Flirt, a painting created by Ričardas Bartkevičius in 2007, is a still life – a composition of inanimate objects. The artist painted the objects generally, unrealistically, and therefore it takes a moment to recognize what is depicted in this work.
The still life genre established itself in Western European painting in the 14th century, becoming particularly popular in the Baroque period. The objects portrayed in the still lifes of the classical masters are usually full of hidden meaning and symbols. We should not assume these characteristics have completely disappeared from the still lifes of modern painters. In this work by Bartkevičiaus, for example, we can find metaphors about human existence, and the structure and patterns of our world. Let's take a closer look.
First, notice how the bouquet of flowers and the gun are infused in the painting with human characteristics. Doesn't the bouquet call to mind a flirtatious lady, while the weapon – emitting powder smoke from its barrel – resembles her suitor, using all means available to draw attention to himself?
Thus, hiding behind these simple objects is a story about relations between men and women. The artist gives a somewhat ironic interpretation about the traditional roles of the sexes and that eternal engine of humanity: desire and sexual attraction.
As the painter has said: For me, objects serve as the perfect expression of human feelings and relations. Why the artist chooses objects to represent human feelings is further explained by context. Bartkevičius began painting during the Soviet occupation, when it was common to express one's thoughts in Aesopian language. Many artists used metaphors in their work. Speaking in metaphors and symbols also became an essential part of Bartkevičius' creative work.