His paintings can be warm and witty... or crazy and cruel. But Vasya Lozhkin never fails to enlighten.
In his work, there is a feeling of colorful and smug chaos; a collision of the mundane and the fantastic; a spurt of dizzyingly absurdist slapstick against a backdrop of bolted and barred reality. His is a hyperbolized world of cats, pigs, bears, half-humans, Russians, Nazis, and vodka-fuelled Pinocchios.
"I paint the dark side of the human soul, and people in extreme conditions, such as psychoses, nervous breakdowns, deliriums, boundless joy, and terrifying horror," Lozhkin (or Alexei Kudelin, to give him his real name) told me.
With foul-mouthed captions of the "Go f**k yourselves, Russophobes!" variety and some side-splitting GIF-animation to go with them, Lozhkin's tableaux depict modern Russia's crisis of identity, that collision of superiority and inferiority towards the West.
Superiority - because Westerners will never understand the mysterious Russian soul and because we can, in theory at least, bury the West any time we want. World War III is only a gentle nudge of the red button away - see Lozhkin's Gotovnost Nomer Odin (Red Alert).
Inferiority because in terms of living standards, infrastructure and freedom of speech, Russia is such a long way behind. Related to this is the feverish messianic idea that keeps popping up in Russian history, most recently in filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov's "Manifesto of the Enlightened Conservatism," an ingratiating 60-odd-page rant that attempts to justify the streamlined autocracy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
This anguish, this anxiety, and indeed these messianic tendencies, are exhibited in full in Lozhkin's Nas Nikto Ne Pobedit (No One Will Ever Defeat Us), Na Zdorovie (Cheers) and dozen of others. I don't think Leonid Brezhnev's favorite disco act, Boney-M (of "Ra-Ra Rasputin" fame), have ever asked themselves this question, but why don't we face up to it for once? Who are "oh those Russians" they sang of? Charlatans posing as professionals? Self-important amateurs dressed up in a brief authority? Commies? Democrats? Dick-dick-dick-dictators?
Armed with a scythe and seated in a Hummer, Russia is once again embarking on a mission to save the world. No one will survive.
But this vision is not all Lozhkin has to offer. He looks on the brighter side of life, too. It's as if he is saying: "Turn life on its head and out will come scuttling those mischievous felines, those inebriated hares, those golden-toothed thugs." Oh those Russians. They don't want to be heroes or martyrs. All they want is to be taken for who they are. You open a sliding panel in your heart, and you look inside, and you see life. But don't look too closely; you don't know what could be hiding in there.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Korolyov)