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Masculine vs. Feminine – a painter’s self-portrait

Simion Doru Cristea
revista Agero, translated from Romanian

HumanoGraphia is a term created by the artist Romeo Niram for his latest series of paintings, and an approximate translation would be “human writing” meaning writing “with”, “about” and “through” Man. My attention was caught by the painting entitled HumanoGraphia XX (painter’s self-portrait). The painter gives his HumanoGraphias names written in Latin characters, like a sort of Via Appia or Via Dolorosa from the well-known penance prayer read on The Holy Friday in the Orthodox  Christian Church. We are not far from this religious dimension because the name “Friday” (Venerdi in Italian, Viernes in Spanish) evokes the goddess Venus (Venere, in Italian) goddess of love, of pleasures and of erotic relishes.

A painter’s self-portrait

At the zero level of symbolic interpretations, the viewer is confronted with its narrative. The painting is composed of two levels: one is human, figurative and the other is non-figurative-transcendental. The human framework is marked by two presences: the self-portrait of the author and a woman’s nude. At this level, we notice the different types of execution: modern – of the self-portrait, photographic – of the nude and technical – of the transcendental space that occupies two thirds of the painting.

Hevel Niram Self-Portrait,  Autorretrato
Hevel Niram – Self-Portrait

The painter’s self-portrait appears to be in a vaginal dialogue with the naked, seductive and lascivious woman, seated on a chair. In a generous, opened pose, she offers her entire being, in which her sex occupies the central position, to the artistic glance. She is seating on the chair in a position of maximum comfort, extending her body in a more comfortable way that such a chair would normally allow. Her legs slightly opened in an erotic invitation, she is smoking with a bored air, the hand holding the cigar is raised in a theatrical pose. Her look does not follow the path of the smoke that veils her in a smoky mist, on its way to “the world beyond”. The lingering trace of smoke seems to open a channel between the two worlds, anchored in infinity.

Two worlds

We are confronted with two worlds: one of shadows, of smoke and of transparency turned into opacity, and the other of light, directed from above and falling on the objects in the horizontal plane. The shadow of the self-portrait is dark and strong whereas the shadow of the woman is pale. The two of them meet and look at each other within this space that offers no clues to a logical understanding. The dialogue created is a meta-painting, a rhetoric and aesthetic essay on the condition of the artist and of the work of art, a variation on the theme of the man that succeeds in seeing himself on an artist’s self-portrait. The distant gaze of the two persons makes their meeting possible on an immanent level, but this option is insufficient to the artist’s consistency. Consequently, his self-portrait is suspended. He does not rely upon any biographical, theoretical or programmatically pre-established data. He, as a creator, invents his own biography, his own chromatic and ideatic consistency.  He needs no sustain.

The gaze of the woman functions like the projection of the magical lantern, forcing his reality to gain shape, majestically, from her being, she gives birth to him. As Karl Gustav Jung would say, it is the personification of that particular part of masculinity (animus) inside the structure of the feminine ego. It is a woman’s beautiful and eternal dream of love, to which this woman surrenders totally, directly, shamelessly. The artist’s virility is marked by his studied beard – sign of wisdom or of sovereign reason – and by the dishevelled hair. We have a game of projections: on the horizontal, just as She materializes Him from the substance of her spirit, He also gives life to Her, in the shape of the perfect curbs of the great Venus, in the human hypostasis of the pitcher filled with ambrosia and nectar.

The vertical plane

On the vertical, we have the fulfilment of their love story, impossible to understand because of its uniqueness. The background of the painter’s self-portrait, as well as its dominant chromatic note, is in a red shade, diluted towards orange, just a “drop” of the “vertical red colour” of human warmth, feelings, the ultimate fruit of the imagination from which men have bitten and still continue to bite, and which bears the name sin.

The narrative of the figurative level (with the painter’s self-portrait) is constructed in opposition with the abstract layer of freedom that turns itself oppressive to those who enchain their imagination by refusing to see beyond the narrative level. Here, in the generous shades of grey of unlimited innuendos, which take geometrical forms, if one looks for packs of wild wolves and silvery foxes, one may certainly find them. If one looks for a deeper level of intellectualism, one can see how the game of light, shadows and halftones suggests books, libraries and millions of pages that, just as snowflakes, fall gently in this transcendental realm. If one looks for silvery, deep forests, they are there as well. We find ourselves in a situation similar to that of the painting of a famous Japanese painter that swallowed its artist who followed the painted path. Here, on the phantasmagorical path of the cigar smoke, we enter the eternal love story of the two lovers. They see each other on the immanent level, but they live behind that heartbeat which marks with irregular strokes the greyness of their journey.

The naked painter’s self-portrait focuses only the superior, cerebral part of the man who never loses himself in sentimental and sensual evanescence. The omission of his hand does not grant him a demiurgically pose. The hands of the woman, although visible, do not suggest creation, because to her creation is something biological, sexual. The nude tells us clearly that she is not pregnant, but she is sending an invitation to conceive, in order to embody that diffuse and abstract space of passion, rendered in the superior part of the painting.


The game of reception continues. We notice, in the left corner of the painting, the artist’s signature, and in the right corner, in thick, medieval characters, the word Critique. This textual presence may influence the viewer. Some may take as a reference the ordinary significance of the word, which is to look for imperfections, techniques, exemplifications of the artistic reality in a conceptual manner, turning the artistic text into an excuse for their own critical divagations.

Others may interpret the critical act as an act of creation, even as an act of “failure” of creation, that is, of semantic recreation of the aesthetic reality offered by the work of art.

We prefer the third understanding of the word Critique, with a philosophical, Kantian touch, also promoted by the linguist Eugeniu Coseriu: the critical act is an act by means of which an artwork is promoted, that is, it is a vital and necessary pedestal for the artwork. The artist certainly had this latter acceptation in mind, because if we look closely, the shade in which this word is written is very similar to the shadow left by the voluptuous body of the woman seated on the chair. Thus, this word is associated with the second level, because of the shade similarities. The artist signature is grey, his name marking the presence of the grey level into the brown one, of the artistic transcendence into the reality of immanent concretization.

A new era

I have offered only a small part of the variety of the possible symbolic interpretations created by the painting named simply, within its complexity, “HumanoGraphia XX” by Romeo Niram. As there are no coincidences, the title marks a generative metaphor:

the writing with and by You, Man, and with and by You, Woman.

An answer to Nichita Stanescu’s “Hematographies”. The Decalogue has passed. We are at the beginning of a new era, above any divine law that may restrict creation and mankind. It is the speech of the liberation of the Man from all prejudices and limitations, a space of freedom, where brown will turn into grey. There are intermediary shades and not contrasts, closer to the real colour of life, normally characterized by the words “between” or “towards”. Consequently, the brown, human level occupies only a third of the total painting, a golden rule which offers a fertile opening to any viewer, enabling one to find whatever one is looking for: technique, composition, narrative, abstract elements, modernism, even futurism, elements that may be conceptualized and exploited in an infinity of variations.

Hevel Niram Humanografia Autorretrato Self-portrait
Hevel Niram – Critique (Humanographia XX)
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