Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Metaphysical World of Alexander Aksinin in Ex Libris III

The combination of fruits and fish, the depiction of a phantasmagoric creature sitting on the magnifying glass, and the extraterrestrial landscape are all reminiscent of the Netherlands’s masters. It is as if Aksinin is telling us with some irony, “I have done my part, now it is your turn to solve this puzzle.” The fine detail of his prints impresses me as much as the figurative content of the work.

Recently I acquired the artist’s personal bookplate from an estate sale on EBay. As always with Aksinin’s prints, I could not grasp the meaning of the work at first glance, but it had a hypnotic effect on me. Looking at the etching, it seemed to me that I was witnessing the end of the human race. Then I asked my wife for her opinion and her impression was the creation of the world. It was surprising to me to note such different perceptions of the same piece.

I looked closely at this print and recognized the seashells in the suspended objects. The seashell is a symbol of the beginning and end; its duality is masterfully realized in this work. The creation of the world, the birth of souls and at the same time the ascending of souls, describing the end of existence on earth.

The process of perception in the work can be broken into the following elements: a) first impression, I had an impression of cosmic transformation; b) associations, creation of the universe or the world and the illusion of souls leaving the earth; c) information sent by the image, symbols, codes, such as the seashell symbolizing duality; d) self reflection or analysis, reasons behind my perception of the destruction of the world, while my wife thought of its creation; e) how this particular piece relates to the artist, his philosophical preferences, biography, etc., f) and finally, but the most important element for a bookplate collector, is how the ex libris is a reflection of its owner and library.

Many of the owners of Alexander Aksinin’s bookplates have never commissioned ex libris the way most collectors do. Alexander’s friends were simply given the prints as gifts without any real input into the design. That is why is so difficult to determine the link between the bookplate’s owner and the artist. I am confident that in the future there will be plenty of research on the graphic art of Alexander Aksinin, the artist who raised bookplate art to the level of Bruegel and Bosch.

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