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'What has enabled Russia to rise among the great powers of the world…has been the conquest of Siberia'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Controversial artist takes sarcastic Olympics exhibit to UK

By Vera Salnitskaya
18 May 2015

London calling for the man whose dark humour surrounding Sochi led to 'censorship'.

Vasily Slonov, 45, attracted great controversy with his series of works based on Sochi with his posters even leading to the dismissal of the director of a major museum. Picture: Vasily Slonov

The Siberian artist behind sarcastic posters about the Winter Olympic Games is taking an exhibition of his world famous work to Britain for auction.

Vasily Slonov, 45, attracted great controversy with his series of works based on Sochi with his posters even leading to the dismissal of the director of a major museum.

His 'Welcome! Sochi 2014' exhibit included images of the Olympics rings in barbed wire and as various coloured nooses. He also made fly swatters bearing the faces of political figures, including Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin.

'On May 29 in London I will take part in an auction organised by Maxim Boxer,' says the married father-of-two, from Krasnoyarsk. 'There will be a week of Russian culture held, with this auction too.

'There will be three of the posters from the Sochi series, and four fly swatters. I will be curious about the outcome of that – I think that Queen Elizabeth would not refuse to hit the flies at Buckingham Palace with a Putin fly swatter.'

Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov

His 'Welcome! Sochi 2014' exhibit included images of the Olympics rings in barbed wire and as various coloured nooses. Pictures: Vasily Slonov, Artsfreedom

Born on September 17, 1969, in the village of Shushenskoye – the same place where, in tsarist times, Lenin spent three years in exile – Slonov has been interested in art all his life.

He graduated from the Surikov Art College in Krasnoyarsk and says that he never wanted to do anything else except be artistic.

It was his exhibit examining the darker side of the Olympics that brought about his worldwide fame, and led to his life being turned upside down with interview requests from as far afield as Australia and the United States.

'When I was working on the Sochi series, I had no fear from the start,' he recalls. 'My relatives were very scared though. My wife, I could reassure her, but the rest of the family, they were scared.

Vasily Slonov

I will be curious about the outcome of that – I think that Queen Elizabeth would not refuse to hit the flies at Buckingham Palace with a Putin fly swatter.' Picture: Vasily Slonov

'There are a lot of interpretations of the Sochi series, and I insist on the fact that Putin has to give me a medal for it.

'No, in all seriousness, it was written about in the international press, and if we were to use money from the state budget [to get that kind of coverage], could you imagine the amount? But I do not ask for millions - just give me a medal. Of course they do not, but they did subject me to repression. Still they cannot send me further than Siberia!'

He adds: 'I did not expected such popularity, how it can be planned?'

Slonov is working on a new project called 'football as a religion', which he says has attracted great interest in England.

'They said, listen, man, do the same with football that you did to Sochi,' he says. 'With Sochi it was a local situation, but football is a world religion. Football is as with Islam, only the fans are even more desperate. I just need to do it elegantly.'

His exhibition at the end of the month in the UK is the start of a dream to eventually open his own gallery in London, although things are progressing slowly. The artist says Western sanctions on Russia are making it tough for him to get the project off the ground.

Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov

'No, in all seriousness, it was written about in the international press, and if we were to use money from the state budget [to get that kind of coverage], could you imagine the amount?'  Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

'The gallery project is in limbo,' he says. 'The sanctions hit very strong. It has become harder to leave and enter [the country] and the interest is partially lost. The cultural program is minimized and a lot of projects are just strike out. They see that it is Russian and just strike out.

'I decided to open a gallery in London because people from London suggested it to me. I have not spent a single pound on this. At some point people became interested and said, 'Come on, dude, let's do it.’'

He adds: 'Preparing an exhibition I must take into account the local context which is why I need to go there and talk with curators. What is always in demand? Money, oil, weapons, sex. But only with a Siberian colour.'

Slonov is a firm believer that Siberia and Siberian art are special, and are now gaining the recognition they deserve worldwide.

Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov

Slonov is a firm believer that Siberia and Siberian art are special, and are now gaining the recognition they deserve worldwide. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

He comments: 'Siberia is covered with legends. The negative that Russia has, it does not cast a shadow on Siberia. Russia has bright, heroic pages, and there are also very negative and unflattering ones too. But Siberia is fanned by myths and legends territory.

'People love innuendo and mystery, and Siberia has it. Napoleon did not reach it, there were no invaders. No one came. Our people turned out to be rather sincere and fabulous. Therefore Siberia as a brand sells better than Russia.'

He adds: 'In any case, the expert community recognizes that Siberian art differs from Russian art, with unstoppable self-irony. This is a consequence of the harsh lifestyle, which is absolutely not European. It is impossible to survive here without a sense of humour. Unbridled joy is inherent in us.'

Vasily Slonov


Vasily Slonov

It is impossible to survive here without a sense of humour. Unbridled joy is inherent in us.' Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Despite his ambitious plans to take his cultural masterpieces to Britain, Slonov doesn't plan to leave his homeland behind.

He says: 'I have never had a desire to move somewhere. There is a misconception that local young artists dart off and go to Europe. European artists, on the contrary, are going to the far corners, to the Papuans, to Africa, or to Siberia.

'I'm more comfortable here. I am more comfortable living among those whom I love and who love me.'

Comments (2)

Есть такая русская пословица "Мы не лыком шиты"... Так вот Василий каждый раз проверяет: "А не лыком ли?" Настал черед и США с их символом Диснея посмотреть на себя через призму сарказма! :- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXqSRK8yFaA
Artem, Russia
25/05/2015 08:28
5
0
Well, he seems to have created a niche for himself but I am inclined to think that much if not all of the attention he has received is because his artistic themes feed the Western govt's anti-Russian political agenda.
frances, usa
20/05/2015 06:27
3
2
1

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