The Apparation of Grishenko

Pierre Duranleau: ‘The Grishenko Apparition’, c1999

One of three allegorical panels from the Anthropo-Technikon series, this painting combines pseudo-religious and post-industrial age mythological themes. The title itself suggests religious connotations reminiscent of subjects taken from early Western art. For example, as portrayed in Rembrandt’s religious paintings such as ‘The Feast of Belshazzar’, where a ghost/sacred apparition (profane text projected on a wall) takes place in the depicted scene. The element of interest to me in these types of renderings, is the mannerist quality glow effect that illuminates and bathes the scene, adding as it were a mystical dimension to the treatment. I was also looking for this type of ‘special effect’ in the Grishenko painting, as exemplified in the rendering of the beams of light penetrating the figure from the right hand side of the picture plane. Though in this case, the light source is not necessarily a ‘mystical’ one, but more a source emanating from a crippled nuclear reactor core. Taking place is an act of radioactive contamination far from anything profane or mystical. Invariably, it is an act of spiritual and physical destruction. However, from this apocalyptic scene rises Grishenko from the contaminated graphite ashes, an anthropomorphous figure symbolizing the age of nuclear power and scientific alchemy.  Grishenko is portrayed in a haunting act of invoking the spirits of the atomic underworld in the form of a iconified nuclear reactor pump present at the bottom right hand corner of the painting (a recurring icon that appears in many different forms in my work).  The intention behind the making of the painting was inspired by the death of the Soviet helicopter pilot and hero, Anatoly Grishchenko. Grishchenko was instrumental in the deadly efforts to seal the crippled reactor no.4 at the Pripyat nuclear installation, forever known as the Chernobyl disaster. Exposed and surrounded for days by clouds of poisonous radioactive vapor during the so-called clean-up operation, Anatoly Grishchenko eventually succumbed from cancer in 1990.








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