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In Transbaikalia, he is the only one - Alexey Litvinets, a graffiti artist from Chita, not only artistically transforms the space around him, but also finds ways to include the state in street art.
The founder of the only creative studio in Transbaikalia, Acsel-art, Alexei Litvinets, has been trying for many years to instill in Chita a love of high-quality graffiti. Aleksey is sure that the capital of the region will change significantly if the authorities and business support the artists who form the new urban space. In an interview with EastRussia, Alexey told whether it is possible to turn the game over with a small team of like-minded people, what are the everyday life of a provincial graffiti artist and how to creatively fulfill oneself far from big cities.
Profession from the Internet
By the standards of the Trans-Baikal Territory, Alexey and his creative team are quite famous. Litvinets has been engaged in his business for 15 years and during this time word of mouth has managed to advertise his work no worse than official advertising. The future artist came to think about the opportunity to devote her life to graffiti in her youth. Alexey was very fond of drawing, but after he saw graffiti in a computer game, his creative world turned upside down. After the appearance of the accessible Internet in Chita, there was more information about this subculture, and gradually the hobby began to bring the first money. As Alexei himself recalls, the desire to be the best among the rest helped. There were a lot of artists in the city at that time and everyone tried to make a piece (in slang a drawing) better than the rest. Drawings began to spontaneously appear on abandoned buildings, construction sites and old fences, wherever there was a large and flat surface.
Gradually, the first commercial orders began to appear - for example, painting the walls of the service station. At that moment, Alexei had not yet thought about graffiti as a future piece of bread, choosing a seemingly reliable profession - state and municipal management. Finally, the Internet helped to exchange the gray jacket for a tassel, where Alexey found works of graffiti artists from Europe, deciding that he could definitely do just as well. And then the development of the artist went on an increasing basis - each new order for the artist is a challenge, since he constantly offers new tasks.
“People sometimes cannot even imagine how one or another picture can be made. The customer asks to make something beautiful, but does not understand what exactly. Or vice versa, he treats the finished picture, but according to the result it is just a copy, and there is no creative approach in the work. But in any case, I always try to approach the solution of any problem outside the box, ”notes Alexey.
Such different officials
The coronavirus last year not only “took” several orders from business, but also made it possible to continue cooperation with the state. The 2020th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War was the main news lead of 75, in connection with which the authorities received a request for the image of various patriotic symbols, including in the form of graffiti.
As part of this collaboration, Acsel-art has made four facades - two in Chita, and one each in Krasnokamensk and Nerchinsk. According to Aleksey, local officials do not yet really understand how to build a dialogue with artists. If in Moscow officials invite artists, then they give them the opportunity to create at their own discretion within the framework of the designated theme. There is no experience of such work in Transbaikalia, so the only question for the artists was only one - whether they will cope with the state order.
“When we agreed on the sketch with the administration, then in the eyes of the officials, mistrust was clearly read, people did not understand how we would do it, whether the drawing would hold. Of course, there was no question of creativity, but we coped with our task perfectly. We made portraits of war heroes - Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilevsky, Nazar Gubin and Nikita Rzhavsky. Due to the lack of an alternative, we have gained experience in creating large-scale drawings. Yes, it was not creative work, but in terms of self-realization, it is a huge step forward for us. In Moscow, it is not a problem for experienced specialists to paint a high-rise building in a week. But we do not have such specialists, so for us such work has become a new challenge. The largest facade was completed in 2,5 weeks, ”recalls Aleksey.
But his case also contains the opposite example. In his creative career, Alexei met an official who understands what creativity is and is burning with the idea of making the surrounding space better. We are talking about the head of one of the villages of Transbaikalia, Mogochi, who made an order for the schedule of the local boiler house.
“We were given a frame, given a polygon and asked to paint the object beautifully. The task is interesting, you need to draw images that would not be separated from the place, because this will not work. It is important here that the drawing is perceived by the inhabitants of this place. In the end, we settled on an image that satisfied everyone. We reworked one of the images of the Soviet poster - a stoker throwing coal into the furnace, in a modern style. The figure combines the Soviet agitprop and the boiler room from that time. The people who live there remember these times. It turned out spectacularly - a long boiler room of five floors on the main street, decorated with graffiti, is clearly visible from different outskirts of the village, ”says the artist.
Graffiti as a marker of a changing urban space
By the way, according to Alexei himself, it was after Mogochi that he was noticed in Chita. In the case of Litvinets' orders there are two graffiti on a house on Chkalov Street and on a house located in the Severny microdistrict. The first art banner is dedicated to the 45th anniversary of aviation in Chita, and the second graffiti depicts a tarbagan - a marmot living in the steppes of Transbaikalia and Tuva, emphasizing the uniqueness of the region. With these works, Alexey wanted to show that graffiti can not only decorate the gray and faceless facades of houses, but also become a kind of urban brand of the city.
At the same time, there is already a request for the formation of such an environment in the city. According to Aleksey, people living in the Severny microdistrict could not even imagine that a drawing could appear on their facade. And now the tarbagan has become one of the city's attractions.
“People simply haven't seen before how an artist can climb onto a building and start painting on it. I am sure that the more good graffiti in the city, the higher the level of understanding among the citizens of the importance of such art objects. Our children grow up in a city that can be very different. For example, my daughter had never seen graffiti until she was four years old. And when I showed her my work with the tarbagan, the child was delighted. My daughter was already born in a world where graffiti is an art, and when she sees a gray wall, she asks why nothing is painted on it. After all, you can draw butterflies, rainbows, and various animals there, ”says Alexey.
How to stay in the profession
The artist recalls that there was a moment in his career when he wanted to give up graffiti in favor of a more stable profession. Prices for work in Chita differ significantly from Moscow ones. The cost of painting the facade of a nine-story building is 450 thousand. By the standards of Moscow, this is very little money. Last year, the guys painted five facades, although they can do twice as much. Also in the provinces, large companies work with large contractors, so getting a large order for a small company is quite difficult. There are difficulties with consumables. There is not much to get in Chita, the main wholesale orders are made through Moscow.
“I took a job as a designer, but every day I came home nervous and overwhelmed. Now I have no idea how you can work in an office with a boss. You know how best to do it, but you are not allowed to do it, you have to step over yourself. At one point, a large order appeared, which I worked through and invited the office to participate. As a result, I could not agree with the authorities on its implementation, I quit and took the order for myself. At that moment, it was as if the veil fell from my eyes, and I realized that I could do everything without intermediaries, ”says Litvinets.
Today word of mouth brings most of his studio's orders. If someone needs to order graffiti in Chita, and he starts working on the issue, he will still come to Acsel-art. The current level of the studio is not inferior to the Moscow level, but the cost of work is half as much cheaper.
Go or stay?
As the artist himself admits, the question of leaving Chita for Moscow has come to his mind more than once. But at home, Alexey has not yet reached the ceiling of his capabilities, and as soon as he reaches it, then it's time to go for new challenges. Today every project allows Alexey to try something that he has not done before. These can be large volumes of work or new technologies for applying paint. At the same time, the current level already allows the artist not to get lost in Moscow, since one of Alexei's colleagues has already moved to the capital and is making good money.
But the artist thinks not only about commerce. The dream is to show others your creative "I".
“I want to make my own drawing and I don't care what others think about it. It is desirable that it be in the city center. We need the support of the authorities to get it agreed, a sponsor who will give money for the tower and paint, and I will make a drawing without a time frame and a plot. Now I have to adjust to the market conditions, but these are the laws of business - you do it for people, not for yourself, ”notes Alexey.