Victor Lysakov


Victor Lysakov was born in Siberia in 1952. As a child he moved often, following his father’s career through various towns in the Soviet Union and East Germany. When he was still a small child he found that he could relate to and participate in the world most easily through visual language, so he took up image making.

In 1975, he earned his MS in Physical Chemistry from Moscow State Institute of Steel and Alloys. In the decade following, he established a successful career in various military machine-building plants. In 1984, he received a Ph. D. in Technical Sciences from Lomonosov State Institute of Fine Chemical Technology in Moscow. Victor was an engineer and a cog in the Soviet machine, at one point overseeing the work of more than 700 people.

All the while, he made art. He experimented with watercolors then took up oil painting. He studied the works of masters, analyzing their techniques and styles. When not in museums, Victor read criticism, catalogues, philosophy, poetry, censored religious texts, and folklore.

Victor married and he and his wife had a child. Victor stopped painting during his son’s early years; the chemicals in the paint, varnishes, and thinners were too noxious to expose a child to them. Victor acclimated, settling into a routine of work and familial obligations.

Years passed and his son grew. Victor met an old friend who was planning to apply to art school. He asked Victor if he could borrow some of his old paintings for his entrance interview and Victor agreed. The paintings were a success and the friend was accepted. Later, Victor ran into this friend again and listened as he told him that his own work was an unending irritation to his instructors. They were constantly at him to paint the way he did in the work he showed them at the time of his entrance interview. This was a break-through for Victor, who had given up making art for such a long time that he had forgotten that it was a gift given to him and few others. He began to paint again.

His work was not of the style of the state-sanctioned Social Realism. It was too bizarre, too personal. Rather than elevating the State, he described life; rich and full of metaphor. His colors were vibrant, his forms aggressive. They seemed prepared to defend their own lives against any viewer who would marginalize them.

In the mid 1980’s, Mikhail Gorbachev initiated perestroika, a period of political and cultural restructuring that marked the beginning of a market economy in the Soviet Union and ushered in an era of civil and economic instability. For artists not sanctioned by the Communist regime, there were few places to show, and showing in unauthorized locations was forbidden. In order to show their work to the public, artists resorted to setting up temporary art fairs in the forest to the south of Moscow. The KGB enforced closures of these independent shows. Harassment of artists and the destruction of art were common.

In December of 1986 Victor became a founding partner of Arbatr, the first independent artists’ union to be granted that status and the permission to exhibit work. Their first exhibition, Arbatr, was approved by the authorities, despite its departure from social realism, and opened to the public on December 31, 1986. Those involved, including Sergei Arto, Michail Rytiaev, Avetik Abadzhan, Tamara Zinovieva, Oleg Burian, Nikolai Krastchin, Igor Rebrov, Olga Frindliand, Oleg Kovalevski, Andrei Medvedev, Sergei Volkov, Dmitriy Komissarov, Alexey Krasavin. and Alexandr Zacharov, wanted to promote freedom of expression and a revolutionary approach to art. They embraced abstraction, new realism, conceptual art, and the trans avant-garde. They may not have made that clear when applying for the right to form a union.

In December of 1987 Victor and Sergei Arto went on television to read their manifesto, called “Acceptual Strobism,” which introduced their philosophy of image making. On December 7, A New Perspective, an exhibition of work based on the principles of Strobism, was prohibited from opening to the public on the basis of a recommendation from the secretary of the Artists’ Union of the USSR, Pavel Nikanov. Arbatr lost its official status as an artists’ union by order of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was denied further access to a showroom.

After the dissolution of Arbatr, Victor found ways to show his work within the constrictions of the Soviet regime and, finally, outside the Soviet Union. In 1991, Kunst Europe, in Germany, named Victor one of the “Best European Artists.” In 2001 a Russian graduate student dedicated her master’s thesis to an examination of his work; a first for a living artist in that country.

Victor currently lives with his wife in Moscow, Russia, where he continues to paint.