Who was Ales Pushkin - an artist who died in captivity

Ales Pushkin / Photo from the artist's Facebook page
Ales Pushkin / Photo from the artist's Facebook page

The day the trial of Ales Pushkin began, the artist arranged a performance. He lay down on the bench in the cage - and turned away. From the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney - all three of whom he had previously challenged.

"Why do I need such a lawyer? I'm going to defend myself. Why do I need such a court, which already knows the measure of restraint? Why do I need a prosecutor's office that serves political power?" Pushkin asked the judge.

Today Ales's wife Yanina Dzemukh reported that the artist was gone. 

The performance that launched the celebration of the Freedom Day

Pushkin's performance became the first street action on the Freedom Day. It was in 1989. As a student of the Theatre and Art Institute, he organized an exhibition of paintings in the style of socialist art, which he was not allowed to exhibit in the institute. And the exhibition turned into a rally.

That day he went out on the street with a poster showing the flag of the BSSR and the inscription: "Enough of socialism, let's revive independent Belarus".

Маляваў сцяг сваёй крывёю. Хто такі Алесь Пушкін — мастак, што памёр у няволі
The performance that kickstarted the Freedom Day / archive photo

"It happened on the 25th, at noon. I prepared 12 posters. And for the first time I exhibited them. I went to the street covered with posters. And some friends, about 200 students. We moved along the avenue towards GUM. I was arrested and sentenced to 2 years' probation. But it was such a democratic time that I graduated from the institute, served my sentence and studied did my 4th and 5th years of studies," smiled the artist.

Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski recalled that day. He said that he remembered not only Ales himself, but also his surroundings.

"Young girls in white wedding dresses with paper wings. Soon the police arrived, Ales' hands were clasped, posters flew in different directions. It was powerful!"

Three months later Pushkin exhibited the painting at the BPF Congress. A white-red-white flag with a red stripe drawn with his own blood. 

Маляваў сцяг сваёй крывёю. Хто такі Алесь Пушкін — мастак, што памёр у няволі
Flag with a bloody stripe / by Juraś Jurkievič

Helicopter on the stage

In the film "A New Sky Over a New Land," Pushkin says that if he is "put even a little bit in some frames," he will suffer - and will not be able to create anything.

He never put himself in a frame. When the artist was asked to do the scenography for Shakespeare's "King Lear," a helicopter appeared on the stage. The artist was so impressed by the director Valery Maslyuk's reading of the play that he spent the whole of 1994 preparing the set and costumes.

"When the premiere took place, it was a celebration. I came with a monkey on my shoulder, Valery Vasilyevich met us at the entrance. I left the monkey in the cloakroom," said Pushkin in the film.

In the early 90s, thanks to Pushkin, one of the first private galleries of contemporary art in Belarus appeared in Vitsebsk. The gallery was called "Pushkin's". It existed until 1997. The beginning of the nineties was free, and then, according to the artist, resocialization began - and he was pushed out of Vitsebsk. 

"Gift to the president" 

In 1999, Pushkin organized a performance "Gift to the President "For five years of fruitful work!" Lukashenka had been in power for 5 years.

The artist rolled a red-painted wheelbarrow of manure to his residence. It contained Belarusian rubles, Lukashenka's election poster, a flag, toy handcuffs, a wreath of cornflowers, a shirt with traditional ornaments and white gloves.

For this action, Pushkin received a two-year suspended sentence.  

Sinners Pushkin's style

Ales Pushkin was engaged in monumental painting. But with a "political connotation". For example, when he painted the church of St. Stanislaus in Mahiliou, some of the frescoes had faces of Belarusian political figures, including, for example, Zianon Pazniak.

And in 1996 Pushkin made monumental paintings on the walls of the Orthodox church in his native village of Bobr. It was in this church that he married his wife, Yanina. Pushkin painted the righteous to the right of Christ and sinners to the left. One of the sinners was Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

The scandalous part of the painting was covered.

Pushkin also painted the church of the Virgin Mary in Vishneva, the church of Archangel Michael in Mikhalishki, made stained glass in the church of St. John the Baptist in Minsk. 

"The policemen carried him in their arms"

In 2019, Pushkin gave a performance on the steps of Euroopt store in Krupki to defend the Belarusian language. It was a response to a store employee who, according to Pushkin, insulted the language.

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