VISIONARY REVUE


The Victim - undated
(La Victime)

THE DEVIL, DARKNESS
AND LA FEMME FATALE

      When Kalmakoff arrived in Paris in 1926, he had among his possessions some of the darkest as well as the most revealing of his works. His fascination with the devil continued, as is attested by Satan (1923 mentioned above) and The Black Mass (1924 - no image available) in which the naked celebrant of the mass, under the protection of certain magic signs, attempts to master the forces he has conjured.
      One of the most moving of his images, The Victim (undated) depicts a naked figure before a blinding source of light. His arms are outstretched in a manner akin to Christ. But this veiled figure is crucified against the black shadow of a woman who obstructs the source of blinding luminescence. Only in her silhouette can we discern two slender upheld hands and a cascade of long flowing hair. It is Kalmakoff's most honest and direct expression of suffering. Woman dwells at the source of the creative light but also obscures it with her darkness.
      A whole series of misogynist works follow. In The Wife of Satan (1919, left), woman is clearly identified as evil. Defiant, she stands upon the hell-mouth, her arms crossed, while Hades' horns and hooked wings flank her naked form on either side. The black widow's veil conceals her expression, though fierce piercing eyes gaze out with rancour and resentment. Most mysteriously, a black stripe, be it from the veil or her hair, descends the length of her body, concealing her sex, and reaching as far as her feet. In the background blaze the blood red flames of Hell.



 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2004


The Apparition - undated
(l'Apparition)

      Who, one wonders, was the mysterious woman that gave rise to this allegorical portrait? Or is this only a vision, once more, of woman as janua diaboli - the devil's doorway..?
      In The Apparition (undated, above) lush brocaded curtains are swept aside to reveal the stunning nude form of a mysterious mistress. Her face is shadowed by darkness, and only two glowing eyes reveal that this statuesque figure is indeed alive. The whole consitutes a nightmarish vision of woman as, simultaneously, desirous and repulsive.
      Finally, in Medusa (1924, left), an image of the feminine appears in which all erotic qualities are utterly eliminated. The white phantomesque face, like a mask, seems more dead than alive. Only the undulating serpents in her hair betray signs of vitality. More disturbing still are the two blackened eyes like vertical slits in the mask. Given the artist's obsession with a woman’s sex, it is not too much to imagine that he has rendered her lids vertically to evoke the idea of vaginal eyes - that this woman sees the world through her sex - a demented and tormented idea, without doubt.

The Amazons - undated
(Les Amazones)

      A different and particularly revealing portrait of the feminine is offered by The Amazons (undated, above). Though nude, the two women are helmeted and armoured - muscular warriors marching assuredly with power in their stride. On the shield of one, the face of the Medusa again appears. Woman as virago? Was Kalmakoff rendering here a threatening image of woman?

 
 
 


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