Currently reading : Alexander Lobanov
Alexander Lobanov was born on August 13th 1924 in Mologa, Russia. He came from a family of a simple a ferrymen. When he was six he went through a severe case of meningitis, which left him a deaf mute. Even as a child he was always fond of making different kinds of small handcrafts.
One of Alexander’s brightest memories from that time was of the soldiers quartered in the house where he lived. As a joke they promised to present him with a rifle. That promise gave birth to a dream unfulfilled and perhaps an offence was taken as well. Later it grew into the sickness and at the same time into one of the main themes of his work. That was the fantastic Mosin’s double-barrel, the visually modified 1891 rifle. This was the weapon that nobody would dare to take from him.
Around this time Alexander’s parents addressed a doctor regarding their son’s mental condition. This experience was something that stayed with Lobanov and influenced him. One of his early works shows a scene where a lady brings a little boy to a doctor and the boy defending himself shoots the doctor with a pistol. This however become a long running theme with his work where guns were ever present.
Alexander’s parents tried to send the boy to Zagorsk Boarding School, but it was unsuccessful resulting in his education being incomplete. At the age of 23 Lobanov was put in the mental hospital. Later in 1953 he was transferred to the Yaroslavl Regional Mental Hospital in the village of Afonino. It was there that he spent the rest of his life. This of course was a challenge for the unstable mind of the artist. For the first few years he was very aggressive uttering the screams of violent protest. But later he was put under the care of the psychiatrist Vladimir Gavrilov who believed in the idea of art-therapy. Lobanov started to draw on any surfaces available. But mostly it was the backsides of political posters calling people to fight back the schemings of aggressive imperialistic invaders in Vietnam, Palestine or Cuba.
At the end of the 1950s Lobanov made friends with a man named Gennadiy who drove the hospital’s truck. Together they created their own language which was absolutely undistinguishable to anyone else. When Gennadiy had a chance he invited the artist to his place. He was a devoted hunter and often shared the stories of his passion. As a result the theme of hunting became one of the core subjects of Alexander’s work. The artist showed and presented his first works to his friend who decorated the entire cabin of his truck with the portraits of communist chiefs. Alexander drew plenty of those too.
Up until the seventies Alexander mentioned himself only as the third person. But further on in time he starts to identify himself not as an object, but as a subject. He begins to sign his paintings. At first he put only his initials and progressed into signing his full name. The pronoun “I” slowly took place in his scarce vocabulary. For him the phrase “I draw” became the highest esteem and justification of his existence. Soon another passion came into the life of the artist which was photography. He acted as a decorator, director and performer for his own formal portraits. He crafted the ornamented frames and decorations, he made fake guns, and asked somebody to shoot him in his own photo-studio.
Alexander Petrovitch Lobanov died in April 2003. He left behind about three hundred drawings, over five hundred photo-portraits and dozens of handmade notebooks.
Lobanov’s rifle has become the symbol of strength and independence. These are all of those things that he was deprived of. The rifle represents a kind of religious totem. The artist clenches it with confidence and stands out as a holy man bearing the mission of protection.