Saturday, February 7, 2009

Father Figurine (New Year Edition)

The year 2008 was very successful for the Russian leadership. They acquired a shiny golden fork, a great pair of shoes (almost new) and, among other things, two brand new territories. All thanks to Santa, of course. You know his beloved elves from the previous editions, so there is no need to introduce them. As you can see, they look quite happy, except Lukashenko, a stubborn Belorussian elf, who wanted 2 billion shiny American dollars in exchange for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but was constantly refused with exactly the same Russian "kukish" you see in the picture, springing out of the gift box. You've been a bad boy, Alex, so you won't get your...

Just a sec... Ah, they just informed me that Lukashenko, at long last, was granted his precious gift. Apparently, now he has to fulfill his side of the bargain and order his pocket parliament to recognize the "new states". Well, it seems Daniel Ortega won't be so lonely anymore...

The Russian Empire grows, but until the glorious day when all the earthlings will speak Russian fluently, let me translate the inscription on the ribbon for you. It reads: "Happy new year, happy new territories!"

P.S. The Gas Cowboys are on their way. Stay tuned!

Lonely Putryoshka

I intended to finish the Politika series by the end of 2008, but for numerous reasons I was unable to do that. So I decided to slow the things down and "prolong the pleasure" for the whole next year.

The new picture is called "Lonely Putryoshka". I finished it during my holiday trip to Vilnius, described in the previous blog post.

So far Nicaragua remains the only state beside Russia to officially recognize the independence of Georgia's breakaway territories. Apparently, President Ortega made this decision to please Kremlin and to spite President Bush, without any real concern neither for Abkhazia, nor so-called "South Ossetia". In exchange for so badly needed recognition, Russia's leadership keeps feeding its "friends" with empty promises.

New Year in Vilnius

Diana invited me and my brother Soso to Vilnius last year. We planned the trip sometime in Autumn, but we were unable to make it until the very end of the year. We departed on December 29. I was quite nervous, because it was my first flight EVER, but everything went just fine -- the sight of lovely Baltic stewardesses quickly soothed my anxiety (that and a quarter of a sedative pill). Unfortunately, there were no direct flights from Tbilisi to Vilnius, so first we had to fly to Riga, then change the plane to Vilnius.

Diana met us in the airport. She lives in Avižieniai, which is a suburban part of Vilnius, so we took quite a long ride, while enjoying the view of a snow-covered city and listening to the mini-tour provided by the hospitable cab driver.

It was freezing cold outside -- for a heat-loving Georgian like myself, that is. But inside the house we thawed out very quickly thanks to the most cordial welcome (and the central heating system). After hot shower, substantial lunch and a long rest, we were as good as new. Now it was the time to unpack the presents.

Among other things, we brought a small piece of Georgia with us -- in the form of chichilaki, a traditional Georgian Christmas tree, made of soft wood with curled branches. It looked great beside its traditional Western counterpart.

It was Soso's birthday on December 30, so we decided to go shopping to get him a present -- and to see the city while at it. It was some 18 degrees of frost outside, but the buildings were well heated. Besides, we were dressed like Amundsen's crew in their South Pole expedition.

We have some large stores back in Tbilisi, but what we saw in Vilnius just made us drop our jaws. Seriously, one could roam these giant multistory markets for days. You can practically live there -- eat, drink, rest and even play hockey!

I bought Soso a warm sweater (with a special holiday discount!), then we ate some pizza, hunted for some souvenirs in a local tourist trap of a market, and returned home towards the evening, tired and happy. Later that night we celebrated Soso's birthday, demonstrating the basic principles of Georgian Art of Feasting to our hosts. After that, we fell asleep without hind legs, like Russians say.

We woke up the next morning with some thick heads and high expectations -- it was the first New Year for us to meet outside Georgia. The day before we saw some promising preparations on the Cathedral Square, but we decided to stay at home and watch the live translation from the safe (and, most importantly, warm) distance.

Our expectations were fully met, I must say. The fireworks and the lightshow were simply spectacular. Reportedly, you could see the flashes of light even from outer space. Lucky aliens!

The next few days passed quietly. Soso left for Panevėžys, a small city in the North, to visit a friend. Diana had some work at her University, where she teaches German language and literature, and I was drawing "Lonely Putryoshka" -- another picture from my political series.

Then Diana asked me to help her with her computer, which needed some minor upgrades. So we went out shopping again -- this time for some hardware. I was pretty impressed with local computer stores, they had some really cool stuff there. We bought a terabyte hard drive to replace the two old 40MB ones and some other stuff, but were unable to find the RAM suitable for her machine -- it was holidays, so everything was sold out. But I was still content, because I had a chance to eat my favorite pizza once again -- this time in the middle of a huge trade center called Akropolis, right next to a life-size rink, where children played hockey while their parents shopped.

Just in case, we called Soso and asked him to look for the chip in Panevėžys. Surprisingly, he was able to find it -- apparently, the population of Panevėžys wasn't so hardware-hungry this year. Soon he returned with the long-awaited RAM and we were able to complete the upgrade. Then we reinstalled the operating system and some basic software. Diana was very happy -- now her computer worked faster and had much more free space.

Two weeks flew by really fast and it was already time to return home. But I was in a good mood, because this time Diana was flying with us. The trip back was very pleasant and interesting, despite the five hours we had to wait in Riga airport. I already got used to flying and in fact was even enjoying the process. We arrived in Tbilisi early morning, very tired but full of live impressions. The only thing that spoiled our happy end was Soso's baggage, which lost its way somewhere between Vilnius and Tbilisi. Fortunately, it arrived home and dry in a couple of days.

Thus ended our magic holiday trip to Lithuania, leaving many pleasant memories and the hope for another journey sometime in the future.


This portrait represents Diana Šileikaitė, a.k.a. Metalliana, a university teacher from Vilnius, Lithuania. She's the biggest fan of Georgia I've ever met, being a perfect example of the true friendship between our two nations. She actively supports everything Georgian in her homeland, helps Lithuanian students learn our language and speaks it herself fluently, with a lovely Baltic accent.

We had the idea of this picture last year, after Diana's first visit to Georgia. Back home, she took some photos for the portrait and sent them to me, but I wasn't entirely happy with the material -- although, the mantle and the position of the hands, chosen by her, were perfect. On her second visit I took the photos myself and had everything ready to begin. I wanted to start working on the portrait as soon as she returned back home, but the same day she left the ill-fated August events started to develop here in Georgia. The Politika series, inspired by the war, postponed all my other projects, including Vilnius-Tbilisi (that's how we decided to call it).

By the end of the last year the things a bit calmed down and I was able to begin the portrait, at long last. I managed to finish it right before my departure to Vilnius on December 29, and brought it with me as a gift. Diana and her parents liked it very much.

The general composition of the portrait is inspired by the famous Mona Lisa. The background represents Vilnius on the left and Tbilisi on the right.

Sock Puppet

I have to admit, Putin is simply beautiful in this picture... in a very twisted way, of course. The idea behind the artwork is obvious -- Medvedev is just a placeholder, keeping the seat warm until the glorious third coming of the TRUE president.

Meanwhile, the "presidential couple" seems to be suffering from some serious mental disorders. In a political sense, that is. Paranoia (FSB everywhere), delirium of persecution ("NATO plans to invade us!"), delirium of grandeur (derzhavism, cult of personality) -- you name it. Medvedev calls Saakashvili a schizophrenic, but if he wants to see a real schizo, I would advise him to watch the archive footage where his beloved mentor, impeccable Putin, offers a French journalist, who asked him an uncomfortable question about Chechnya, to visit Moscow, where the extra-class Russian specialists will gladly circumcise him so that "nothing grows back" (exact quotation).

As you see, the legendary Golden Fork is back in Putin's pocket. Just google for "vilochka" (meaning "forkie" in Russian) for some good politically charged fun.

Father Figurine (Second Edition)

After publishing the "Father Figurine" on the Web, I received numerous complaints about the absence of Igor Smirnov, the president of self-proclaimed Transnistria (Pridnestrovie), and the presence of Serzh Sargsyan, who refused to recognize the Georgian breakaway regions despite the pressure from the Russian government. So I decided to make another version which excludes Sargsyan (he's been a good boy lately) and Medvedev (urgent state matters) and includes Igor Smirnov (Transnistria) and Bako Sahakyan (Nagorno-Karabakh). The golden fork had to go, unfortunately (Putin gave it to Medvedev, who likes shiny objects very much), but the empty can remained (and got even bigger).

Also, the scenery has been changed to represent a new idea behind the figurines. Thing is, that all these "babies" -- Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh -- are willing to join the so-called "Union of States" which Russia and Belarus are trying to establish for several years now. The idea of this Union was born in Putin's mind (possibly during a severe hangover) and was readily welcomed by Lukashenko. Or maybe vice versa. It doesn't matter. What DOES matter is that the idea is rapidly progressing from a mere "joint Russian-Belorussian state" to a full scale remake of the infamous Soviet Union. Care to join the party?

Ah, and another thing -- the hammer and sickle on the Pridnestrovian flag is not a fruit of my artistic imagination. It's actually there. In fact, they took the old USSR flag and "decorated" it with a green stripe. Damn plagiarists.

Father Figurine

This piece of artwork is about "putryoshkas" (Putin + Matryoshka) -- the political figurines who regard Putin as father figure, inspirer, great leader, etc. The first and foremost putryoshka is of course Dmitry Medvedev, de jure president of the Russian Federation (everybody knows who de facto is). Among other "babies" are Sergey Bagapsh of Abkhazia, Eduard Kokoity of "South Ossetia", Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and finally Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia, who comes along the bunch rather unwillingly, being forced to "adoption" by the Great Father. Armenia slowly begins to realize what kind of an "ally" Putin's regime is, and probably that's why Mr. Sargsyan has such an unhappy look on the picture.

As for the fork in the pocket, probably you have already seen this symbol in many other satirical depictions. It's the golden fork appropriated by a Russian soldier during the "peace enforcing" campaign. Among the other "liberated" goods there were shoes, toilet basins and U.S. Hammers. All used.

The Puppet Master

This was my first politically themed artwork ever. I hoped it would be the last, since I never thought it to be "my thing", but many people told me not to stop because I was good at it. It's not for me to judge, but I liked the idea of making a whole series of Russian-themed political artwork, with some surrealistic feel to it.

I made "The Puppet Master" a few days after the bombings stopped. In the center you see Vladimir Putin, the Grand Puppet Master, the Great Conspirer and the Father of the Modern Russian Democracy. On the left there is Sergey Bagapsh, the "president" of an "independent" Abkhazia with a Russian name and, apparently, a Russian passport in his pocket (metaphorically, since the puppets usually don't have pockets).
On the right you can see Eduard Kokoity, the "president" of so-called "South Ossetia", who happens to call himself a Russian citizen, which is quite strange for a "president of a sovereign state", to say the least.

Between them you can see the Roki tunnel, drilled through the Caucasus by Eduard Shevardnadze, when he was the Head Secretary of the Supreme Counsel of the Georgian SSR. It never had any significant economic value, since it didn't feature a railway road. But it served as a peephole for the Big Brother. Also, it connected the two autonomous republics -- North Ossetia (in Russia) and South Ossetia (in Georgia). Finally Ossetians were able to actually meet each other after the centuries of cruel isolation by Mother Nature, who decided to raise an impassable mountain range right in the middle of their Ancient Ossetian Kingdom.

Forgive my sarcasm, but it's really hitting my boiling point, when someone regards Samachablo, a historical province in the very heart of Georgia, as something not Georgian. The mere fact that the Ossetians heavily populated the region under the rule of the Russian Empire cannot be used as an excuse for building an independent statehood. The region was never truly Ossetian. Both people lived there as one, forming entirely different sort of ethnic background, a mix of Georgian and Ossetian. It can be compared to a checkerboard, where the black and white squares represent Georgian and Ossetian villages side by side. A mix of historical Georgian roots and blood with newly come Ossetian culture and blood -- that's what the region was. I say was, because today Ossetian and Russian troops are cleansing the region from any signs of Georgian presence. The houses which survived Russian bombings were burned down later for only one purpose -- so that the Georgian population had NO PLACE TO RETURN.

Now back to the Roki tunnel. Since South-Ossetian Autonomous Region proclaimed so-called "independence" (so-called because it's no independence when you want to leave a country just to become a part of another country) from Georgia in early 1990's, the tunnel became the main route of supply for the separatists. Smuggled goods, weapons, you name it. Despite the restrictions and embargoes placed by the OSCE, Russian government never stopped supporting the separatist regimes both in Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", effectively preventing any possibility of a peaceful resolution. Russia could simply say "no" to the separatists, leaving them no choice but to cooperate with Georgian authorities, but instead Russia encouraged them in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY.

Why? Because it's been always the motto of the Old Russian Empire, then the Soviet Empire and finally the New Russian Empire -- "Divide and Rule". How can you force a strong, united Georgia to walk your path? You can't. But fortunately for Russia, Georgia had its territorial problems (time-bombs placed first by Russian Tsars, then upgraded by Joseph Stalin) which could be effectively used as a means for manipulation and bargaining. That's why the Russian government massively supplied the breakaway regions with Russian passports -- to be able to come to their "protection" later. The "peace enforcement operation" which took place in August 2008 has been staged and rehearsed long before the Russian troops actually invaded Georgian soil.

Today we see the results. Tanks poured in through the Roki tunnel. Russian military bases deployed on Georgian soil. And the biggest political mistake of the Russian government in decades -- the recognition of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" as independent states.

Fox Message

Hello World!

This morning I woke up and realized, that everybody on this planet seems to have a blog, except me. So I decided to become a blogger, too. Although, I strongly suspect I'm gonna be a lazy blogger type -- lazy, sleepy, rarely updating, "I think I had a blog somewhere" type, you know. But then again, you never know. I might become a crazy super-blogger, with special powers, unshaven cheeks and a geeky T-shirt. Let's wait and see...

Meanwhile, what should you be expecting to see here? Well, I have many interests: art, design, music, computer games, scythes, virgin sacrifices, bathtub diving... you know, the usual stuff. Also, there will be some political messages -- not that I enjoy politics much, but after the Russian invasion in August 2008, as a Georgian, I just can't stay aside. And I won't.

Well, that's pretty much it. Stay tuned!

-The Sign Painter