Artist Profile: Margarita Gluzberg & Filling the Spiritual Void
Words: Jade French
From Romanticism to sports heroes Margarita Gluzberg is an artist who has created gigantic paintings, large scale installations and intimate drawings exhibited from the 90s. Born in Moscow, living in London her work often centres on the relationship between mass consumerism and how that affects people on a personal level. Her inspiration for showing ‘The Money Plot’ referenced Balzac and Flaubert. Madame Bovary’s incessant spending, the craving to fill emotional holes with products and spending shows that this relationship with things is no new social event. Needing things becomes a mesh; bodies and computers merge into a corporate world of disposable incomes and identities.
“I like the word consumystic the production of fiction as almost a state of trance. Mme Bovary is an example of a consumer in almost a perfect state of religious trance, in which her shopping becomes a cult of consumption and that’s what modern consumer culture relies upon, a kind of trance of consumption. Once you’ve bought into it, like any cult, you can’t leave because your parameters become different; the outside doesn’t exist”- Gluzberg
It is her painting ‘The Divorce Lawyer’ which conjures up so much of this personal economy. The under-the-hand dealing, the pinstriped suit in comparison to the bare thighs of the woman next to him and both pairs of legs stretching inevitably to join two bodies and two lives attached to the process of trading money. Sex and money combine to make the act of separation seem seedy and underhand. The table they operate under is glass- ironically this action can be seen although they are trying to conceal it. Marriage- which is bound up in the ceremony and religious values placed on it by different cultures- is destroyed and reduced to money, money, money.
Are we still just filling a hole, left by social changes of the 1960s, with possessions instead of spirituality? When Times Magazine heralded an arrival of a new way of worshipping in 1965 with the cover story: “Christian Atheism: The ‘God Is Dead’ Movement”, they pin-pointed the crashing wave of consumerism which had begun to replace spirituality in the lives of many people. Of course, this ‘Christian Atheism’ called for a way of viewing the world as if God didn’t exist, it did not completely disregard a higher being. The idea of ‘conspicuous consumption’ began to be related to the growing, and now well established, middle classes. People began to buy not through necessity but through desire; mainly the desire to display their wealth and maintain social status. Whereas before one might attain a social boost through devotion, ‘keeping up appearances’ at church or through charitable donations, the onset of consumer goods meant that social boosts came through having the latest gadget, car, kitchen appliance or watch. Gluzburg deals not only with the larger, over-arching issues of consumerism but also distils it to a personal level to question the effect on the individual when faced with their own desire for products.
It is interesting to note that paralleling this growing mass consumption of media and appliances there also grew a frustration at the way race, gender, class and sexuality were being viewed. The 1960s saw the rise of the Gay Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, a burgeoning feminist awareness, the anti-war demonstrations- causes and anger which has shot right through into today’s society. Gluzburg’s paintings also capture this pent up frustration that was ignited- the solitary coiffed hair-do has echoes of a 1940s wife, the face is silhouetted- she is nameless, shadowed and alone. The androgyny of the two suits mounted on one another calls up questions not only about sexuality, but also the nature of greed as two faceless suits grapple one another. These paintings subvert and dominate our perceptions of consumerism. The desirable hairstyle of a by-gone era might seem outdated, but money was spent in setting that style just as now thousands of pounds are spent each year by women on hair extensions, make up, fake nails.
Have shopping complexes become the raised place of worship? The idea of marketing glossed girls wearing clothes you cant afford and rugged men sprayed with that expensive aftershave mean different icons are created. The divine light is the soft hue of the California Wines and evensong becomes replaced by the evening beer run.
In the battle between abstinence and spending, spirituality and spending, there is a clear winner; one which Gluzberg has identified with a wry and understanding stroke of the brush.