A More Indulgent Paradise
From his first photo book on a dreary Moldova, This Is My House. The Cruel Paradise (AoRTa,
2003), Ron Sluik let in some light and color in his new book, Moldavisch Blauw
(Moldovan Blue) (AoRTa, 2004, bilingual English/Russian). Even the ostensibly tragic dedication is only
so tongue-in-cheek: the first page informs the reader/viewer that this CD-format booklet
The blue comes in later on discretely, not overbearingly. Just a few accents from the ineluctable blue paint and whitewash of Moldovan villages, where fences, houses, gates, doors, tree trunks, water wells, tomb stones and most of everything else requiring paint is blue. And this is not native tradition, it is not in the ancestral mind either; the blue is explicable in much more prosaic terms: in Soviet Moldova this pigment was the cheapest one to buy. Probably unawares, with reference to its ubiquity, Sluik calls it peoples paint. Whether Sluik was aware or not of the source of so much blue, in Moldavisch Blauw he once again projects his by now well congealed Moldovan discourse, best summarized in the contradictory expression The Cruel Paradise the blue color in Moldovan villages creates a special atmosphere reaching beyond the merely esthetic, but whose origin is below the prosaic.
Sluik describes, in his text, another manifestation of the prosaic-cum-visionary blue color: once, as he was sitting in his Chişinău garden reading, a falling acacia tree went for his head but was stopped by a clotheslines stand, which was, to be sure, painted blue.
The booklet is not, however, hung up on blue. There are photographs in it that dont possess the slightest hint of this hue. And of those that do have it, the blue is not always man-made. The photograph of a line-up of ten mud-smeared bathing village boys depicts an unearthly bright summer sky with a sublime (in spite of the high noon) sunlight lying softly on the boys pastellated skin. Amid these images of explosive naturalism and others of dense psychology (a couple of apt portraits), the viewer will also be confronted with a few eerie multiple exposures of trees and of a cabbage. The latters glacial and edgy green stands in stark contrast with the rest of the book.
The series of photographs are displayed in no obvious logical sequence or imagined narrative. Nor do the pages have numbers on them. Only some of the photographs have titles. This collection of images by a Sluik more integrated into the Moldovan landscape since his Cruel Paradise is not to be read as a story or a didactic display. It is a simultaneous snapshot of more than one physical and metaphysical locations. The artist doesnt depict what happens, but what is, writes in her final text Irina Grabovan, AoRTa director and co-author of Moldavisch Blauw. And what is might be more heartening than what was previously in the booklets penultimate image we see an almost unearthly cherub (but for the wings) hugging a quite earthly Lada car. But it only might: the last image features a beheaded statue of a WWII Soviet soldier on no doubt a blue pedestal.