Front Cover – Self Portrait

Alexander Lobanov (1924-2003)



If Alex looks a little odd on his self-portraits there’s a reason for that. He was mad – a certified lunatic. The poor sod got meningitis as a kid which left him deaf and dumb.


The family were kicked out of Mologa when Stalin decided to build a reservoir. His specialised schooling ended at that point and his parents had him institutionalised in 1945. Here he became uncontrollably violent, but later, at a less restrictive hospital, simply withdrawn and subdued. He began to draw in 1953. In the 1970s he took up photography and produced a series of icons featuring himself surrounded by weapons and other Soviet paraphernalia. He died in an asylum near Yaroslav.


Dr Gavrilov showed his work to students and psychiatrists and later French galleries and museums took an interest as did a French filmmaker Bruno Decharme.


He reminds me of the late Ian Hamilton Findlay, a much greater talent but one also obsessed with military hardware. His superb classical inscriptions glorified Jacobin heroes like St Just. He proclaimed his house a temple – Little Sparta - and refused to pay rates to his Scottish council (temples being exempt). Not quite mad – but getting there.


These images (see back cover) are from an exhibition at the Lille Metropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art at Villeneuve d’Ascq in 2013. Outsider? Yes, Alex was certainly that – in fact he was a quintessential crazy oik.