August Lanin

artwork gallery

About artist, articles

Back to the Future. August Lanin. Graphics. Sculpture. Catalogue. St-Peterburg. 2008. Dmitriy Pilikin.  

A gallery specializing in modern art is aimed atrepresenting the up-to-day present. Retrospective reviews and appealing to art history is museums' lot, they are intended for drawing the line and then after thoroughly considering everything and having sorted all according to periods and trends, accepting into history. This is generally true but 'reading' an artist is a deep, complicated process. His restless soul doesn't want to fit into the Procrustean bed, follow the given role. Sense  of 'modern', as it often occurs, doesn't very well go with our usual liner calendar. Contemporaries rack their brains trying to discover something fresh and new in form and material, whereas a much more effective solution is to be found in archives covered with dust.

An exhibition of an architect and painter August Lanin, opened to the audience is not only a retrospective review of the works of an artist who passed away, but also an attempt to test time inversion, to show how juicy and fresh 1960-s graphic is today, how relevant is sculpture created in the middle of 1990-s, in the end of artist's life.

Lanin was born in 1925 to live in period of constant changes of Russian political landscape. It may be this so clearly perceived transparency of time layers showingthrough one another, summarized in esthetics, characteristic of every particular epoch that prepossesses  the viewr of his art. Everything is gathered here: the giftof artistic understanding of the world, granted already in his childhood; the war by the begining of which he was just 16; the choice of an architect's profession at that time so necessary for Motherland lying in ruin; participation in work at cult projects of Moscow metro and 'Leningrad' hotel; delight and thrill of space era when it seemed that in a year 'there will be apple trees growing on Mars'; participation in base Moon stations projects; doubt about ethic and aesthetic ideals of the Soviet state; fundamental reflections on history and spirituality, unavoidable for every artist and thinker; and, finally, thorough and intense observation of self in self-portraits. 

His vivid and austere drawing of 1960-s - figurative, expressive and abstract, with its placard symbolism and sign ornamentality - is connected in the exhibition project with the works of sculpture of 1990-s. Education of an architect and architecttural practice let Lanin feel freer in the choice of materials, though this choice was very often dictated by the circumstances of his life. Thus in 'poor' 1990-s he began to work with 'pasture' material - it was trivial aluminum wire. For any modern artist it would be an obvious modernist's choice but for Lanin it was the consequence of the development of his own aesthetics and circumstances (he is one of those artist, who work in spite of everything). This unusual material undergoes serious plastic examination in his hands, its ability to reveal movement and form properly is tested. And here again 'past' gives form to 'present'. Every muscle is breathing in these conventional semi-transparent figures, electricity is still perceived in highvoltage wires which have received  their new role.


August Lanin: from 1960-sto 1990-s. August Lanin. Graphics. Sculpture. Catalogue. St-Peterburg. 2008. Valentine Voytekunas.  

The destiny of an artist, architect, and theorist, August Vasilyevich Lanin (1925-2006) would make a terrific plot for a film or a novel.

There are so many amazing facts about his life that it could provide material for several biographies, and just one of these facts, still astonishing by its fantastic nature, would be enough to make Lanin a historical figure.

In 1973-1974 in the framework of the state Moon development program on demand of the Institute of medical and biological problems he carried out a design project of the interior of spaceships and scientific complex which were to be constructed on the nearest stallite of the Earth.

This task was officially formulated in rather an intricate and 'academese' style as "the project of the artificial environment for active emotional influence on the electronic basis, called to solve the problem of sensory deprivation of a person in conditions of long stay in space".

It wasn't made a reality in the end but the drawings, water colors, and breadboard models remained a kind of a monument to the epoch which trusted sincerely in boundless opportunities of human reason.

Lanin's heritage is extensive and uncommonly various, including painting, graphics, collages, sculpture, unique colour music designs, conceptual architectural projects, drawing and breadboard models. The full retrospective show of his works could only be accommodated in a large museum center.

The exhibition in "Album" represent only his innovative graphics of 1960-s, which reveals Lanin's experiments with form and texture, and his sculpture of 1990-s from private collections - thus the viewer has an opportunity to lay a bridge from the beginning of the artist's creative search to his later works. 

Many of colour linoleum engraving and monotypies are exhibited for the first time. Their plastic boldness and individuality are obvious, despite their half a century remoteness. The fact that Lanin's early graphics did not fit in the socialist realistic context and was in 1963 declared "formalistic", and then forbidden for display at exhibitions seems quite natural.

The style, ideas and figurativeness of the works of 1960-s, the fact that he was forbidden to participate in exhibitions, allow us to formally rank Lanin among nonconformists. In a number of works of these years the degree of criticism of authority is extremely high - a man could become subject to repression even for not so sharp attacks as depicting Khrushchev in the fool's cap, and members of the government as owls sitting on the Kremlin wall (there are such samples in Lanin's creative work). 

A monotypy, entitled "Decorative motive", and representing interlaced chain loops, which is exhibited in the gallery, also ironically alludes to the structure of the Soviet state.

However, on the whole, Lanin's creative work can't be put within any rigid limits and disproves the affirmed division onto official artist and rebels who don't accepted socialist realism dogmas. In fact, he was fascinated not by the struggle against the officiously soviet system, but by pure art problems and constant search of new plastic solutions. It can explain the flexibility and easiness of his moving from one task to another and applying his powers to different kinds of art. 

It was his understanding of the fact that art could live in any circumstances, inward freedom provided, that let him in 1990-s, when he began to lose sight, remain nhe Artist. Just as Edgar Degas, who turned to plastics, finding himself in a similar situation in the end of his life, Lanin turned to sculpture thus appeared Valkyries, centaurs and Don Quixotes, created of aluminium lace.


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