THE INIMITABLE GRAPHIC HUMOR OF YURY KOSOBUKIN
The International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba proves once more to be controversial and seductive. It was first set up in 1974 to fight against the military regime in Brazil and has become an international benchmark against dictatorships around the world. It had the greatest impact when it made people laugh at serious, absurd, and unthinkable events.
Authors from all over the world, such as the Ukrainian Yuriy Kosobukin , to whom I pay tribute in this article with both my points of view and many other journalists’, have always sent the best of their perception of contemporary events – at first by post and more recently by the Internet. They were the first to challenge the Brazilian military dictatorship in the 1970s, when the tale of Hans Christian Andersen, signed by Laerte Coutinho, said "the emperor has no clothes", showing that despite all the military apparatus of the moment, the civil society close to reorganize politically preferred freedom to oppression. Brazil wished for the return of democracy and the irreverence of Piracicaba was there to support it.
The tone and pattern of allegations have changed from that moment forward, always looking for better days for both our country and the world. The echoes of the spread ideas were on the pages of newspapers and the mainstream media, turning it into an enhanced and defiant city.
This has helped build the brand of the Exhibition over the years, but has certainly pushed away groups of entrepreneurs that could give the essential and necessary support for its growth. On the other hand, the word of mouth marketing – or maybe letter by letter – has helped tell the world the existence of a controversial village called Piracicaba, where ideas and ideals in terms of multiculturalism and diversity are accepted and coexist in a competitive harmony.
While all the ideas of “green” parties were labeled “eco-boring”, the Exhibitions of that period reported climate change, deforestation of the Amazon Forest, melting glaciers and the meeting of penguins and camels in the snowy and creative imagination of the artist. After the fall of the Brazilian dictatorship, the environmental issue may have been the most awarded, debated and reported subjected of the last Exhibitions.
Also social differences, the endless battle of the Marxist critique on capital and labor, have occupied the minds and pens of artists here and there, so that the exploitation of workers could always be awarded and applauded. There is a memorable cartoon to which we shall refer later, where the employee puts a coat on his boss and surreptitiously puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out his money. Giving with one hand - paying salaries! - and taking with the other - charging taxes, for example, is a recurring theme in the vast history of critical literature of the Exhibition.
Humor Exhibition lost its biggest winner
The world of graphic humor became smaller in 2013. Piracicaba was also part of this world that lost Yuriy Kosobukinon Tuesday, January 15. From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, this Ukrainian artist was the biggest winner of Piracicaba Humor Exhibition.
He was born in Russia, in 1950. He studied civil air engeneering and graduated from the Kharkiv Aviation Institute. Then he worked as an engineer at Antonov Design Bureau in Kiev. He had no professional art training before starting to turn ideas into his early cartoons. But later he developed his own unique and inimitable style.
His press debut as a cartoonist happened in 1976, two years after the launch of Piracicaba Humor Exhibition. He was 26 years old and his first cartoons appeared in many publications. Since then, thousands of his drawings were published in newspapers and magazines in several countries. He also worked in several Russian publications (Segodnya, Kyivska and Pravda).
At the time of his death, he was working as a freelance artist. His drawings have participated in hundreds of international competitions of graphic humor and cartoons, and won over 450 times, including over 100 major awards.
His works were exhibited in many countries around the world and it would be easier to list where they were not. Solo exhibitions in Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. He lived and worked in Kiev, Ukraine.
Over 40 years, he was the most awarded artist in the Piracicaba International Humor Exhibition. Aesthetically, with relatively simple features, he built the stereotype of the man model of his works. Sometimes bald, sometimes wearing war caps or hats. Paunchy and chunky. Wearing glasses. Eyes always wide open. Cucumber-shaped nose. Dark look, not cheerful, always self-absorbed. And in a hand movement, the password to solve the one-page stories, his sharp communications, which flew around the world like a punch in the stomach against existing structures.
According to José Occhiuso, director of journalism of SBT, this cartoon transcends geographical boundaries and thus becomes universal. As the projectile to be fired by a gun being loaded by clipped newspaper report, he reaches Greeks and Trojans, Ukrainians and Brazilians.
What's so shocking about it? A man seems to be tired. Unshaven. Wrinkled forehead. He looks like someone who endured until the last minute, but I cannot go back.
The weapon could be the scissors resting on the table. But this would not have the same destructive power. It takes a pistol to use clipped newspaper news as ammunition. The printed newspaper article is powerful. It can kill!
But who or what is the target of this gentleman wearing a jacket and tie, looking like someone who is willing to solve a major dilemma?
The whole picture suggests that the man has no more doubts. He wields the pistol very carefully and loads it with clipped newspaper news. In the following chart, which will never be drawn, it is possible to imagine that he will have solved the issue. But which one? Will he have faced his target in a faltering or decisive way? If he used the cropped newspaper news to take his own life, will he have done it after a prayer? And if he wants to shoot me or anyone else looking at the cartoon, will he outline a smile? Will he ask if we understood the joke?
What an outrageous situation! It´s just an award-winning cartoon. But it bothers a lot!
The color of desire
This other cartoon, awarded the first place in the charge category in 1993 at the Piracicaba Exhibition, presents two stunning details. A gigantic tongue, prevented from speaking, being waved to the four winds. And two black bars on the man´s mouth, showing that it is forbidden to speak. From the former Soviet Union, where he began his set of contradictions, to present Ukraine free from communism, many years have gone by, customs and political practices have changed (or at least tried to change), but his message remained over the past 40 years as one of the most memorable in the history of the Exhibition. This cartoon is part of the cover of the commemorative book celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Exhibition, published by the Official Press Council of the State of São Paulo.
According to the analysis made ??of Yuriy Kosobukin´s“The color of desire", journalist José Pedro Soares Martins, spokesman for Arcellor Mital / Campinas: The film The Brotherhood is Red immortalized Krzysztof Kieslowski in 1994, with the great Jean-Louis Trintignant and in partnership with Irène Jacob. A year before Jurij (also spelled Yuriy) Kosobukin was awarded the 20th International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba for his tribute to the tongue, one of the human organs that is red par excellence; the heart is another.
Tongue and heart, speech and feeling, what is most characteristic of the species, which has been more brutalized and banished from the everyday pain, horror and individualism that marked the 20th century and insists on extending to young and yet old 21st century. Red is war, passion and freedom, and that is death, despair and agony. Life is red, living is red. The red carpet, with its promises and disappointments, covers mankind journey and the history of Eastern Europe in particular. Both the Ukrainian Yuriy Kosobukinand Polish Kieslowski drank the blood of the dense and tense history of a typical region of warriors, for good and evil.
Yuriy Kosobukin´s tongue is the key to open the Pandora's box of this conflict area and release its cries, its deepest cry, and also express its magic, show the extreme meaning of its most innovative, overwhelming cultural creations. Kafka, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Nijinsky, Kundera, Chekhov, Kandinsky and, why not, Clarice Lispector are some of the creators who went deep, breaking new (and sometimes dangerous) boundaries of art and emotions, sharing the extreme meaning of Eastern Europe culture.
Yuriy Kosobukinis imbued with this visceral calling, not afraid of what the region breathes and exudes, wishing to say what is not said, against any dictatorship. The tongue awarded in Piracicaba represents the speech of this area admired and misunderstood by the West, because the existential background is different, the mental script is different. The tongue of the cartoonist, who sadly died in 2013, is the flag, especially Ukraine´s, the homeland of resistance where, rumor says, the horse was domesticated. Resistance to the Mongol invasion, the Nazi barbarism, to Soviet totalitarianism.
Yuriy Kosobukin´s tongue wants to be the voice of many millions who died in Holodomor, the Ukrainian Holocaust, a massive genocide by famine. The hunger for food, but also the hunger for democracy, joy and hope is still throbbing in Ukraine, which becomes the heart of humanity, because this dream is universal. The hunger for beauty is red like love.
The Portuguese ace
It might be hilarious, as this other work, also exhibited in Piracicaba, making fun of Portugal players (and perhaps Brazil´s). The entry on the team´s shirt speaks for itself. This work was awarded in the 1988 Exhibition, his first inclusion on the winning list.
For Carlos Eduardo Gaiad, Communications Director of Piracicaba City Council, refined humor, line quality, impressive ink palette and sophistication are striking features of Yuriy Kosobukin´s work, a reference in the world of cartoons and creativity.
His work awarded in the 1988 International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba is a satire on the Portuguese craze for giving themselves many surnames, seeking for a sense of aristocracy. The standard team shirt of soccer players is not enough to contain all the athlete´s names. Even winning the prize, this work is not among the artist´s best.
The work presented and awarded in the 1988 Exhibition runs away from the language of Yuriy Kosobukinman, that is, “Yuriy Kosobukin man”, which can be seen as a reference to Superman, a character that strongly impressed the judges of the Exhibitions he took part in.
A complete artist who left as legacy a gallery with more than 300 awards worldwide, Yuriy Kosobukin was even honored with solo exhibitions in Cuba, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, where he lived.
The more than 300 awards, the unsurpassed quality of the work that made him a reference in the select world of cartoon and creativity thanks, again, to refined humor , line quality and ink palette, the character Yuriy Kosobukin man - his greatest legacy to the art world – have not turned this Russian civil aeronautical engineer, died at the of age 63, a millionaire.
For him, his work was essentially a hobby, or, as a matter of fact, the reason of his life.
The pleasure of meeting this “Russian”
It is undeniable that the “master thief”, who steals from his employee while putting on his coat, is one of the strongest cartoons against tyranny. The work was awarded in the Exhibition in 1989 and received the Bamerindus Award.
In the 1991 Exhibition he also won the cartoon award with a violinist who used to playing to fill the coffers of his country´s army. It took second place in the cartoon category in 1998. He won again with a baker who took xerox copies of breads and, finally, he got his last award in 2002, another first place with a funny insurgence of Russian soldiers.
From 1988 to 2002, Yuriy Kosobukin contributed to raising the level of our exhibition with his cartoons and promoting it in his country and everywhere he went to for exhibitions. He would be one of the guest judges in this year´s Exhibition. He will note come! However, he deserves our affection and gratitude for being among us all these years. His lines and messages, instead of his headstone, have become an anthem against corruption and mismanagement. Here and there!
According to Zélio Alves Pinto, graphic artist and one of the pioneers of Piracicaba Exhibition, some of the notable people in the world of comedy have dodged fate to follow their calling. This is the case of Ukrainian cartoonist Yuriy Kosobukin, who graduated in engineering to, finally, carry on with his calling as an artist with no one to lead him.
Son of middle-class communist in the years of the Cold War, his original destination would be exact sciences, because the world demanded so. But he escaped and became one of the finest graphic humor thinkers of his time. In 2013, he left us orphans of his lines and sarcastic, ironic observations of human behavior through his cartoons.
He became an engineer, but soon his talent as an observer of events and human achievements plus his refined humor demanded more dedication and he thus became one of the most prestigious professionals of his time, which was relatively short, since only 63 years have passed from 1950 to 2013. Short life for such a vast work.
Yuriy Kosobukin emerged in the life of the International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba in the 1980s. Since then he has never ceased to amaze us with each edition, with his sparks of humor, conceptual findings and amazing, original visual translations. He was one of major award winners, a trophy collector. His well-behaved, refined design reveals someone who is creative, well-trained, disciplined, studious and attentive, because the subjectivity of the idea in his hands ultimately expresses itself more clearly when taking shape, color and volume. His behavioral criticism is noticed through a breach of expectation, leading to subtle and often profoundly wicked comedy.
It gives me great satisfaction to see him quoted and included in this new publication organized by the International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba, because drawing the attention of a great number of people to the talent and brilliance of artists, such asYuriy Kosobukin, is one of the things that explain the dedication of so many people to preserve the ideas that justify the formation of this entity – CEDHU* – in order to generously reward the commitment of all. The "Russian" Yuriy Kosobukin is just one of those who have emerged and are emerging over the editions of the Exhibition.
The black matrioskas
According to journalist Jairo Mattos Meirelles, director of Piracicaba´s Educadora and Jovem Pan radio stations, in 2002, Yuriy Kosobukin enriched us with the presentation of this work at the 29th International Humor Exhibition of Piracicaba.
The black ink applied to the dolls, the almost discouraged painter sitting crossed legs on the red carpet, and the gentle brushstrokes covering them one by one, portrays the fine art of Yuri, the most awarded artist to date on our outstanding Exhibition.
Yuri leads us to reflection on cultural diversity and (lack of) freedom of certain totalitarian societies as well as the existence of control and silent, heeded repression.
Interestingly, in the painting in progress, which almost covers the seventh woman, the tallest and heaviest of all, it can be noticed that it was a smiling woman who could still wear traditional clothes, have cheerful face, and use red lipstick at the peak of her happy, free life. However, the order is now dark, cover it all, no trace of vibrant colors, only the eyes showing. But whatever the eyes see, the soul feels, and it travels and touches the heart; repressed feelings afflict the soul and lacerate the heart; on many aspects, a society imprisoned under her clothes.
A question remains: would the lonely painter be the author of the original work that is now covered? Would times have changed? Wicked, more controlled, censored world… and this is the deadly message that Yuriy Kosobukin already warned us in 2002. This policy brings us to 1936, when Charles Chaplin starred in "Modern Times", a strong criticism of capitalism, militarism, liberalism, conservatism, Stalinism, fascism, nazism, fordism and imperialism. Criticism is now fanaticism, religiosity, sexualism, among other "isms".
The Quran says that all faithful women should guard their modesty and hide their sex appeal; what the Quran does not say is whether they agree with these conditions. In a world without human rights and shame, keeping these souls caged would be like not allowing a cry of goal at Macaranã during the World Cup.
Speaking of Maracanã, I recall a cartoon in which a Muslim woman wearing a burqa and a Brazilian woman ran into each other on Copacabana beach; the second was wearing a tiny bikini and wonderful sunglasses.
The tanned Brazilian, after staring the other woman´s clothes, asked thoughtfully:
- Everything covered except the eyes ... how cruel this dominant macho culture!
In turn, the Muslim woman, looking the Brazilian from head to toe, also thought to herself:
- Nothing covered except the eyes ... how cruel this dominant macho culture!
The miracle of the multiplication of loaves
According to Lucy Rodrigues, Cultural Editor of A Crítica Journal, in Manaus, in a world where food production exceeds records, one third of all that is produced is thrown away, while hunger hovers millions. The harsh reality is portrayed in the image of the award winningYuriy Kosobukin , which shows shabby and hungru men, women and children, waiting for the "miracle of the loaves" at the hands of a fat and blushed baker, who tries to reproduce the food on a photocopier.
In addition to social inequalities shown in the caricatured characters – with their dirty and patched clothes, bulging eyes and pale faces, in contrast to the Baker´s perfect uniform, concerned eyes and rosy face - the cartoon makes us reflect on the existing new technologies, such as the revolutionary photocopier, designed to facilitate the life of man in different areas, but have not been able to solve old and yet devastating problems on the planet, such as hunger.
The fact that the machine and the bread are in the hands of one, while the majority starves at the mercy of whoever owns the resources, also makes us think about the government systems throughout the history of mankind, where a minority increasingly holds the resources and controls the oppressed majority that has no alternative but to wait for scraps.
At the same time, the image might suggest a different interpretation, as we look through the prism of solidarity and imagine how it would be if most people who often have more than enough and the power to make a difference, used these tools to perform the "miracle" to help others. And what if men used all the stored knowledge and technology to solve urgent, old problems?
As the two-thousand-year biblical parable, in which Jesus is able to feed a crowd through the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, this "miracle" is expected every day by countless people living in extreme poverty and very little or nothing is done by those who have the power or duty to do. This and many other questions raised by the work of the Russian Yuriy Kosobukin make his lines and humor even more universal and timeless.
The inimitable work of Ukrainian Yuriy Kosobukin, shown on the main exhibitions, newspapers, magazines and catalogs of graphic humor scattered throughout the world, is a very special contribution to the field. Neither the time, nor his death will be able to change that, because it faithfully portrays an era of contradictions and arbitrary actions to which the artist always remained against.
May this article draw people´s attention to a revolutionary work, create new perspectives, new interpretations and perceptions of an artist who has convinced and persuaded the world with a much greater range of competence than the guns and weapons of authoritarian regimes.
Queiroz, Adolpho e Ciasi, Letícia Hernandez, Balas não matam ideias, os 40 anos do Salão Internacional de Humor de Piracicaba, SEMAC/CEDHU, Piracicaba, Gráfica de Rio Claro, 2013;
Queiroz, Adolpho; Vicente, Evaldo e Ciasi, Letícia Hernandez, Caxara de forfe, 41 anos do Salão Internacional de Humor de Piracicaba, SEMAC/CEDHU, Piracicaba, Gráfica de Rio Claro, 2014.
Images from the International Humor Exhibiton of Piracicaba website: http://salaodehumor.blogspot.com.br