Ex-Libris for Volodymyr Onusaitis

Alexander Aksinin

  • Ex-Libris for Volodymyr Onusaitis 2
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Ex-Libris for Volodymyr Onusaitis
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
12.3 x 11
Information about author
Alexander Aksinin
Artist's lifetime
Alexander Aksinin was a graphic artist and one of the brightest representatives of Lviv nonconformist culture. He was born on October 2, 1949 in Lviv in the family of a military cartographer and railroad official of the Lviv railway. Between 1963 and 1966, he received his art education at the evening art school in Lviv. Between 1967 and 1972, the artist continued his studies at the Ivan Fedorov Ukrainian Polygraphic Institute, where he specialized in Graphic Art. After graduation, Aksinin served in the Soviet Army, where he participated in the design of the exposition of the Military History Museum. Between 1974 and 1977, he worked as an art designer in an industrial design office. In 1977, he left the official service and began to work exclusively as a freelance artist. The apartment of Aksinin and his wife, the writer and artist Engelina (Gelya) Buriakovska (1944–1982), became one of the Lviv centers of informal art; first home exhibitions were held here. Alexander and Gelya were well acquainted with the representatives of the cultural underground of Moscow and Leningrad, in particular, with Dmitri Prigov, Viktor Krivulin, Ilya Kabakov, and others. They also had friendly relations with Baltic artists, first of all, with Tonis Vint, with whom Alexander developed a close rapport, and Polish ones. Since 1974, Aksinin participated in group exhibitions; in 1979, his first personal exhibition was organized in Tallinn with the assistance of the artist Tonis Vint. In the early 1980s, the poet Viktor Krivulin helped to arrange several of Aksinin's "kvartirnik" exhibitions in Leningrad and Moscow. On May 3, 1985, on his way back from Tallinn, Alexander Aksinin died in a plane crash over Zolochiv near Lviv. During his lifetime, the artist created 343 etchings, about 200 sheets of unique drawn graphics (drawings in watercolor, Indian ink, and gouache, including prints), as well as five paintings. 27 volumes of the artist's diaries for the period from 1965 to 1985 contain more than 200 sketches and a large number of drawings-ideas; they are partially publicly available on the artist's personal website. In 2015, Alexander Aksinin's etching series "Boskhiana" was included in the permanent exposition of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. The works are stored in the Lviv National Art Gallery, the Estonian Art Museum, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. In 1981, Alexander Aksinin wrote his laconic autobiography for an article by Viktor Krivulin, in which he consciously contrasted his inner world with external events, combining the facts of his biography with his own artistic and metaphysical experience: “In 1949, a seemingly Russian man was born in the seemingly European city of Lviv. Orthodox Christian. In 1972 – received a diploma from the Polygraphic Institute in the field of Graphic Art. In 1977 – the first revelation with a concomitant sense of time. In 1981 – the second revelation with a concomitant sense of eternity. In 1979 – the first solo exhibition in Tallinn. In 1981 – the second one in Poland. That is all.”
Object description
The creative world of Alexander Aksinin is characterized by a condensed intellectual atmosphere, which is full of "codes of aesthetic information". Numerous ex-libris by Aksinin, even in appearance, have little in common with the traditional canons of book signs; in essence, these are miniature "philosophical essays" embodied in complex systems of visual as well as literary and verbal texts.
This is one of the early printed works by Alexander Aksinin. In this piece of art, we can already see the beginnings of the artist's creative style, in particular his rich visual image as well as narrative and humorous irony. The work is dedicated to Volodymyr Onusaitis, a graphic artist and Alexander Aksinin’s close friend.
Alexander Aksinin metaphorically depicts the artistic process as a volcanic eruption in front of the audience. The author shows the creator's pencil – powerful at the base and scattered with lead balls in its upper part. It appears to be a volcano island emerging from a central reservoir, similar to an amphitheater filled with water, with a miniature ladder attached to it on the left. Spectators are depicted schematically in the rows of the theatron. They can only contemplate the water with a single fish and the trunk of the artist's pencil. The volcano island's triangle is depicted at the top, above the waves with sailboats. Water is pouring from the pipes in the other two fragmentary depicted reservoirs, which are located on both sides of the central one. At the top, between the reservoir arches, is an accumulation of hemispherical organic shapes that resemble wrinkled bald human heads. At the bottom, beneath the arches of the walls, there are inscriptions: AKSOИUS (AKSinin – ONUSaitis) on the left, KROKUS on the right, and barely visible numbers 18 and 35. On the left is an indistinct monogram "a", as well as the year 75. The pencil-vulcano and background are designed in a wide cloud-shaped frame with the word VULKAN written twice at the bottom. ОСТРОВ Я (translator’s note: ISLAND EGO), an ironic allusion to Onusaitis' egocentrism, is visible in the background on the right. The phrase EX°LIBRIS°ONUSAITIS°A appears in the top center on a cloud-like ribbon. Another inscription can be found in the middle reservoir, above the fish, at the top right: НИ Х. СЕБЕ, ОСТРОВ (translator’s note: WHAT AN ISLAND). The entire composition is symmetrical and is arranged in an octagon with elongated side verticals.
Volodymyr Onusaitis (1947–2017), a graphic designer from Lviv and Alexander Aksinin's friend. They studied together at the Lviv Polygraphic Institute, although Volodymyr Onusaitis was in the correspondence department. The author of ex-libris for Alexander Aksinin (1973, 1977), as well as his portrait (1973, 1984). In 2001, Volodymyr Onusaitis published his memoirs "About Alexander Aksinin".