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Alexander Dik enters the international Contemporary art market with a real bang.
Gosh! was my first impression when my friend Nour Nouri, the director of Pashmin Art, showed me the first pictures of his new talent: What power! What expressiveness! What format! Each painting looks to the viewer as if it had just been finished, as if the paint was not even dry yet.
Alexander Dik is an exceptional phenomenon in German art, where pathos and exuberance have become rare and where “moderate and petty” are the overall trend. As a painter, he draws from the wealth of his experience. He takes off without too much time. He obviously has the potential to rise to the top of this country’s group of productive and innovative artists in a short period of time. We can look forward to his upcoming exhibitions, in particular the museum project in China Archive Art Museum (from April 9 to May 9, 2022) organized by Pashmin Art.
Alexander Dik is not an artist who can be pigeonholed into a particular school, fashion or style. He did not grow up in a home where the arts were particularly respected. He did start drawing and painting at an early age, but had to do it in secret. He bought paper, pencils and brushes surreptitiously from his small pocket money in specialist shops. His ancestors were skilled craftsmen, and perhaps he owes his artistic dexterity to them. His handshake when he shook hands with me at our first meeting struck me as strong, gripping and expressive, not the worst prerequisites for a visual artist.
Alexander Dik’s biography speaks for itself, foreshadows his genius traits and points to an artist who has the ability to reinvent himself constantly. He is a Russian-German. His ancestors were strict Mennonites [the religious and cultural group founded in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, when a number of Christians separated from the Roman Catholic Church] who were persecuted for their faith in Holland and East Frisia and sought their salvation in fleeing to Russia. Tsarina Catherine the Great, who herself was of German origin, offered them the opportunity to settle along the Volga as free peasants. The Volga Germans were hastily deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia after the invasion of the Hitler army. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and German reunification, most of the Russian Germans seized the opportunity to return to the land of their ancestors as resettlers. Thus, Alexander Dik came to Germany in Autumn 1992 as an eight-year-old boy together with his parents, siblings and close relatives and landed in the eastern part of the newly reunified German capital. Integration proved to be an extremely difficult and contradictory process. In Russia, the Russian Germans were ostracised as Germans, in Germany they were defamed as Russians and became victims of growing xenophobia just like their non-German fellow sufferers.
Alexander “Sascha” Dik goes off the rails and ends up in prison for a short time as a member of Marzahn’s crew, just like his brother. But where there is danger, there is also salvation. The artist manages to pull himself out of the swamp by his own hair, which is standing on end, like Münchhausen once did. He starts a career as a martial artist, fights his way to the top and finally becomes a world champion in Taekwondo. As the founder and manager of a market chain for Eastern European food and a happy family father, he soon sees himself on the winning side. This astonishing and exciting success story can be read in German in the biography Migrant… and now? The Life of Alexander “Sascha” D. [Migrant… und nun? Das Leben des Alexander „Sascha“ D.] written by Lothar Berg and published by Anthea-Verlag in Berlin.
Such life stories are rather rare in the history of European art. Most artists come from middle-class, educated and artistic backgrounds that allow them to prepare for their vocation from an early age. Only a few painters knew the misery and hunger from their own experience, like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Heinrich and Martha Vogeler or Otto Dix. His knowledge of social and human abysses in no way altered his artistic rank, but gave his works a dimension of depth that one seeks in vain among established and better-off colleagues. Nowadays, more and more questions arise about the links between art and life. Art is no longer considered autonomous; art for art’s sake is no longer in demand. Against the backdrop of debates on the influence of racism and colonialism, art criticism sheds light more than ever on the social references of art. This trend will also encourage interest in the work of Alexander Dik.
In his speech at the opening of the exhibition at the Pashmin Art Gallery Hamburg, art critic Marc Cremer-Thursby highlighted the richness of color in Alexander Dik’s paintings: “His colors jump out at us. The oil colors, sometimes in mixed media, are his real craft. The colors reflect his power of articulation, when the red reigns from the background, when the yellow creates the calm in front of which the blue melts and the black appears deep as night.” The artist himself emphasises in conversation that he “does not use the colors according to nature and his own external sensory impressions. The colors spill out from within me as an eruptive expression of my fears, my anger, also of my feelings and longings. When I paint, I swim in my colors and rise and sink with them. My painting speaks for itself. It doesn’t emerge according to a predetermined plan, but develops as I paint. I paint intuitively.”
Titles, as Marc Cremer-Thursby has pointed out, often have a biographical background. Instead of a name, he gave a date to a particularly monumental painting, “22 June 1941”, the day of the invasion of the Soviet Union by three million German soldiers, which had a fatal and tragic significance, especially for the Volga Germans. Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa” targeted not only the metropolises of Leningrad and Moscow, but also the heartland of Russia, the settlement area of the Volga Germans, and was based on the alliance of the German peasants of the Volga. Immediately after the start of the war, Stalin ordered the expulsion of Volga Germans to remote areas of Kazakhstan and Siberia. This deportation cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, but enabled most to survive. For it is inconceivable what misfortune would have befallen Alexander Dik’s grandparents if they had been involved in the massacres of the Battle of Stalingrad.
The painting “22 June 1941” is related to another large-format painting dominated by the color red, the symbolic color for fire and blood. It is entitled “Germans Wald” (Germans’ Forest) and refers to the legendary “Hermann Battle” in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, which Hitler tried to instil in his soldiers trapped in Stalingrad as an incentive. For Alexander Dik, the legendary victory of the Germanic army leader Arminius over the legions of the Roman commander Varus, which can hardly be proven historically, is a symbol of German megalomania. The thicket of the German forests and the blood-soaked soil have been very cleverly depicted by Alexander Dik.
But the tragedies and traumas of German history are no longer the predominant themes in the painter’s work. In the more recent and latest works, which were created during the Corona pandemic and can also be seen at the museum exhibition in China, the rays of hope are multiplying. The artistic horizon is brightening. The signs of hope are multiplying. Personal experiences of happiness are indicated, for example in the works “Cemetery of the Dead Poets”, “The Marauders”, “Vacua somnio”, “Enemy at the Gates” or “Noah’s Ark”. They reveal the artist’s intention to turn away from the darker sides of German history and approach new and brighter shores. One can truly look forward to seeing Alexander Dik’s next works!

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