Cosmoscow Blog

"Series": Vika Begalska and Alexander Vilkin

On August 29 and 30, a new “Series” appeared on Instagram by the artists Vika Begalska and Alexander Vilkin.

Two completely different, well-known and independently established artists Vika Begalska (born in Kharkov) and Alexander Vilkin (born in the city of Snezhinsk, Chelyabinsk region) have been working together since 2014. Vika Begalska is a former student of the Kharkov Academy of Design and Arts, famous for radical feminist projects and unexpected pictorial experiments. Alexander Vilkin is a member of the St. Petersburg-based Parasite and Prosthesis groups, known for his “wild primitivist graphics and painting exploring subjects that can only be described as vile.” In 2015, Begalska and Vilkin were nominated for the Innovation State Contemporary Art Prize as part of the Teresa Group, an open creative union of sex workers and artists, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, citizenship or religion.

The projects of Vika Begalska and Alexander Vilkin carry on their exploration of modeling an equal society with painting, a society where communication is carried out regardless of the 'type', gender and occupation. Diversity is manifested both at the level of subject matter and images, and at the level of technique. People, animals, birds – the inhabitants of the phantasmagoric forest – seem ephemeral, but in fact they are real. Each has its own name and history, and they all coexist in the anarcho-commune created by the artists. The characters of mythologies are all equally involved in the system of socio-political and economic relations, forming something like a trade union.

Stylistically, the works of Begalska and Vilkin combine many references to the painting of the Old Masters from whom they borrow motives and forms suitable for their concepts. As the art critic Gleb Ershov writes about the art of the duet: “...In their paintings there are many paraphrases, quotes, allusions to the golden age of painting, when the optics of the gaze formed near vision as tactile and sensual, when in fact the erotic experience of the canvas as an elusive texture was formed, plot and body as an object of desire. Returning to this world, after having several death experiences, gives a special aroma to painting, worn out and faded, tender and languid, as befits a sleeping princess who has just awakened from a long sleep. Its existence is phantom and elusive, but the features of a new reality are already clearly visible in it, enticing and repulsive at the same time.”

For the Series program of the Cosmoscow Foundation, Begalska and Vilkin created the graphic novel “Hic sunt leones” in which archetypal themes of classical literature are intertwined - four eternal stories: search, siege, return, sacrifice. The nun sees a dog, they become engaged and set off on a long self-search journey passing by numerous obstacles and ultimately ending up being caught by the Inquisition which punishes them. Images of the graphic series act as diary sketches, road movie storyboards, graphic evidence of inner intentions and acts of will followed by retribution. Linear travels to the nearest square, to the next room, to a wardrobe, to seemingly populated places, suddenly turn into a white merciless space, spreading and absorbing paths in parks, trees, bodies and actions of the heroes themselves. The story "Hic sunt leones" got its title from the Latin expression "Hic sunt leones", a medieval maps' sign of empty spaces filled with dangers, unknown lands on the edge of the Oycumene.

The full version of “Hic sunt leones” you can find on Instagram.

Vika Begalska and Alexander Vilkin is a Moscow-based artistic duo who started working together in 2014. One of their most significant mutual projects by the duo – a performative puppet play entitled Aphrodite’s Girdle, got noticed and made it to a short-list of a prestigious Russian prize in contemporary art – the Innovation Prize. In 2017, the video footage of the performance was shown at the Teresa Union’s personal show at M HKA museum in Antwerp, Belgium. As an artistic duo, the two have had five solo exhibitions with two of them being held at the pop/off/art gallery. In 2017, the artists have exhibited their works in Lightcube gallery in Ronse, Belgium. In 2018 the artists had two personal shows organized with the support of pop/off/art gallery – in Moscow’s Art4 Museum and in Nizhniy Novgorod’s 9B gallery. At the beginning of 2019, an exhibition took place at the Nathalia Tsala gallery (Brussels, Belgium). The artists's work is part of the M HKA collection (Antwerp, Belgium).

Vika Begalska was born in Dnetropetrovsk in Soviet Ukraine. The artist has been living and working in Moscow since 2000. She primarily works with contemporary painting, video art and performance practices. Begalska has been represented by pop/off/art gallery since 2007. Since 2014, Begalska founded works in partnership with Alexander Vilkin.

Alexander Vilkin was born in Snezhinsk in Chelyabinsk region. The artist has been working and living in St. Petersburg since 2005. Vilkin graduated from Chelyabinsk State Higher School for Arts, the North West Institute for Printing and Book Graphics, and the BAZA Institute of Contemporary Art. Together with Igor Mezheritskiy and Grigoriy Yuschenko, he founded the Prosthesis art group. Since 2014 artist has been living and working in Moscow.