Victory Over Time (Sheet 10 from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity")

Alexander Aksinin

  • Victory Over Time (Sheet 10 from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity") 2
  • Victory Over Time (Sheet 10 from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity") 3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Victory Over Time (Sheet 10 from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity")
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
29.3 x 29.7
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 second-to-last sheet from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity". On one of its prints, the author wrote the title "Victory over Time". In the last two etchings based on Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and "A Tale of a Tub", Alexander Aksinin touches on general philosophical issues such as the creation of the universe and the birth of Space and Time. 
The philosophical issues are evidenced by the author's sketches for the future completed composition as well as by comments that lead to the disclosure of the meaning of the author's symbolism. The whirligig is one of the author’s central graphic images-metaphors, which he associates with the flow of time and rhythm ("whirligig" meaning "rhythm"). In the first square of the table’s sketch of "The Origin of the Universe", Alexander Aksinin depicts a nimbus over a circle of whirligigs. Thus, "Aksinin’s whirligig" is something similar to the eternal engine, and the Creator configures a group of such whirligigs to form the historical Time.
There is also the author's name "billions of years ago". In another sketch, in which the circle is crossed diagonally by an orbicular spiral resembling a serpentine caterpillar or a snake, Alexander Aksinin explains the metaphor’s meaning as follows: "Approaching through metaphor. Beyond the metaphor, everything remains alienated." In another sketch, Alexander Aksinin emphasizes his philosophical priorities with the following phrase: "Phenomenology of space / not explication, but eloquence – like Merleau-Ponty". 
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a twentieth-century French philosopher and prominent representative of existential phenomenology. He considered intention as the man’s subjective referring to the world, that is seeing the essence with their own eyes. The thinker continued to develop Edmund Husserl’s theory, searching for a phenomenon "on the other side of the world of objects".
The author resorts to using the composition scheme of the previous etchings of the series. He depicts a circle with the curly rough ribbon crossing it vertically. This zoomorphic S-shaped spiral meta-whirligig, in this case, adds dynamism to the static composition as a whole. The spiral resembles an eyeless snake with its mouth stuck into the segment’s crater formed by a swarm of whirligigs. Actually, it is the birth of a tornado in the crater. The crater looks like an inverted hat, and it contains a sphere with a faceted coating of diamond rust.
This sphere, the Turtle's shell, is a model of the universe, according to the artist's plan. Thanks to it, the meta-whirligig tornado maintains its balance. The zoomorphic spiral's body is made up of wide discs, the sections of which are filled with whirligigs turned into spindles, prompting us to see another symbol of Time and an attribute of Destiny. At the top, the vertical creature transforms into two arched pipes. Their horizontal throats are tightly closed with white lids fixed by rings at the top. To emphasize the overall composition, the lids have black circles in the center.
"A. AKSININ–78" is engraved on the far-right lid. The pipes' scaly coating is clearly divided into stripes. Birdhouses, as another ironic symbol of Time, chaotically jump up from the pipes’ spirals, while whirligigs are jammed between the stripes in some places. Four chandeliers with candles hang down from the black circles of the lids. They are the same transformed whirligigs that highlight the process of Time formation. Later, the artist used the whirligigs repeatedly, transforming them into Christmas trees in New Year's greeting cards. A second smaller crater resembling the hat can be found under one of the chandeliers on the left, in the segment of the whirligigs cluster. Individual whirligigs have already occupied it to form a new meta-whirligig.
The idea of the work as a whole can be defined as showing the way to order chaos, despite the fact that such structuring itself generates monsters.
In terms of composition and general concept, this work by Alexander Aksinin can be compared to Sandro Botticelli's "Circles of Hell" (1480).
At the bottom right under the imprint there is an author's inscription "A. Aksinin – 78"