LVIV’S METAGRAPHICS GENIUS
LVIV’S METAGRAPHICS GENIUS
Alexander Aksinin’s legacy is apparent and a self-evident given, for all connoisseurs of contemporary Eastern European art. Yet at the same time it is rather difficult to define his artistic personality; he could probably be more accurately described as the "Master of Lviv". For many centuries his native Lviv was an amazing multicultural enclave, which enriched Aksinin’s works with a perfect natural "landscape" background, from which his fantasies grew. His style is not easy to define according to any standard, however due to sophisticated etching technique, precision and perfectionist attention to details, Aksinin is known also as “Dürer of Lviv”.
Alexander Aksinin was born to military cartographer Dmitriy Aksinin and railroad official Lyudmyla Aksinin. In 1972, he graduated from the Ukrainian Institute of Printing specializing in Graphics Arts and worked as an art editor in a publishing house until 1977, he also served in the Soviet army and then worked as an art designer in an industrial design office. Since 1977 he has focused his life entirely on his art, in particular in the fields of printed and drawn graphics.
Aksinin quickly grasped that he would follow neither the so-called "Severe Style" of Soviet art – cheerful, yet slightly cold, slightly reminiscent of Modernism – nor the so-called "quiet graphics" style, which is programmatic in the most personal, contemplative lyrical themes. Instead he blazed a third path, that of "Unofficial Art," which was doomed to have an underground or semi-underground existence in those decades.
In Lviv itself, the entrenched traditions of Polish Modernism were clearly felt—those traditions were as ineradicable as the Polish commercial signs on the local walls which again and again showed through the whitewash like a palimpsest (which is a writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased). The affinity of Aksinin’s art to the Polish avant-garde can be found at a completely unconscious, even molecular level.
He mastered various techniques, especially etching and water color, in a historically retrospective way, even in a museum-like manner. Historical memory virtually replaced nature for him. At the same time, these historical memories always came with a radical spiritual shift. Any smugness or self-complacency disappeared from the images as well as the self-sufficiency of a tried-and-true formula that could merely be repeated serenely. Night perspectives in his prints are never terminated, projecting rather into infinity, in velvety matte dark tones.
Aksinin’s is the art of small, not just tiny, but minuscule atomic units. Visual sensuality is invariably the basis of Aksinin’s prints - if only because of their subtle plastic skill - but it inevitably recedes and is overlaid by the demand for careful and thoughtful reading. These graphics can be simply admired, but according to the author's “super-objective” they should be approached as if reading a difficult and unclear text. Details of the composition graphically resemble some outlandish alphabet’s characters combining together into a complete visual text. It is not just by luck that his theoretical notes are such a natural complement to his graphic work, amounting in total to a few bulky volumes that emit a mysterious charm. The origins of this mysteriousness – as well as the texts and images – are not that Aksinin craftily scrambled his images. On the contrary, he openly, even kindly shared his intuitions with the audience; or, more precisely, with the reader-spectator. The fact is that he always posed many more questions than he offered answers.
His graphics form a serially expanding, accreting cultural universe, born - using his own words - from "the ability to travel back in time from the mineral to Wang Wei on Velimir Khlebnikov’s black scooter." The embodiment of this universe are the frequently recurring symbols of inclusiveness and omniscience - like the ecumenical pupil, the dark dial, or the specific "Aksinin mandala", which before our eyes metamorphoses from an ancient Tibetan pictograph into a modern electronic chip. The Master dreamed of creating a sign that could visually accommodate an entire world. Everything in his art is a continuous summation, not infrequently forming outwardly harmonious alphabets or cartographic legends of various signs. Yet each uncovered secret reveals another, even more complex secrets, just like a Chinese box with multiple compartments. The result disintegrates before us, leaving behind a live trail of microorganisms of art, while the labyrinth of meanings avoids an indisputable finale, each time bringing us back to the very beginning, as in all well-made fascinating fairy tales.
Aleksandr Aksinin made 350 printed graphics (mainly etching), more than 140 unique drawn graphics in mixed techniques (gouache, India ink, color ink), as well as four oil paintings. He created his own art language - formulated and implemented his original aesthetic attitudes, which absorb multiple cultural layers and form a complete artistic universe. This universe is represented in his well-experienced and constructed language of meta-graphics; meta-graphics is not just visualization in graphic forms, it is a form of thinking and cogitation, self-awareness of internal experience and reflection of his personal vision – and all these aspects in a single comprehensive act of art.
On May 3rd 1985, on his way back from Tallinn, Alexander Aksinin died in a plane crash near Zolochiv, near Lviv.