Apotheosis of Travel (Sheet 11 from the graphic cycle “Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity”)

Alexander Aksinin

  • Apotheosis of Travel (Sheet 11 from the graphic cycle “Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity”) 2
  • Apotheosis of Travel (Sheet 11 from the graphic cycle “Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity”) 3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Apotheosis of Travel (Sheet 11 from the graphic cycle “Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity”)
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
29.2 x 29.5
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
Alexander Aksinin's legacy of graphic works contains a series of etchings based on some literary works, one of which is Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" (1977–1978). In this series (as in others, such as Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland"), Aksinin often turned the texts into part of an image. The creative world of the artist is characterized by a condensed intellectual atmosphere, which is full of "codes of aesthetic information". The art critic Mykhailo Sokolov noted that the artist introduced into his works a subject line, which was to symbolically reproduce not a separate part of the text, but to give the image of the text as a whole, as well as to serve as a sign and matrix of an illustrated verbal work.
This is the last sheet of 11 etchings from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity". Shortly after its creation, the artist presented the idea of the work to his friend Yurii Hittik, who described it in the following lines: "The last page of the series is devoted to the connections between the Heavenly and the Earthly, which are in endless cyclical motion. The celestial cycle presents a wheel with 12 knitting needles (12 months – 12 signs of the Zodiac). Instead, the futility of earthly development in one of the many worlds is shown as a 9-month cycle of human birth. Time seems to "stitch" the heavenly and earthly spheres of the opened up worlds with a continuous thread."
The composition of the work consists of two parts represented by two rotating cycles, which are centered on the axes that are shown in the form of helmet-like spikes. At the top, one can see 12 needles with digits under the needle eyes. A coarse rope threaded in the eyes of the needles on the right connects the upper part with the lower one, in which the rope is folded, forming a spherical rim, which according to the author's idea separates one of the many earthly worlds from others. These worlds in the form of rim-skeins are scattered around the central one. 
The central skein encircles 9 sectors, which diverge from the spike in the center and are separated by arcades resembling viaducts. The wheel on the top right of the skein stands for the movement of Time, and the conical and ovoid shapes that fill the sectors are reminiscent of changes in human development. The thread-rope that connects Heaven with Earth is accompanied by oval eggs; the larger ones are depicted near the 9th sector at the bottom while very tiny eggs are shown at the top, where they disappear in perspective. Another connecting link between the top and bottom is the same coarse rope, the strings of which wrap the whole imprint around. The background in the "heavenly" and "earthly" spheres is different. At the top, it is inlaid with small dots and cobwebs of ladders around the spike, while at the bottom – with round crumbs. To the left and right between the spheres there are arcs that surround the lower circle in three rows. Probably, these are a kind of shutters that close and open between the "heavenly" and "earthly" worlds. The arc serration is similar to the white keys of a musical instrument. A miniature figure of a man in a hat with a wand in his hand is depicted leaning against those white serrations to the right; it is apparently Gulliver, with whom the artist associates himself. There, on the so-called keys, is depicted another wheel of Time, which is barely visible against a dark background. From the right arc come out the mouths of three pipes, the holes for which are located on the "keys" of the opposite row.
In the lower sphere, between the skeins of rope, symbolizing other worlds, hid a lone sailboat, the characteristic element of Gulliver's travels. The associative series is complemented by some details in different parts of the composition, in particular by a ladder on a viaduct in the 9th sector, a human ear in one of the arches between the first and second sectors, bells, empty bowls, and fish heads.
This etching attests to the strong influence of the symbolism in the works of Dutch artists of the 15th–16th centuries on the author. Regarding Space and Time, their contradictions and identities, A. Aksinin was influenced by the conceptual ideas of the twentieth century graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.
At the bottom right under the imprint there is an author's inscription "A. Aksinin – 78"