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.
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.
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.