COLLECTION OF REFLECTIONS ON MICHAEL ROGATCHI’S YEAR 1953 PAINTING
“The work is truly rare and special as it deals with historical phenomena of utter importance, one of the most important in the XX century, and the artist’s input here is his personal experience. This is a rare occurrence in the contemporary arts. The work also evokes the atmosphere of the massive repressions, and both psychological and physical terror that has been executed cruelly on a horrendous scale. Michael has succeeded here to create the art work which is as if ‘breathing’ the terror that had been instrumental in the formation of both the regime, and millions of lives of the people who were living under it. The fact that Michael is one of those people, adds to the special characteristics of the art work, indeed” – leading international art expert Sam Chatterton-Dickson, London, the UK, November 2009.
“When a few years back, we flew to Kazakhstan as I was filming a documentary on Michael’s life and work, I noticed that even for the camera men who were locals and for whom existing in the Karaganda landscapes was routine, even for them it was difficult to film what we did. You have a neat small house where Michael’s family lived, and just a hundred meters in front of it, not more, there is a vast concentration camp, abandoned now, but which was functioning at the time. On the left, there is a huge cemetery, so to say, but in fact, it is a giant pitch in which the remnants of thousands of prisoners were just ditched away for years on. In this landscape a human being is raised; Michael spent there about 18 years, after his family had been exiled to that part of the Gulag, known as the Valley of Death, one of the most terrible parts of the Gulag in the Russian Far East where Michael was actually born. Michael does not talk much, if at all, about his and his family’s experience in the Gulag; neither does he paint a lot concerning it. Apart from this painting, there are only two of Michael’s works exists that were inspired by his personal experiences in the Gulag. And one just cannot help but think – how crystallised must be the artistic message coming out of one’s actual experience of such total horror. And how special this kind of work of art is” – Inna Rogatchi, excerpt from presentation at the special ceremony at the Laogai Museum, Washington D.C., February 2013.
“Look at Michael – he well could say after leaving those terrible realities of the Gulag behind him, ‘OK, I am out of it, and don’t want to have anymore to do with that life with human skulls on the way to a kids’ walks. Enough. Forget it.’ But instead, he has been and is devoted to creating a testimony; and done by the means of art, this testimony is speaking just straight to our minds and hearts.
Michael is a phenomenal artist. His works which I have seen are those of an extremely powerful, fantastic imagination. The power of his imagination is overwhelming, it is simply tremendous, unbelievable. And the fact that the artist as himself, if turning to such matters as the reality of the Gulag, is doubly remarkable as he has thrown his immense talent to support his human, civic stand.
Talented artists with a strong moral stand and convictions are talking not to minds only, but to the hearts of people, very importantly. Anyone who could have a look at this painting of Michael’s, would see that a creative image can express things much more powerfully than many words would do” – prof. John Lenczowski, founder and president, The Institute of the World’s Policies, Washington D.C., former long-term senior foreign policy adviser to the President Reagan and President Bush.
“Look at this painting – even without knowing Michael’s biography and his life, one can feel and understand that this painting is first-hand testimony. Michael’s father was a prisoner of the Gulag; Michael was born in the Gulag, just shortly before Stalin’s death. Otherwise, we don’t know how Michael’s and his family’s life would have developed, and what could come out of it. And then, his family was sent to many years of exile in Kazakhstan, another big place of the Gulag. There is certainly a big sum that this painting has been valuated at. I have to say to you: I do not care how much this painting costs in figures, I am not interested in sums. This painting is valuable; it is very, very valuable – because this is a real person’s memories, his testimony, in which there is the story of his family, but also of very many people and their families, millions of those, both of the Gulag and Laogai. Thank you, Michael” – late Harry Wu, famous public figure, nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.