I have chosen to look at Victor Man’s art work for my critical dissertation/essay for several reasons:

  • His paintings evolve around these themes and symbols: male, female, man, beast, and myth.
  • Skeleton heads or cut off heads represent the archetype I want to be looking at for my dissertation/essay – human death or life circle of life and death.

Paintings to look at when writing the critical dissertation:

  • 2013, ‘The Chandler’.
  • 2013, ‘Titanik Bar’.

Victor Man’s paintings are not even black. A green-brown shade of umbra dominates: but the dark “u” of this word already brings its own implications of depth into play. These are further deepened on the level of figuration, for umbra helps to provide the shadows for paintings that contain a touch of the abysmal. A black, violent surrealism here runs towards a contemporary reservoir.

For example, there are paintings of young people with black openings instead of eyes. One of these figures holds its hands together, another bears a head-shaped idol in its arms, a symbol for authority or some kind of ritual practice.

Head without body, bodies without a head: they are equally triggers for anxiety. These motifs create explicit references, that in so doing take on the status of a line of tradition.


Victor Man’s paintings look like they have darkened over centuries. There’s something sacred about them, like the images and devotional objects hanging in the faint light of chapels and churches. In our enlightened, medialized world, in which everything is on the surface and things have to be “brought to light,” they look like something from another era. His works take the viewer into an enigmatic cosmos in which strange metamorphoses take place under the veil of darkness. In Man’s work, animate and inanimate, human and animal, male and female, appear to be in constant exchange and, as in an alchemistic process, undergoing a fusion.

Naturally, Grand Practice can be read as a symbol of the condition humaine. But not even this is certain, as Man juxtaposes human nature with an absolutely artificial one in which everything is “made,” a construct, a construction.


Victor Man has a preference for painting in dark colours, which reminds us of the 18th century landscape painters, who used black mirrors, also known as “Claude mirrors”, to turn colours into shades of grey. His works capture moods, offering the onlooker nothing but ambiguous, vague tracks, and leaving him or her in a haze. They also render a memory of images and objects made up of different layers of time, which appears to waver between disappearance and reminiscence. Victor Man’s highly personal poetics and the illustrative diversity of his output trace the outlines of an artistic world in which historical facts and subjective impressions coming from different worlds and periods are grounded.


This magical image cosmos includes portraits and still lifes as well as beautiful, occult-like and even erotic subjects. The paintings always possess a timeless quality, which is intensified by their mysterious charm. A recurring motif is decapitation: A seated figure, whose head is cut off by the painting’s format, holds a head on its knees. Whether the figure is male or female remains unclear. The motif evokes images of Judith and Holofernes, or Salome; the gender ambiguity, however, reveals influences from Surrealism.


Ambiguous and perversely seductive, Victor Man’s works reject facile interpretations. Uninterested in historicist pedagogy, he prefers to confound the viewer with multiple narratives suggested by his works’ fragmented figures, masked subjects and enigmatic titles. Even though he doesn’t intend to remember anything in particular (at the most, he would prefer to provoke a sense of déjà vu) he is aware that neither iconoclasm nor desecration completely engender forgetfulness. Rather than effacing the memory of those who are memorialized, they often achieve the opposite effect: It is when images are whitewashed and concealed — when objects and sites are defaced and desecrated — that they become icons. As Man knows all too well, this is when they are most seductive.



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