Sheet 9 from the Graphic Cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity"

Alexander Aksinin

  • Sheet 9 from the Graphic Cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity" 2
  • Sheet 9 from the Graphic Cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity" 3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Sheet 9 from the Graphic Cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity"
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
29.1 x 29.6
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 ninth sheet of 11 etchings from the graphic cycle "Jonathan Swift's Kingdom of Absurdity". In this work, we trace Alexander Aksinin’s visual interpretation of the metaphysical system of the Anglo-American mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947). Aleхandеr Aksinin’s sketch "End Face" (1978) with the subtitle "Whitehead" is a result of a thorough study of the review of Alfred North Whitehead’s conceptual work "Process and Reality" (1929). In the ninth sheet, this sketch becomes a fragment of a complex composition.
The composition is presented in a circle. The ornithomorphic vertical image, which resembles an eagle owl with feathers on its head, claws, and a tail below, dominates the work. The bird's eyes are replaced by hand braces, which actuate the cable with the pupil in a circle. The planes of the level discs are filled with craters resembling trumpets, bells with bell-ringers, as well as the spools of twine with fish heads in the holes, and drums with figures of drummers. A cut fish (image in the basic sketch "End Face"), shells on the edge of the disk, and a whirligig on a drum are shown as separate elements. Two figures unwinding the rug are situated on the axis of the last plane above the eagle owl’s tail made of poles. Above them is a circle with a pupil in the middle, from which the rays radiate. This eye, together with the bottom part of the torso, is similar to a clock pendulum. Analogous pupil circles above the bird's head and next to its legs are important compositional elements. The upper segment symbolizes the sky. It consists of a circle with the pupil which radiates the segments with balls resembling Japanese umbrellas at the bottom. Japanese motifs can also be traced on the top of the bird’s head that looks like a pagoda, as well as in the poles on the right side of the segment, which are folded like fans. The circles with pupils are associated with the chrysanthemum emblem of the Emperor of Japan.
Lemuel Gulliver's last travel, briefly described in Chapter III, was a trip to Japan, the only real country among the imaginary ones in "Gulliver’s Travels", although this land is also presented in the book as semi-real.
The sea voyage in Alexander Aksinin's composition is proved by fragments of the middle and lower parts of the work. They symbolize the sea space formed by drops  coming out from pipes and the faucet on brick walls outlined horizontally by wide light ribbons. In addition to ships, one can notice fishermen, boats, and rafts with Ionic columns on the water surface. On the capitals of the columns there are owls. Flying down balls are situated to the left of the upper "celestial" segment. They gradually increase in shape and turn into containers with needles. A large fish is trying to swallow one of these balls. The balls under the owl’s "head" on the left in the depths form another disc with craters, on the edge of which sits a fisherman. A fragment of a similar disc is shown on the right. Above it, there is a man who sits and grinds droplets-pebbles falling from above the tubes of the "fan" in a spherical mechanism with the crater. The mechanism resembles fantastic devices from the academy in "Laputa".
The author's signature is etched on the middle ribbon on the right: A. Aksinin–78.
In this work, the author collects and synthesizes various Gulliver's travels, combining them into a single ornithomorphic structure. As in the other last sheets of the series, the artist moves away from direct connections with Jonathan Swift’s texts and offers a visual interpretation of universal problems.
At the bottom right under the imprint there is an author's inscription "A. Aksinin – 78"