Apes in Heat

Many artists, over time, develop so much bitterness about fellow humans that they become misanthropic. Usually, it is about the artists’ recognition that doesn’t happen regardless of how talented they see themselves. Exceptions happen: Van Gogh was not reconised during his lifetime but he still liked people. And, you know, he had a diagnosed permission not to.

In this painting of Mikhail Ombysh-Kuznetzov (I know the name’s a challenge), titled “Heat. A treat” (2012) his misanthropy is revealed in all its naturalism.

Mikhail lives in Novosibirsk, Siberia’s largest city. Everyone knows it is very cold there in winter. Fewer people know Siberian summers can be excruciatingly hot.

This is why people who live there are generally strong and well-adapted to change. And love ice-cream.

Ice-cream eaters, not by Van Gogh

This is a group of three people reduced by the pressure of heat and the pleasure of ice-cream to a family of apes. They stopped caring about exposed genital areas, their right hands are engaged with their mouths, their left hands have no useful function so they hang powerlessly until further notice. Pure animal pleasure. Look at their faces, concentrated on the pleasure of eating something cold.

And, yes, the hand at the right side of the painting that offers them more ice-cream. And the male ape, who has almost finished his ice-cream ahead of his female companions starts paying attention. What’s creepy is that they would bite you hand off if you try to take their ice-creams away.

This artist was more or less noticed and recognised by the art world in the old Soviet Union. But then he ended up a professor of a uni. Not, really, in the art history books. Maybe this is where the bitterness comes from. But regardless of where it came from, it has prevented a big talent to develop into something new, exciting and, ultimately, recognised.

Francis Bacon. Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953.

A great artist can be a misanthrope. An artist does not have to love people, but celebrating his hatred is nothing new and, hence, not interesting. Francis Bacon did not like the society of human beings, but he studied it, explored it, and made his viewers not hate but feel compassion towards the Human Ape of a Man, made the viewers think about their own internal struggles. And that was new, interesting, and great. Still is.


        1. Well, it does send exactly this message across. My point is that this message is nothing new and wrong, and so there’s no real novelty or analysis of human condition. Which is a big pity and waste of talent for an artist who can be so crafty in painting )

          1. The message is not new, I agree. To draw a pararel, a couple of my fellow dancers created a routine that was quite original and unlike anything that was showcased before. They executed it flawlessly, both technically and emotionally however, the content of this routine was vile. I felt it was a pure waste of their talent yet they kept performing it.
            Who knows, maybe that’s how some artists express how they purge their “demons”.

            1. Yep, you put it very nicely. Purging the personal demon. But, that’s the essence of misanthropy. They, misanthropes, have to gush out their demons at the viewer, listener, watcher, for otherwise they go mad )

              1. I am so glad I came across your blog! I truly enjoy reading your articles; they remind me of the classes by my favourite University professor back in Ukraine. Я училась на фак-те русского языка и лит-ры, ещё в Советское время. He taught History and Theory of Russian Literature. He forced us to think outside the box during the novel studies, even though many of those novels had been analyzed and dissected on every possible level before. During the exams we really had to elaborate in order to defend our personal point of view. The multiple choice exams which are more common in Canada (I did continue my studies but in a different field) were hindering my ability to look deeper at a issue.

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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