphasised on symbolism with colours reminding of the posters coming from Cuba if not the graffitis from the streets where Gangsters had their hood, or even the cover labels of artists whether in Punk Rock or Metal scene, if not those from Lourd de Veyra's Radioactive Sago Project. And as for symbols being featured seemed to be borrowed from mythology (mainly Egyptian), pop culture (including pornography), controversial groups (such as Nazis), anything that is commonly shown by mainstream media and hence a reflection of reality being peddled by the present.

And for this writer, people may likely to call it as controversial with all the symbols being shown in that artwork, like Grosz or Mideo Cruz, it provokes the system in featuring religious symbolism and sadomasochism, of Nazis and prostitutes, beggars, and of the dark occult that would dare to call those works as satanic, if not weird since most people aren't really used to those kind of artworks other than advertisements and their selfies being posted at Instagram or in other social media account. 

This artwork for example, it had include religious symbolism and pop art. To a religious fanatic it may had meant blasphemous, and hence assailed in a way those who are against the works of Mideo Cruz opposed the latter's works being exhibited at the Cultural Centre, but seems that what Katkov did, like Cruz's, was a reflection of reality such as today's mankind crucified in its own hell courtesy of its own culture. Katkov may had created that work based on the observations he sought, such as a hell being peddled as heaven by the status quo that made its subjects heavily corrupted and rotten systems benefited from it.

Another artwork seemed to be reminded of George Grosz in featuring controversial groups such as Nazi Skinheads with its Dr. Marten boots and Iron Cross in its neck, alongside a destitute lamenting himself and a girl, maybe a prostitute choosing to commit suicide out of self-hate and choosing to escape from the real world "through the barrel of the gun"; and and is a dead intelligentsia gone degenerated, skin and bones yet garbed in coat and tie pertaining to be those whom supposed to maintain the status quo.
Like Grosz, it had showed what Russia had been after the fall of the Soviet Union such as the rise of  Russian Nazis (ironically, Hitler opposed Slavs yet Slavs afford to imitate their enemies), rampant prostitution, and other features of the "modern" world's other side such as a degenerate one.

To others, it's all but weirdness to see such artworks, that the artist as crazed in featuring hell with all its symbolism and expression featured. Like Cruz would say that Katkov urge people to critically think in regards to institutionalized supersition if not urging everyone to revolt against the so-called "modern" world gone degenerate. Furthermore, he expressed his view as a National Bolsevik in regards to his society, using art as his medium so to speak in seeing a reality what most would deem it as weird if not blasphemous or whatsoever that is contrary to the norms of the status quo.

Apologies to those who may likely to be offended in this writeup, as some artworks are meant to invoke critical thinking if not a matter of free expression. Reality often bites so to speak that can provoke anger from somebody else after seeing an artwork, listening to a song, watching a program or reading a book. Sometimes, artists whom sought reality made a version that is "provocative" in the eyes of the status quo, and with that provocativity it speaks of inconvenient truth regardless of being depicted controversially such as the use of controversial symbolism if not sex. Furthermore, it also acted as a protest against the prevailing norms in which includes crass superstition, consumerism, escapism and others regularly featured in a so-called "modern world". 

Or as what Ricky Maramba said in regards to Cruz and his controversial work:

"That is really what free speech and free expression is all about. We all have our beliefs and we should be free to say or express them even if it offends and goes against the grain of what the public believes in. With no free speech we would be left in a society which hardly changes and is stuck on medieval beliefs."

That's all for now, there are other artworks to be featured next time.