The Gautama Hand

Alexander Aksinin

  • The Gautama Hand 2
  • The Gautama Hand 3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
The Gautama Hand
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
13.1 x 9.5
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 etchings by Aksinin are miniature "philosophical essays" embodied in complex systems of visual as well as literary and verbal texts.
The artwork was created as a gift for Oleksandr Koroliov, a psychiatrist, an art enthusiast, and a friend of Alexander Aksinin.
"Gautamа’s hand" (Buddha’s hand) is the author’s depiction of the hand with four thin fingers folded in the palm. In this way, Alexander Aksinin appears to have drawn a spiritual parallel between the true physician Koroliov and the truth-seeker Gautama, the man who attained Enlightenment. Koroliov often spoke of Eastern philosophy and religion. In doing so, he actively gestured with his hands, an important part of his image.
The hand, similar to Oleksandr Koroliov's one, is arranged in an oval shape. Each of the four folded fingers represents eyes and sound-emitting mouths (in this context, the work can be considered as part of the "Sounds" series, which Alexander Aksinin was working on at that time). The phalanx bones are covered with small nimbus-like lids at the top, one of which in the center is open and resembles a hat or a record (a hint that Oleksandr Koroliov was a fan of classical and jazz music, and collected records). The hand is interpreted volumetrically as a sculptural form, with each of its elements, that is, a single finger or palm, functioning independently within the overall plastic structure. Two rows of triangles, the symbols of sounds, run horizontally down the hand. The artist's monogram and the year numbers 19 and 80 are on one of triangles, on the edge of the palm on the left. The composition's background is a small square niche that houses a volumetric composition of the hand. The niche's side facets and slopes are filled with small circles. The balls are interspersed with sharp conical elements in the upper and lower segments above and under the niche. Letters "AAKSININ" (on the left) and numbers 151 9 (on the right) can be found in the lower segment of the second row of the larger balls. The letters "GAUTAMA'S HAND" (in the center) and the number 9 (on the right) are in the fourth row of balls from the same segment.
Oleksandr Koroliov (1946–2010), a psychiatrist, philanthropist, erudite, and expert in philosophy, literature, art, and music. In the 1960s–1980s, his apartment on Komsomolska St. (now the Rohatyntsi Brothers St.) in Lviv was one of the informal gathering places for the creative public. Alexander Aksinin and Oleksandr Koroliov were spiritually close and understood each other well.