The existentialist symbols in the Baramó’s paintings 

       The present thematic exhibition by Baramó in [а] Cube Contemporary Gallery (Sept.- Oct. 2018, Sofia) comprises a series of symbolic paintings (acrylic and pastel on paper). The images are minimalistic, laconic, monochrome. The visual language she created is called "sediment in process" - rotation modelling of the forms through bundles of light-contrast white and black threads, superimposing "layers", which construct the respective image-symbols and thus communicate an intense compressed dynamism and set the visual reception in motion.

       "Reflections on human existential attitude" are visualized and accompanied by a short conceptual text which provides possible guidelines to the interpretation of the symbolic message-theme ("Bye Bye Fears"; "Creations"; "Sacrament"; "Personal Spaces"; "Ecstatic"; "Peau de chagrin"; "Chance"; "Family", "Chronotoposes"; "Human Plants"; "The Sphinx of Small Things").

On one side, the "Architect" symbol refers to every person building his/her personality or trying to do so; on the other - the so called "Great Architect" /the Creator/. Another major symbol is the stone monolith with a prehistoric anthropomorphic, respectively phallic or cave-rock vulvar form, in which clan-family relations are symbolized through the semantics of sacral ritual /for example "Family" and " Italian Family"/.

       The exhibition with its symbolic and existentialistic reflections is very inspiring and innovative since it advances an artistically expressed NEOEXISTENTIALISM.

   Briefly, the outlines of this new existentialism are as follows:

●  existence for contemporary man is no longer a “burden” which has to be endured with the seriousness of a "project" towards authentic self-ness. It has acquired a "lightness", which is quite bearable, even though some writers have described it as “unbearable lightness”[1] until recently.

●  fear is surmountable, existence does not precede any essence, because the very self (Selbst) existentialistic /or authentic/ being loses its attainability, becomes virtual or illusory, freedom is gladly replaced by "security" and prosperity in advanced countries which have established their "welfare state";      
●  "The rebel man"[2] has already become a funny creature in the advanced world, where we find ourselves thrown "together-with-the-others-into-the-world"; in mass society and culture the individuals do not turn into "angry young men" or "escapists", running away from the others, they are not "alienated" but rather

included into the total mass-crowd or they create their own small "merry societies" in which they are united and desalienated;
●  history itself and private life are de-dramatized, tragedies become impossible or are reduced to tragicomedies; as Elitsa mentions in the text accompanying "Chronotoposes": “There” and “where” are sufficient coordinates and the action may be a change of the standpoint, a new connection between facts already known... the three classical unities, apart from dramas and tragedies”.
●  The pacified man is no longer capable even of "a quiet revolt", of the type undertaken by the artists of the New Leipzig School group; fear remains for the shy ones, despair only for the mentally-ill, absurdity increases to such a degree that even suicide loses its meaning, as the author of The Myth of Sisyphus[3] has already pointed out; 
●  "the inconveniences of culture" [4] disappear in the so called "affirmative culture"[5], Freudianism in it is out-of-date already, because society itself allows and encourages mass "de-sublimation" of the libido and legalizes deviant types of behavior, the number of pleasures and entertainments is growing, a whole "industry of entertainment“ has come into being, which has transformed it into mass commodity and mass "way of life";
●  therefore the individuals no longer feel obliged to build and form "a personality" in themselves, they reconcile with the "political correctness" are only glad to remain in the "impersonal people-ness" (Das Man), shunning even the burden of "thinking" and "deciding” on pivotal matters, leaving them to "those on top", the affluent "pigs"…
       It seems to me that the existentialist symbols and self-reflection of Baramó lead to such a (new) existentialism expressed in an artistic form, as implied by the perforations in the images, the torsos and "A Tongue Stuck out". 

Prof. PhD Krasimir Delchev - Sofia University

Translated from Bulgarian by Nelly Tchalakova


[1] Milan Kundera and his followers

[2] Albert Camus

[3] Albert Camus

[4] Sigmund Freud

[5] Herbert Marcuse (a term used by the Frankfurt school with reference to mass culture in the late capitalist society)

     There are artists who aspire for higher forms of synthesis and tend to move beyond the borders of one single area. Unlike scenic arts in which fusion is the product of team efforts in which numerous authors and performers unite, the amalgam of image and text in the works of one single artist is a rare phenomenon. The pair poetry-music is probably the oldest and most frequent manifestation of such synthesis and also the most widespread one, starting with folksongs, passing through the ballads of medieval bards and troubadours and reaching present-day guitar poetry. One example is the well-known Lithuanian painter and composer Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) who managed to bridge painting and music, interpreting symphonies and sonatas in form and color etc. (in fact, the symbiosis of different creative activities brings to mind the dawn of human society when they were not differentiated yet).

     In all cases of such interaction a particular phenomenon is manifested regardless of the specific “addends” - synthesis produces a new kind of creative zone in which the energies of the different spheres add up to form synergy.  

     Such synergy is discernable in the works of painter Elitsa Baramova-Baramó as the result of her aspiration to discourse the images, to create both visual and verbal pictures. The compositions of the Architect Project series arouse a feeling of something cosmic. At first glance one may be denied immediate access to the images portrayed, as if they jealously keep their secrets, but gradually the distance is transformed and becomes something unnameable and the viewer is engaged in a dialogue with them, unconsciously sometimes. Baramó dubs the language she uses to visualize her ideas in this series “sediment process”, and the technique is acryl on paper or canvas. The images are like sculptured monumental figures, which the spectator observes through a smoked glass, and behind it he sees not only the figures but also the air which surrounds them. Otherworldly mysteriousness and depth. Prima facie, the paintings with their monochrome color may evoke a feeling of distance, but it is exactly in tune with their cosmic tone, strongly emphasizing it.

     The texts of Baramó are positioned separately from the paintings, being their verbal extension and one of their possible interpretations, and they definitely contribute to the dialogue with the viewer, who becomes simultaneously a reader. The history of art knows many painters, attracted by the possibility to express their ideas in words who have left meaningful texts. Their texts, however, communicate with their art in its entity and not with separate paintings, frescoes etc., even though they are closely related to it. Unlike them, in the case of Baramó every accompanying text goes together with a given painting both in a concrete and abstract way. This is a kind of specific responsibility and commitment of the author.

     In East Asian traditional art, where such synthesis is a habitual practice, the texts share a common space with the image. In Chinese and Japanese paintings this text may be a poem by another author or a wise sentence survived from ancient times, or even a word with significant meaning, and it is always written in a calligraphic style (which, too, is art per se). It happens only rarely that the author of the painting and the text is one and the same person (calligraphy has a high value as artistic and even pictorial work, the text by another author is “assimilated” by the painter who has written it, becoming his own, even though only graphically).

     In the books of many writers who have drawn the illustrations themselves, the drawings are situated in the space of the text (to mention but a few examples, the brilliant sketches of Čapek in his novels and travelogues, or the drawings of Saint-Exupéry in “The Little Prince”). The relation between the portraits Chudomir[1] painted and his short stories is a special case - quite a number of these portraits illustrate concrete literary characters, and at the same time they have certain independence. 

     In Baramó’s works the texts are outside the frame of the paintings, but are connected with them in semantic unity. If we assume that the frames of an essay are relative, with no strict threshold of conciseness, the texts of Baramó may be considered as essays, sometimes poèmes en prose or maybe philosophic impressions. And they always are revelations subjected to one aim - not so much to re-tell the paintings, repeating their content in verbal form, but rather to find new dimensions and depths in them, to share the logic of a mental process in another space.

     In any case, the synthesis image-text is an artistic fact, which has yet to be defined terminologically. The theme should be objectified through systematization, which is to define and name the field in which such authors work, and the energy impulses, which motivate them to extend the visual into the verbal, combining them in one whole. For Baramó perhaps it is of some importance that her academic specialty is illustration, which implies co-existence of images and text. The illustrator, however, usually puts others’s texts into images (with rare exceptions), while her texts are a continuation of her own paintings, that is why they are intensely personal and a synthesis of a public idea at the same time, and they reveal aspects of her human, cosmopolitan and artistic nature. And after the reader gets acquainted with the text, he is motivated to become again spectator and re-think the painting, but this time on a different level.

     Naturally, reception of art is a strictly individual act; every one perceives it in accordance with his own intellectual “baggage” and his emotional state at the moment. A renowned Bulgarian marine artist recalled a curious episode[1]. One day, when due to bad weather there were few visitors in the Varna gallery where his works were exhibited, a man in working clothes came in - apparently a fisherman, one of those people whom heavy physical labor keeps away from artistic events. He stopped in front of a big canvas representing a stormy sea and stood there for a long time, mumbling something to himself. The artist was intrigued - what could possibly draw the attention of this unusual visitor? He approached the man quietly and listened. The man was standing in front of the stormy sea on the canvas and kept repeating to himself broken-heartedly: “No fish here…”

     When the spiritual distance between the audience and the artistic message is considerable, could a text accompanying the painting help to bridge the gap? Probably the answer is yes, it would, but the degree is always different: some will leave with several small “fish”, others - with quite a “big catch”… Thus the synthesis image-text has a promising future, provided the painter has got a way with words as well. 
                                                     Nelly Tchalakova

[1] Chudomir (1890 –1967) - Bulgarian writer and painter.

[2] Milen Sakazov (1903-1975)        

In this film I sense new creative intentions, retentions and protentions ([1]) :

         а/ An appeal for "negative freedom“ ([2]) from the underground seductive

depersonalization, which increasingly obliterates selfness.

         b/ An artistic attempt for soteriological ([3]) meditative detention of excessive hectic hurry in contemporary societies, which has become unbearable for the soul - societies  dissolving as if in a “centrifuge” in the technological and scientific acceleration, the uniqueness of individuals (if they have it), or frustrating its appearance.

         c/ An artistic opposition against the replacement of spontaneous personal authenticity with controllable types of selfish identity: familial, sexual, ethnic, religious, linguistic, subcultural, types according to minority, age, company - in the discussions between them the role of the"referrer" is occupied by the super-powered rich, they have become financially invincible, technicalized, alternatingly dominating élites-pseudo élites, which stereotype assiduously the "mass" of citizens, who have demonstrated trust in them / "elected" them/, insolating them in a "human park" ([4]) reared in separate "cells" with show-windows, chips, plates, "surveillance".

        d/ In the center of the "centrifuge" are the most developed countries, while the others are in the periphery.

        e/ An appeal for re-sublimation of the de-sublimated vital energies from the "affirmative culture", which is getting control of them, by opposing it with outbursts of "negative liberty" according to Adorno and "oppositional aesthetics" according to Sartre.f/ A revolt against the repressions of the "collectivized Super-Ego", which surreptitiously oppresses the Self, eroding the exclusively personal identities.

Setting in motion contemporary paintings in this format is innovative. “One cannot classify it as animation in the classical sense, taking into account the universal contextuality of the composition (namely,  dark background, which may contain anything, or total absence of background). The artist has chosen to remain out of the narrative. The movements are already present in the original compositions, they are charged with meaning and do not pursue just the aesthetics of motion. “The film transforms the paintings from object to subject“ (cit. Baramó). This is a ground-breaking act, „art re-surrection ([5]) - a rebirth of the artistic image.


                                            Prof. Krasimir Delchev, Ph.D.


[1] Phenomenology of Husserl; a description of perception, which can be described not only as a line, but as motion.

[2] Adorno, on one side in aesthetics, and “negative dialectics” on the other

[3] *soter - savior

[4] Discusses “Rules of the Human Park” by P. Sloterdijk

[5] Surrection – a term used in the set theory (every image from a set A in a set B, whereby every element of B is an image of at least one element from A. The element does not need to be necessarily unique – the function f can impress one or more elements from A on one and the same element from B)

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