Thursday, August 21, 2008

Art Blogging: Nikolai Getman

Nikolai Getman (1917-2004) was a Ukrainian painter who spent eight years in a Soviet gulag and chronicled the experiences of that institution's victims. He attended the Kharkov Art College in the 1930s, where he developed a strong appreciation for vibrant and rich colors:

"The most important thing in a picture is color. It is through your use of color that you will make the viewer sense the mood of your canvas. Without color there is no art."

In 1946, Getman was at a cafe table with several other artists, one of whom sketched a cartoon of Stalin on a piece of paper. For this, he was convicted of "anti-Soviet" activity and dispatched to forced labor camps in Siberia. Upon his release, Getman used his skills to produce official, pro-Soviet propaganda, but secretly memorialized the gulag experience in paint.

Magadan Hills. In 1932, the Soviet Union began building a settlement in the Magadan hills of Siberia, using gulag labor to work and die in the frozen wasteland. Getman's works demonstrate an existential hope in the sacrifice of Christ on this Golgotha built out of the gulag's victims.

This work strongly reminds me of Evelyn De Morgan's The Red Cross.

Eternal Memory in the Permafrost. Two prisoners are buried beneath blocks of ice in a funeral conducted by a ragged Russian with a crude wooden crucifix and a praying Japanese POW.

Torture by Mosquitoes. In this crucifixion scene, Christ shares in the worst sufferings of the prisoners. Torturing a prisoner through mosquitoes was so common that the technique even had a name -- komarki -- and was usually done beyond the barbed wire in full view of the other prisoners.

1 comment:

Getman said...

Detailed information about Nikolai Getman you can see on