Anatoliy Alekseyev
The Outcome

16 February 2024 — 12 May 2024
  • Anatoliy Alekseyev. The Outcome

Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presented an exhibition by Anatoliy Alekseyev whose paintings celebrate myths amid actual reality

  • ‘Erotic intellectual realism’ from a classically trained muralist

  • Artworks in which irreality seamlessly fits into the bigger picture

  • Vast variety of subjects equally capable of stirring memories and prompting thoughts on the future


In this exhibition space, epic canvases are featured alongside landscape views of the Leningrad Oblast: in Anatoliy Alekseyev’s creative world, even knights and dragons seem like natives of the Sestra River banks or the Karelian Isthmus forests. Reflecting on his art, Alekseyev ironically tagged it as ‘erotic intellectual realism.’ And while its erotic charge is more or less obvious – Alekseyev used to say that even a literary piece was not of much interest to him unless it concerned a woman – speculating about the intellectual aspect of paintings is quite difficult, especially if their creator deliberately chose the most sensual subjects, from Andromeda chained to the rocks to Europa dancing with the bull.

Anatoliy Alekseyev’s artworks are arrestingly dramatic: the sky in his landscapes is always ablaze, while the characters of his fantasy-themed canvases are struggling with devastating elements. The artist’s friend, art critic Alexander Korolyov, mentioned in one of his articles a certain ‘idea of monumentality’ characteristic of Alekseyev just as of the other former students of the renowned Soviet muralist Andrey Mylnikov. According to Korolyov, what makes Alekseyev stand out among them is the ‘density of form combined with generality and figurativeness’: his painted world is solid, concrete, and manifests itself as uniform substance, sufficiently calm and just as sufficiently intense at all points.

Monumental painting implies a certain degree of convention – for instance, it favours flatness over depth. At the same time, it is always addressed to the mainstream audience and employs striking effects to grab their attention. Similar expert devices can be spotted in any of Alekseyev’s paintings, be it of a mushroom basket or a densely populated equestrian composition.

It pays to take a closer look at The Outcome, a milestone artwork created in 2000. Looking back on the turn of the millennium, we associate it with the decline, if not outright degradation, of monumental art. This chimes with the popular theory of the ‘end of history’ – and with it of art as such – voiced by the philosopher and political scientist Francis Fukuyama. In Alekseyev’s apocalyptic vision, we see horsemen galloping across the ruined objects of worship of various vanished civilisations. The fact that they quite literally trample under their hooves all traces of the past spirituality seems consistent with the way the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are interpreted in Christian writings.

At this point it is worth recalling the concept of ‘erotic intellectual realism,’ as the genre of Revelation must by definition predict the future. The driving force of the entire picture is the nude woman riding a white horse. Those familiar with the iconography of the Four Horsemen might venture to assume that she represents Pestilence, were it not for her extreme vitality. This is most certainly the first rider – the Conqueror. Now, twenty years after the artwork was completed, it is being increasingly said that the true makers of history are women. So vigorous is Alekseyev’s female protagonist that a knight clad in pink armour has to carefully hold back her hair. Quite fittingly, the same character reappears as Perseus in a different painting: after all, this heroic dragon slayer smoothly transitioned from myths into tales of chivalry.

Anatoliy Alekseyev’s renditions of mythological stories create the impression of lucidity of time shifts and the eternal existence of his characters. Interestingly, his ladies are made of flesh and blood and seem little or no different from our contemporaries, while his dragons, bulls, and knights belong to a special tradition of the imaginary in which irreality seamlessly fits into the bigger picture.

about the artist

Born in Leningrad in 1951, Anatoliy Alekseyev graduated from the Leningrad Secondary Art School and went on to complete his studies at the Painting Department of the Repin Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. The artist joined the Artists’ Union of the USSR in 1978 and was appointed advisor to the China–Russia Art Centre for Oil on Canvas Painting in Yantai (PRC) in 2015.

Since 1977, Alekseyev had been exhibiting his work both domestically and internationally – in China, Italy, US, Germany, France, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Luxembourg. A number of his solo shows took place in the US and Italy between 1990 and 1995.

Anatoliy Alekseyev’s artworks are in the collection of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, as well as in other private and museum collections in Russia, Italy, US, Germany, Japan, and China.

The artist defined his style as ‘erotic intellectual realism.’ He lived and worked in St. Petersburg and passed away on 12 July 2021.

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