April 23, 2017

Dmitry Tanchev, парк скульптур в Алексине Bor лесу/Sculpture park in Aleksin Bor forest

 all pictures courtesy of Dmitry Tanchev
Over thirty wooden sculptures created by a selftaught artist, more or less randomly spread over a forest area near a district of a city, it is rather rare phenomenon in the field of art evironments in Europe ¹.

Such a mega environment ² exists in the forest in the Bor district in the north-western area of the Russian city Aleksin (Tula region), loctated some 130 kms south of Moscow.


Life and works

Dmitry Tanchev, who created this specific art environment, was born on august 6, 1975 in Aleksin, a city of some 68.000 inhabitants in the Russian region Tula. 

In the 19th and early 20th century the town was a centre of forestry and metallurgy. It included wooded areas with pine trees and summer cottages (Anton Tsejechov would regularly stay there).

In the 1970's the city flourished because of the growth of the chemical industry, but in the 1990's due to the major changes in Russia (perestrojka) orders were off and decay of the local economy occurred, which also was evident in the lesser maintenance of streets and parks.

Лес не помойка (The wood is not a dump)

Tanchev who grew up in these years, as a young boy already was quite interested in visual art. He could draw well, but as he became older his interest in three-dimensional art grew.

So when he was in his early thirties he began to focus on sculpture, in particular creating wooden sculptures. On the internet he had seen a video that showed someone making a wooden sculpture with a chain saw and this deeply impressed him


By watching videos on the internet he taught himself how to handle a chain saw and as he said in an interview with a newspaper: "I realized that this was a business that I had been looking for all my life. Before that, I tried a lot of things, but nothing was right. And then I came to the right way of life, stopped drinking and smoking".

In order to get on with working with a chain saw, he worked for a year and a half with the unit that was engaged in the maintenance and pruning of trees in Aleksin.


Tanchet is a religious person. Because of his reversion and his work in the field of sculpture he feels rewarded by God. In his sculpture the religious aspect is reflected in his depictions of saints and angels.

But his sculpture also has a social dimension. By embelleshing  the town's forest with sculptures its beauty is accentuated, which may increase its appreciation and might counter the pollution of the forest, a neglect that occurred. 

Tanchev began this project in 2012. The forest in the northeasts of the city is a protected area of some 400 ha named Aleksin Bor with a lot of pine trees, partly over a hundred years old.

Selecting dead trees as his basic material, Tanchev began transforming these on the spot into sculptures with a variety of depictions:  holy persons, knights, indians, characters from fairytales, folk stories and comic books, but also a varety of animals, such as bears, a tiger, a lion and dragons.

He did this project entirely at his own power and with his own financial means, without any assistance from others or support from the authorities.

Within a few years he had created over thirty sculptures, located on various places in the forest, just where he found trees suitable for carving.

This did not go unnoticed. In the course of 2015 various local and regional newspapers (see documentation) reported about Tanchev's collection of sculptures in the Aleksin Bor forest..

At the end of 2015 the local newspaper Sloboda organized a contest Man of the year 2015 where Tanchev with a record of 8000 votes was chosen as the winner in the category "heroes of the people".

In addition to the sculptures for the setting in the forest, in the course of the years Tanchez has created a large number of stand alone sculptures, both large and small ones.

His oeuvre currently includes over a hundred various items.

Article by Dmitri Borisov on the news site Tula.AIF.ru, july 2015
* Article by Maria Kucherov on the website of newspaper Myslo, august 2015
Article by Tatiana Gamulina in webjournal Aleksin Vesti sept 2015
* Video by evgenytny (3'05", Youtube, uploaded october 2014)

¹ Other art environments in a forest setting include;
   - Pierre Rapeau, le bois aux creatures, France
   - Ben Wilson, Wooden structures, England
   - Frank Bruce, Sculpture trail, Scotland
   - Edvin Hevonkoski, Edvin's path, Finland
² A mega art environment refers to the totality of related creations located in a rather extensive territory near the artist's living place

Dmitry Tanchev
Sculpture park in Aleksin Bor
Aleksin, Tula region, Russia
can be seen in the local forest

April 17, 2017

Beniamin Petrovich Tabakov, Decorated house

Benjamin Petrovich Tabakov, a self-taught artist who decorated his house in Staropysjminsk in the Russian region Sverdlovsk, was inspired by another self-taught artist, blacksmith Viktor Nikolaevich Volkhin, who lived in the neighbouring community of Berjozovski.

Tabakov began decorating his house in 1981. At that time Volkhin, who died in 1982, already had completed the decoration of his house.

Life and works

The biographical information about Tabakov is limited. He probably was born in the 1950's and he became a truckdriver with a transport company. He married -probably in the late 1970's- and looked around in Staropysjminsk for a house to live in with his wife Augusta Dmitrievna and appropriate to eventually share with children and grandchildren..

That house, he thought, had to have something specific.

When he had seen Volkhin's house in Berjovski decorated with pictures of fairy tale, he knew that something like that would be suitable for his own house. And so in 1981 he began. It would become a lifetime project.

Just as Volkhin did, he painted the facade of his house with scenes derived from familiar fairy tales and folk stories.

He also referred to scenes from a popular Russian TV-series named Ну, погоди! (Wait a minute!).

Tabakov has been active in decorating his house for over 30 years, regularly adding new scenes. 

He made photographs of all stages of the development of the facade, in black and white as it was at the time he bought the house, later on capturing each new scene in color.

From an interview with Tabakov in 2015 it appears that at that time he still was engaged in making new decorations. Meanwhile three generations live in the house and a granddaughter occasionaly helps her grandfather, as the video from 2010 (below) shows.

Tabakov in 2010 
(screenprint from the 2010 video below)

* Entry on top-50.ru with pictures (december 2014)
* Video by Telekanal Zvezda (july 2010), as on RuTube

Beniamin Petrovich Tabakov 
 Decorated house 
 Odinarka straat, 4, 
 623718 Staropyshminsk, Sverdlovsk

April 10, 2017

Václav Rubaš, Sculpture garden

pictures courtesy of Pavel Konečný

In the outlying area of Klatovy, a town of some 22.000 inhabitants in the south-west of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Rubaš's art environment, a garden with sculptures, can be encountered: 

Life and works

Rubaš was born in 1909 in Hodéjov near Strakonice, some 50 kms east of Klatovy. After primary school he became a stone mason, a job he would have untill retired.

There are no reports that he during his working life somehow was engaged in making artworks. although he liked to craft things for daily use. However, in 1988 at age 79 he made a replica of the fountain in the center of Klatovy, the town where he meanwhile had settled and lived with his family 

And then in 1989 at age 80 he made his first sculpture, a creation which depicted Veles (also Volos), the Slavic God of earth, water and the underworld, often associated with cattle and herds. Especially made for his daughter, the creation was displayed in the garden of the family home.

This was the start of a period of creativity which lasted for the next six years and resulted in a production of all together 27 stone statues.

In general displayed on small pedestals, these sculptures are arrranged in the garden in such a way that they face eventual visitors who enter the site.

A number of Rubaš' sculptures depict famous persons, such as Tomáš Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia (from 1918 till 1935) and J.A Comenius, the Czech philosopher (1592-1670).

Other works include a Venus, busts of nymphs and various animals.


In 1996 the art gallery At The White Unicorn in Klatovy had an exposition of Rubaš' artworks, but before it was openened, the sculptor deceased (March 21, 1996).

Actual situation

After the death of Vaclav Rubaš the family continued to live in the house They take care of the maitenance of the sculpture garden.

The garden is private property and can not be visited freely. However, most of the sculptures are easy visible from the street through the garden's wired fence

Pavel Konečný & Šimon Kadlčák, Atlas spontánního umění (Atlas of spontaneous art), Prague, 2016 (ISBN 978-80-906599-1-9). p.14-23
* A series of pictures of the site by Pavel Konečný on Facebook (july 2015)

Vaclav Rubaš
Sculpture garden
K Letišti 515
Klatovy, Pilsen region, Czech Republic
can be seen from the street

April 07, 2017

José Miguel Padrón Morales, Sculpture garden

photographs courtesy of Julia Sisi

Ferro (or El Hierro) with its 270 km² and its around 10.500 inhabitants is a small island in the south-west of the Canary Archipelago, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean that belongs to Spain.

Although small, El Hierro can boast its own art environment, which can be considered as the south-westernmost site of Europe.

It concerns here a sculpture garden which is still in the making, created by José Miguel Padron Moralés (born in 1962).

José Miguel Padron is the owner of a tavern in Aguadara, a hamlet located in the northern mountain area of El Hierro, some 7 kms west of the town of Valverde, the capital of the island.

The type of tavern he runs is locally also referred to as guachince.

In his free time Padron is engaged as an outsider artist, making characteristic sculptures from sheet metal, which he welds from discarded parts.

Before he began operating the guachince José Miguel worked at a quarry and here he finds the components of his sculptures.

 He creates man-sized sculptures which depict two-legged animals resembling birds, dragons or ostriches, but just as well four-legged life-size insects and other characteristic creatures.

They are lined up on the grounds of the tavern and the visitors of the taverne eat no bite less because of these neighbors, on the contrary, the meals get all the praise of the visitors.


* Up to now the only information on the internet about this site is an album on Facebook by Julia Sisi

José Miguel Padrón Morales
Sculpture garden
38916 Carretera Casas del Monte 8B
Aguadara, Ferro (El Hierro), Canary Islands, Spain
sculptures can be seen from the road
streetview (2012)

April 04, 2017

Viktor N. Volkhin, Decorated house

pictures courtesy of Sergey Bezgodov

If decorated with wood carving in a traditional style, in general affixed by local craftsmen, old houses in the Eastern European or Russian countryside often have a wonderful artistic appeal. To be ranked as an outsider art environment, however, the owner of the property himself should have designed and installed the decorations.

This happens just occasionaly and so up to now in these countries such sites are not considered as a specific artistic expression and still get little systematic attention. But the times they are a-changing....

One of the first Russian art environments with a decorated exterior presented in this weblog (in march 2011) was the one created by Sergey Kirillov, the blacksmith of the small community of Kunara, some 70 kms west of Yekaterinburg.

It seems that art environments get increasing attention in Russia 

And now, six years later, here is a post about another blacksmith who transformed the facade of his house into an art environment and who, besides, also lived near Yekaterinburg: Viktor Nikolaevich Volkhin.

A first report about this decorated house was published on the internet in 2015, followed in 2016 by a second one (see documentation). These publications might indicate that in Russia art environments are receiving increasing attention on the internet.

The house of blacksmith Volkhin

Berezovsky is a town of some 60.000 inhabitants in the Sverdlovsk region in Russia. The town is a close neighbor of Yekaterinburg, the capital of the region and with 1.3 million inhabitants the fifth city in Russia in terms of inhabitants.

Viktor N. Volkhin, about whom no biographic details are available, except that he was a blacksmith and died in 1982, left his home town a little gem by single handedly decorating the facade of his house.

illustration on top of the right door of the entrance gate
referring to the story of the fisher and the fish

The front side of the house with its various components -a part with windows, a number of entrance doors with turrets and a double-door entrance gate-  has been embellished in many different ways, both with colorful wood carving and with equally colorful storytelling illustrations.

The typical Russian turrets above the two entrance doors rest upon pieces of tin which are painted in various colors

Both doors of the centrally located entrance gate have a middle part with wooden radiations. The upper and the lower parts of these doors are adorned with illustrations.

The one on top of the right door (picture above) probably is a referral to Pushkin's story of the fisher and the goldfish.

illustration on top of the left door of the entrance gate

The picture of the bear with a basket (on top of the left door of the entrance gate) probably refers to the tale of the girl who gets lost in the forest, ends up in the home of a bear and by a ploy is returned to the family home in a basket carried by the bear.

The picture with the cock playing the accordeon probably also refers to a Russian fairytale.

The illustrations on the parts at the bottom of the doors of the entrance gate depict snowy landscapes.

The decorations on the other parts of the facade have referrals to other russian fairytales and to a famous Russian animated tv series named Ну, погоди! (Wait a minute!). 

The pictures published here just give a small impression of the rich totality of the decorations, but one finds a large series of pictures in Sergey Bezgodov's website

The site has a protected status

As the pictures show, the house looks well maintained. It currently is protected by the state as a monument of wooden decorated architecture. To my knowledge the first (and only) art environment in Russia with such a status.

The interior has been modernized.

* Article (july 2015) on the website Art Bird edited by the art gallery with the same name in Yekaterinburg
Sergey Bezgodov's website webphoto.net (may 2016)
* Video by Sergey Bezgodov (4'56", Youtube, may 2016. Volkhin's creation shown from 1'20"on)

Viktor Nikolaevich Volkhin
Decorated house
Ul Vorotnikov 2
Berjozovski, Sverdlovsk region, Russia
can be seen from the street

March 29, 2017

Vladimir F. Akulov, Дворец короля/Palace of the king

this picture and the next two from Russian social media
without any referral to the photographer(s)

In the small community of Klimovo in the Bryansk region of Russia -bordering Ukraine and Belarus- a modest house has been transformed into an art environment with so many baroque adornments that it was referred to as the Palace of the king or as the Bryansk Hermitage.

Life and works

This Palace is the life work of Vladimir Filippovich Akulov. Born in the late 1920's, maybe in 1929, he only had four years of primary education. 

Already as a young boy he felt attracted to wood carving and when he and his mother for some time stayed in Ukraine, he carved small wooden items such as toys, planes and cars, which he sold on the streets to earn a living.

Akulov was conscripted in the military, serving in the Sakhalin area in Russia's far east and after this time in the army  he went to live in Klimovo in the 1950's. He got a job in a local cannery. 

Akulov's house in Klimovo
with woodcarvings on the exterior wall

Although Akulov in the 1950's and 60's çontinued making wood carvings and he probably also single handedly constructed furniture for his dwelling house, it was in the early 1970's, when he was around age 40, that he seriously began transforming his house into kind of a palace. 

In an interview published in 2003 he says that he began when he had seen woodcarving in the neighbouring town Novozybkov. However, in another interview in 2005 he said that one day when he was waiting for a train in the Kiev railway station in Moscow he was struck by the decorations on the walls and the ceiling of the building and felt inspired to do something similar at home.

Maybe both happenings inspired him, the first one may have encouraged him to make wood carvings to decorate the house and the second one to make "baroque" decorations on walls and ceilings.

Akulov in his workshop

How this may be, Akulov -using photographs in magazines as inspiration and example- went to work and started a project to decorate the various rooms in his house in a "baroque" style, or rather his own version of it. He would be working on this project for some 35 years.

Walls and ceilings of the rooms have decorative elements such as mirrors and paintings which are encased in gilded carvings. The paintings displayed on the walls and ceiling are mostly not made by Akulov, but by his father Filippa Artemovicha Akulova or his friend Victor Kurusya.

The furniture includes consoles and many distinguished chairs, all richly decorated with gilded carvings.

The most important chair is a smaller copy of the throne of Catherine the Great, crowned with the double-headed eagle, main element of the coat of arms of the Russian Empire, abolished with the 1917 Revolution and restored in 1993 in the coat of arms of the Russian government.

Above picture shows Akulov seated in this chair with some regalia of Tsarist Russia: a crown, a scepter wich symbolizes authority and a small globe with a Christian cross on it which symbolizes the territory.

floor with inlays (and dogs)

The floors also contribute to the atmosphere of the house because of the inventively laid parquet, decorated with circularly arranged inlays.

It is not surprising that some dogs are seen in the picture above, because Akulov would take care of stray dogs, who sometimes stayed in the house with some ten at a time.

decoration on the exterior wall

The blue wooden exterior wall of the property is covered with a rider fighting a dragon. The wall also has prancing deer.

part of the decorations

In the early years of the 21st century, when the artwork was almost entirely completed, the site got nation wide publicity (see documentation). It became known and attracted visitors both from Russia and other countries.

Although his wife had left him because she didn't like that her husband opened the conjugal home for all kinds of visitors, due to all interest in his life's work, Akulov may have experienced the years between around 2003 and 2010 as a somewhat glorious period.

In the early 2010's Akulov's health detoriated. He could no longer take care of the site and it's neglect began.

He died around 2012.

Akulov had a daughter and two sons and one of the sons was going to inhabit the house. However, there are no recent reports that indicate the situation with regard to the decorations.

* The earliest review I found on the internet dates from January 25, 2003: T. Shubin, Filippych Pervyy (Filippovich First).
* Another review of early date (2005) is: Maria Chernitsyn, article in the journal Moskovsky Komsomolets, no 1515, february 26, 2005
* An article dated january 2011 in the website NNM.me describes the situation of the site, showing that at that time it's neglect already occurred
* In 2016 the site got publicity on russian socia media. such as this post on Yaplakal.com, edited as if the artist was still alive
* Video by russian TV1 Moscow (2'35", july 17, 2007)

Vladimir Filippovich Akulov
Klimovo, Bryansk region, Russia
actal situation unclear

March 16, 2017

Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Фрески в Боровске/ Murals in Borovsk

this photograph (august 2005) by Vladimir Ovchinnikov

The mural depicted above shows a map in the form of a globe with the landmarks and historical sites of the provincial town of Borovsk in Russia, which is located some 115 kilometers south-west of Moscow.

This is one of the dozens of frescoes made by Vladimir A. Ovchinnikov, which embellish the walls of the buildings in this town.

Borovsk: the old town
this picture and the next ones by Vladimir Butenko 
(this picture made in december 2016)

Life and works

Born in 1938 Ovchinnikov had a technical education at the Moscow Institute of Civil Engineering and then got a job in that field, working with construction companies in building houses, chimneys, lighthouses and so on. He also studied economics and became a candidate of economic sciences.

During his working life he lived in Moscow, but once retired in 1998, he moved to Borovsk.

 photo made december 2016

Ovchinnikov all his life was interested in making drawings and paintings, but his busy job gave him little chance to do so. However, when retired he had time enough and as a self-taught visual artist he went to work.

Already in 2000 he had a first exposition in the local Borovskaya Picture Gallery where he presented some hundred landscapes, still lifes and portraits.

a decorated house 
(photo made march 2011)

Encouraged by a friend who had seen murals elsewhere, Ovchinnikov early 2002 decided to make an effort to create such decorations himself and he approached the mayor of the town, who verbally agreed with such an activity. 

Both the mayor and Ovchinnikov at that time probably had no idea of the scope of what was about to happen, but once Ovchinnikov had begun making murals, he proved himself a prolific artist.

In the period between 2002 and 2005, during four summers, he created some 90 murals

murals along a street
(photo made december 2016)

He continued this activity untill the present day (early 2017) and meanwhile he has provided the town with such a large number of murals that it has been said that he transformed the city into the largest open air gallery in the world.

The frescoes in particular are located in places with a public function, such as government buildings, the fire station, the library, the court and the hospital, but also in places near shops or markets,

Russian admiral Senyavin 
(picture made march 2011)

Ovchinnikov's murals, which predominantly are realised in a very meticolous way and with great attention to detail, include paintings with an illustrative character, such as landscapes.

But many murals have a narrative scope with scenes that relate to historical events and personalities, often in realation with Borovsk or Kaluga, the region where the city is located.

So there is a mural (picture above) of Dmitry Nikolayevich Senyavin (1763-1831), a famous russian admiral who originated in Borovsk. 

Another famous person depicted on a mural is Tsiolkovsky, the theoretician of Russian aerospace who lived both in Borovsk and in the Kaluga region.

Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), theoretician of 
russian aerospace (photo made december 2016)

As the picture above shows, in this mural Tsiolkovsky is depicted in an almost photographic 
way. Such a way of representation is present in a large number of Ovchinnikov's frescoes, which to my knowledge is rather unique in the field of art environments.

Above picture also shows that a text is added to the painting. This is also a feature of Ovchinnikov's artwork.

These texts, often of a poetic nature, mainly have been written by his wife Elvíra Nikolaevna Chastikova, a poet and writer, who published some fourteen books (poetry, storybooks for children).

Campaign of Napoleon (1812) in Russia 
(photo made december 2016)

Well known historical events, especially if somehow related to the history of Borovsk, are another main topic in Ovchinnikov's oeuvre.

Those murals dealing with events in the ages before the 20th century, such as Napoleon's campaign in Russia (1812) and the great fire of 1857 that destroyed half of Borovsk, in general were appreciated by the inhabitants and the local authorities.

However, when in 2005 Ovchinnikov got involved with the rescue of an abandoned church and made a critical dyptich with pictures of the mayor of Moscow and the governor of the region, he got the reproach to cause unrest.

In August 2016 a just completed artwork/monument named Gulag Archipelago, with pictures of twenty victims of political terror, was daubed with red and yellow paint, an event that became national news.

In the summer of 2016 Ovchinnikov incidentally also made a twenty meters long frescoe on a wall along Lenin street, in which he portrays twenty artists who worked in Borovsk in the 20th century.

on the wall of the city library: writers and poets together
march 2011

A fragile oeuvre

Ovchinnikov probably painted his murals directly on unprepared surfaces of bare brick or plaster. Especially in the case of brick this gives a specific expression to the painting, as can be seen in the picture of admiral Senyavin in this post, but the unprepared base may also result in fragility of the paintings. 

The artist himself is aware of this. He is quoted as saying about the life span of his artworks: "alas, not for centuries, under sunlight and atmospheric precipitation they retain color for a maximum of five to ten years."