MIRRORS: Gromyko’s Framed Mysteries[1]

Anyone who has an interest with the mysterious, with the intricacies of the human mind, and with the spiritual things, will fall in love with Gromyko Semper’s works easily; and it includes this author.

Semper, a 25-year old artist from Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija (a province in Central Luzon, the biggest island of the three major island groups that compose the Philippine archipelago), calls his works “surreal.” They reflect the mysterious, the fearsome, and the marvelous nature of the human mind. They defy the common standards of beauty as they were combinations of the morbid and the things that are called “ugly”; however they reflect the innermost struggles of the human person. The surreal movement traces its roots with the Dada Movement in the 1920s. It was born after First Great World War that has changed the course of the human history (not to mention that it “shook the world,” literally and figuratively). The surrealists’ works mirror the bitterness and the unfathomable pain caused by the war and the sudden changes – most of it are unacceptable – in the human society. It also exposes the hidden truths and mysteries of the unconscious, which the surreal artist calls the “inexhaustible source of human creativity.”

This theory has been proven true by looking at Gromyko’s works. As you gaze in each work, the spectator is being transported into another realm: the realm of the human soul, the depository of the human experiences, realizations, and thoughts.

For this reviewer, they aren’t drawings: They are mirrors that will make you stand face-to-face with the realities of your own self. Looking at them, you will see the contours and the textures of your own personality, which is shaped and developed by the intricate weaves of personal and social experiences.

It is not highfalutin to say that if you are looking at the canvases or the papers or the boards that contain Gromyko’s drawings (he prefers drawing, as the painter said in one of the interviews of this author, he is more of an illustrator, less of a painter), you seem to be looking at a window that shows the inner and outer realities that surround you. They will make you realize how ironic the philosophies that this current world, this current race is embracing: the philosophy of greed and too much selfishness.

One example of such philosophy is the neoliberal globalization that the artist wants to defy with his works. A borderless world, that is what the supporters and advocates of the neoliberal globalization want. Everything must be shared by all. However, contrary to the popular belief that neoliberal globalization strengthens the cultures and the politico-economic systems of the countries in the world, it only weakens and kills the identities of the nation: be it cultural, economic, or political.

In order to cover their heinous crimes, the supporters and advocates of neoliberal globalization, the world economic superpowers, have deliberately distorted some portions of the world’s socioeconomic and sociopolitical history. But this technique has not been effective with keen artists, particularly Gromyko. Through his drawings, he attempted to remove the veil and uncover these hideous secrets of the ruling cliques.

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El Pacto de Sangre by G. Semper

His El Pacto de Sangre (The Blood Compact) that shows the sanduguan or the signing-with-the-blood of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna, one of the sultans of the old Maynila (Manila) is one of the most interesting pieces in Gromyko’s ‘socio-historical’ works. The drawing is not all about Legazpi; it is about the very nature of the local ruling class represented then by Sikatuna.

Looking at the pages of local and international histories, it was the ruling class—the bourgeoisie comprador and the landlord classes that have been born out of the remnants of the old feudal societies/systems the world over—who collaborates with the oppressors to suppress the freedoms and the rights of the people.

In case of Sikatuna, by making a pact with the representative of the imperialist Spain, he has sold the freedom and rights of his constituents. He has done this for his and his cohorts’ personal gains.

Another interesting piece in Gromyko’s collection of “historical” paintings is the Madam Victorina Complex, which reflects the current economic, political, and cultural situation of the Filipino people under the auspices of the “new collaborators” or the bureaucrat capitalist class.

The drawing shows Victorina, one of the major characters of José P. Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, a realist novel of the Philippines’ national hero published in Spain in 1887, holding an arrow bearing the US dollar and Philippine peso signs. Observing closely, one can see that the dollar sign ($) is over the peso (P) sign: a clear indication of the Philippines’ submission to the US Government, in social, economic, and political terms. An earlier painting or drawing bearing same idea, the Victorina person is presented as a woman in handcuffs: the representation of the Philippines non-independence from the influences and control of  foreign powers — in this case with the United States imperialism.

Unknown to many Filipinos, over the years, the Republic of the Philippines is a semi-colony of the United States. Since the end of US’s direct colonization in 1945, it has secretly interferes with the internal affairs of the former colony, with the motive to protect its economic and political interests. This has been made possible by the pro-United States lawmakers and leaders of this land.

Though they deny that are being influenced by the “White House powers,” their acts show the contrary: They continue to legislate and implement anti-Filipino policies in terms of investments, commerce and trade; they continuously push for the adoption of Americanized culture in terms of governance, arts, and education; and they continue to support even the cruelest policies of the American government, which is the war of aggression against countries that are tagged “terrorists” and “enemies of world’s security and peace.” There are many instance that the Malacañang has supported the wars of aggression launched by the U.S. in different parts of the world.

Dramatically, and painstakingly, these truths have been put into the immaculate canvas by Gromyko with the aim that his compatriots here and an abroad to see – and meditate with – until they arrive into the realization that their Land of the Morning, their Beloved Motherland, after all these years are not totally free from the fangs of cruel imperialism.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note—and commend—the deep knowledge of the artist in his country’s social history. While the other 25-year-olds are busy reading romance novels, watching foreign shows, and falling in love with the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Gromyko has been busy spending time in reading books about his Motherland, unearthing the unknown-for-many-years historical facts, and laboriously painting it to give it a “fresh look,” in order to catch his fellow youths’ interest to re-read and relearn their race’s history (which is a necessity for the Filipino nation to liberate itself from the ignorance of the true cause of their ill-fate and misery). Moreover, the artist’s interest with the philosophical and the mystical has something to do with the enigmatic representations of social facts in his drawings.

One might ask: “Where the painter does get his inspiration to create these amazing and insightful pieces of art?” This spectator has no answer in mind; he only knows that whenever he looks at the frames bearing Gromyko’s drawings, he see mirrors and doors that bring him to the place where he can see the truths—that this hypocrite world has tried to hide from him—face-to-face. (30)


[1] This is the rewritten version of what has appeared in PINAS Filipino Global Newspaper, a newsweekly in the Filipino language, Vol. 6, No. 22 (Oct. 18 – 24, 2010), p. 10.

[2] The author is currently the editor-in-chief of the monthly news magazine, INANG BAYAN, circulating in the Province of Cavite, in Luzon. A poet, short fiction writer, and a critic, he has received numerous awards, commendations and citations because of his works.