March 13, 2018

Vladimir and Elena Aleshko, Дом украшен крышками для бутылок/House decorated with bottle caps

 this picture and the next six (2017) courtesy of newspaper TUT.BY 
(photographer Elena Bychkova)

The picture above shows a decorated house in the village of Bril’kov, part of the community of Volozhin in Belarus. At first glance it seems that we are dealing here with frescoes, but that is not the case, these decorations have been created by using caps from plastic bottles.

Life and works

This is a rather young art environment. The project was begun in the midst of 2014 after Elena Aleshko with a grandson was browsing a book about special architecture and was impressed by a house decorated with bottle caps.

She talked about this with her husband Vladimir Aleshko, who was retired, and together they decided to try to realize such a decoration themselves.

A pilot project consisting of making a decoration with two swans (still present on the front side, see first photo) proved successful and from that moment on the life of the couple was completely dominated by the further decoration of house and yard.

Each of the two had a clear role. Elena sought and selected examples and made the designs. Up close it is easy to see that a variety of scenes has been carried out in a cross-stitch pattern as is usual in embroidery. Vladimir would take care of the assembly and eventual construction works, such as the construction of a summer house to realize more exhibition space.

In preparing the addition of a new scene, first a drawing is made at actual size, which on test is inlaid with caps. If the result pleases, the creation will be applied to the appointed spot.

In the summer of 2017, after the Aleshko couple had been working on the project for some three years, the decorations altogether covered an area of about 100 m² and it was estimated that some 100,000 caps had been processed.

These caps are only partially derived from their own household. Vladimir Aleshko gets part of the material from a nearby waste processing company that recycles plastic bottles without using the caps.

Various themes can be distinguished in the decorations.

A variety of animals has been depicted and then a lot of attention is paid to cartoon characters and heroes from well-known Russian television series.

Sport is another important theme. 

As can be seen in the picture below, one of the walls has references to the World Hockey Championship (Minsk 2014), the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi (2014) and the football World Cup which will be held in Russia in the course of 2018.

* Elena Bychkova, article (July 2017) in newspaper TUT.BY (Minsk, Belarus)
* In the summer of 2017 the international Peace Run came past the house of the Aleshko couple, which was reported on their website
* You Tube has a video (June 2017, 38'37") of limited quality (it may be a recording of a tv broadcast)

Vladimir and Elena Aleshko
House decorated with bottle caps
Bril'kov, Volozhin, Belarus
site can be seen from the street

March 04, 2018

Anatoly Vladimirovich Zhdan, зоопарк/zoo

this picture and the next six courtesy of Olga Likhacheva
(website RusNomad)

The storks pictured above are part of a sculpture garden in the  capacity of a zoo located in the middle of a residential area in the Belarusian city of Minsk.

Life and works

Born in 1940 or 1941, Anatoly Zhdan became a gas and electric welder, a job he had until his retirement around 2005. 

One day when retired, he and his wife Nikolaeva (who passed away early 2013) made a trip to the recreation area near the reservoir of Volchkovichi (Ptich), about sixteen kilometers south-west of Minsk. It so happened that during that trip he saw two self-made storks.

This inspired him to make such a couple himself. The result was certainly successful and Zhdan felt motivated to continue making sculptures of animals.

So these two storks marked the beginning of a project that started around 2008 In the following years it would result in a large variety of animals placed together in a part of a public garden near Zhdan's house. Currently (early 2018) the site includes over a hundred creations.

As basic material Zhdan uses polystyrene, occasionally supplemented with an iron frame or some wood for stability.

Polystyrene is a lightweight plastic that is widely used as packaging material during transport of refrigerators and similar household appliances. It is easy to work with a knife and objects made with this material are not so sensitive to weather influences.

Anatoly Zhdan is regularly provided with excess polystyrene packaging by inhabitants of Minsk

The zoo currently holds a lively collection of large variety of animals, like all sorts of birds such as parrots, cranes, pelicans and owls, various predators such as tigers and panthers, and of course zebras, panda bears, and so on.

In short, the livestock that one usually can see in a zoo.

Zhdan's art environment generally is appreciated by the people living around. It is reported that the site hardly is affected by vandalism, although two storks have been stolen....

As the video below shows the site was on TV.  It also got the attention of touristic website Ru-nomad and other touristic websites (see documentation).

* Article (january 2018) on website Rus-nomad
* Article ( may 2017) by El Marachi on website
* Article (april 2017) on website CTV, with a variety of pictures
* Article (june 2014) on website WhereMinsk
Article (october 2012) on website City Dog

* Video by Belarusian TV (CTVBY) (You Tube, 6'11", april 2017)

Anatoly Vladmirovich Zhdan
st. Sedykh, 30 Minsk, Belarus 
situated in a public park in a residential area

February 27, 2018

Míro and Pédro, Esculturas de pedra ao longo do rio Tejo/Stone sculptures along the river Tagus

The river Tagus (rio Tejo in Portuguese), with its length of a thousand kilometers the longest of the Iberian peninsula, flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. 

A walk along the quays of the city guarantees many beautiful views, for example the view of the Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest in Europe, but also - of a completely different nature- the sight of a modest art environment along the river as shown in the photos.

The site is located along a quay along the river named Avenida Ribeira das Naus, near the Cais das Colunas, a place along the river marked by two pillars. where high guests who travel by ship can be welcomed.

The project

The sculpture project started mid 2016. Two pensioners, both in their early sixties and living in Lisbon, had met each other, and it appeared that both were interested in art as made by Picasso, Dalí or Miro.

They are known only by their first names, Míro and Pédro. Although both self-taught, they decided to try out to make sculptures themselves, especially by stacking and decorating stones.

The place along the river, with an abundance of stones within reach, became both their studio and exhibition space.

Míro is the one who takes care of a balanced stack of stones, Pédro does the decorative part, using nail polish to bring forth the images.

They create sculptures with different dimensions, shapes and colors, and it always about a "balanced image with a touch of our magic and the magic of stone", as Pédro said in an interview.

Currently (early 2018) Míro and Pédro have been actively involved in their project for over a year and a half and every day they come together at the waterfront to build new sculptures and to repair those that collapsed at night.

With their work they attract a lot of interest from the people coming along. The spectators are generally enthusiastic and sometimes make applause.

One of the charms of this collection of stone sculptures is the constant changeability: some sculptures collapse and disappear, new ones are added, others are repainted and given a different appearance.....

Of course, the vulnerability of this art environment is so great, that it undoubtedly will disappear as soon as the makers no longer will or can take care of it. In case this should happen, the entry in this documentation is a modest contribution to keep the memory of the site alive.

* Article (january 2017) As pedras pintadas junto ao Cais das Colunas on Flores, Cores e Amores weblog
* Article (november 2016) on website DiaryOnline 
* Article (november 2016) on website tvi24, with a variety of pictures

Míro and Pédro
Stone sculptures along the river Tago
Avenida Ribeira das Naus
Lisbon, Portugal
can be seen from the street 

February 19, 2018

Ildar Khanov, Храм всех религий/Temple of all religions

this picture and the next one by unknown photographer

The picture above shows the temple of all religions, a singular architecture located in the small community of Staroye Arakchino, a suburb of the city of Kazan in the republic of Tatarstan, Russia. The story of this complex of church buildings is closely related to Ildar Khanov, but his younger brother Ilgiz Khanov, born in 1948, is also involved in this site, especially after Ildar's death.

Life and works

Ildar Khanov (1940-2013), born in Staroye Arakchino, as a child had a near-death experience in which he saw Jezus, who sent him back to earth saying that the boy was needed there. Although in relation with this experience Khanov developed skills as a healer and also acted as such, he opted for a career as a visual artist. He graduated in 1960 from the Kazan Art College, then studied until 1968 at the Moscow State Institute Surikov. In the same year he was admitted to the Union of Artists of the USSR.

Until 1994, the year his life took a different turn,  Khanov was a productive artist, creating hundreds of paintings and a variety of monumental sculptures. In those years he also visited India and Tibet, immersed himself in Eastern medicine and Buddhism.

With the famous Russian artist Swetoslav Roerich (1904-1933), who spent a large part of his life in India, he discussed the idea of building an ecumenical temple, an impracticable plan in the then USSR.

That changed when in the early 1990's the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1994 the time was there that Khanov would start to realize his plan.

The story goes that Khanov had a dream in which Jesus appeared who ordered him to build the eucumenic temple, whereupon Khanov began to level the terrain outside the parental home and in a short time a friend came by who promised to send 15 masons to assist him in doing the job.

Ildar Khanov's brother Ilgiz has related that the earliest beginning of the temple complex was in the late 1970's. Then Ilgiz built a fence around the parental house with a part from stone that later became the wall of one of the temples and when Ildar in 1994 began his construction, two domes of the future building were already present.

view (2015) from the air 
(screenprint from the video listed in the documentation)

The realization of the complex

Anyway, it was Ildar who in 1994 took the lead in the construction process. He had an education in visual art, but in the field of architecture he must have been self-taught.

As can be seen on above aerial picture the complex located between a main road and a railway line, in 2015 included a variety of buildings, covering a rather large area of some 6 hectares (14.8 acres).

 this picture and the next five are screen prints
from the video (2016) in the documentation by Lyudmila Koledova

Khanov undoubtedly got assistance in realizing the various structures. In publications about the temple complex there is talk of a foreman who was involved in the construction, as well as of the help of people from Khanov's practice as a healer.

the Egyptian hall

Although the realization of the complex was not undisputed, it may be that in the purchase of building material Khanov got help from interested parties through donations in the form of materials or in monetary amounts.

Buddhist scenes

However, decorating the exteriors and interiors of the altogether sixteen buildings, representing just as many religions, in all probability was done by Khanov himself. The domes, pinnacles and upright walls, usually provided with geometrically arranged patterns, are decorated in a multi-colored fashion or provided with mosaic.

The indoor spaces have been embellished with frescoes and sculptures, in general with a religious connotation in line with the religion to which the building in question is dedicated. One encounters Islamic, Jewish and Christian symbols, a variety of flowers and rings and the Masonic eye is also present.

In furnishing the rooms use was made of materials or utensils that had become superfluous elsewhere. For example, the hall of the Catholic Church is furnished with chairs from a theater that renewed its original interior. Such venues were used, for example, for charity concerts.

ceiling of the Catholic Church

Khanov passed away in 2013

When Khanov passed away in February 2013, the complex was not yet completed, but it had largely reached the size as indicated on the aerial photograph. This means that Khanov has done a great job in the almost twenty years he (with the help of others) has been active in creating the temple complex.

Khanov had legated the complex to his family, but the foreman who was involved in its construction thought that the complex belonged to him and confiscated it. The family started a lawsuit, which lasted for several years, until early 2017 judgment was made in favor of the family. During these years of legal battle some further architectural development of the Temple took place.

Then in the early morning of april 10 2017, the day before the foreman had to evacuate the site by court order, a large fire arose in the Temple, that damaged an interior area of some 200 m². It turned out that this fire was lit by the foreman, who was found dead in the temple complex.

Plans for the future

scale model of the complex as in a plan for the future
(as published in newspaper Kazancat,ru)

Ilgiz Khanov now took on the task of defining the future of the complex. First of all he arranged the repairing of the damage caused by the fire. Meanwhile some essential repairs have been carried out, but -as visitors reported- end 2017 the effects of the fire were still visible.

Khanov's plans for the future include a name change: the complex would henceforth be referred to as the Center of Tolerance. And then he aims to establish an art academy especially for children and also a renewed Taiwan Pagoda, which in his view might attract a lot of Russian visitors interested in East Asian architecture.

Behind the Pagoda a multi functional hall with a glass roof could be built in which all kind of cultural events could be organized. A specific feature of the future complex would be a building with three turrets, each with a symbol on top, an orthodox cross, an Islamic half moon and a symbol of the sun.

However, such plans would require substantial investments and although Khanov was convinced that the complex could attract many entrance-paying visitors, the approached authorities appeared reluctant to participate in investments, so it remains to be seen if these plans can be realized.

Currently the site can be visited, but just some six interior rooms are open to the public.

The Republic of Tatarstan in terms of tourist visits scored in 2017 the fourth place of regions in Russia (apart from Moscow and St Petersburg): 278,000 of whom 185,000 came to see with their own eyes the Kremlin in Kazan and the Temple of all religions

* Article (may 2015) by Eduard Zinatullin in regional website about the earliest history of the complex
* Article (july 2017) by Yulia Shamsutdinova in regional website Kazancat,ru about plans for the future 

The internet has a variety of videos of the site. The following two give a good general impression: 
* Video by Lyudmila Koledova (You Tube, 5'44 , september 2016)

* Video by CGASL showing the complex from the air (You Tube, 6'38". august 2015)

Ildar Khanov
Temple of all religions
Staroye Arakchino, Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia
can be visited, but just a limited number of interior rooms is open for visitors

February 04, 2018

Gilles Rantière, Village miniature/Miniature village

a town hall

This miniature village is located outside St Michel-Mont-Mercure, a community of some 1700 inhabitants in the Vendée area in France. Its name refers to a 288 m high hill on the spot, the highest of the region.

Life and work

The mini village, a project begun 2006 and still under construction, is a creation of Gilles Rantière, born in 1948 and a mason probably during all of his life.

a school

The mini village, still modest in size, currently includes a town hall, a school. a church, a mill, a wash-house (a lavoir in french), a barn and a little bridge. To construct these small structures Rantière would mainly use granite stones from nearby Haute Bocage, a hilly area with deep valleys interspersed with rocky ground and granite hills.

the church with the priest in front

The small constructions are finished in detail. For example, the inside of the church pictured above is equipped with benches and a priest at the altar. The school (second picture from above) has tables and a teachers desk.

And in the town hall (first picture from above) the mayor is present, as well as a bride and a groom, both dressed festively for their wedding day.

Rantière would place these characters before installing the roofs of the buildings.

the stable

Those who are familiar with the field of French art environments might think that the characters in the above photos in some way feel familiar. 

And right they are. These small scale sculptures have been created by Vivi Fortin, who is already in this weblog.

a miller in front of a flour mill

Above picture shows this clearly. The miller carrying a bag of flour (= former french president Nicolas Sarkozy) is typically in Fortin's style. 

Rantiére and Fortin live close together in neighboring villages. Their continuous collaboration not only adds an extra charm to this art environment, but is also quite unique in the field of art environments, which in general mostly knows isolated working self-taught artists.

 Rantière in front of the flour mill (february 2018)

Incidentally, the flour mill is also a recent creation, completed early 2018.

* Entry with pictures in Vivi Fortin's weblog Sculpture du pas
* Article (june 2014) in regional newspaper Ouest-France

Gilles Rantière
Village miniature
Lieu dit la Girauderie
St Michel-Mont-Mercure, Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France
visitors welcome in summer months

February 01, 2018

Gerard Claeys, Fresques sur les murs extérieurs/frescoes on the outer walls

pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit
this picture shows the side of the the house along the road

The two frescoes on the street side of the house (by car you would pass them in a flash) just form a small part of the total number of frescoes included in this art environment located in the neighbourhood Launoy in the community of Blennes, France. 

view of the front an side wall of the annex left of the entrance gate

Life and works

These frescoes were created by Gérard Claeys (1927-2015), who had a career with the French army. He was involved in the war of France in French Indochina (1946-1954) and he later served in French Guiana, currently still an outermost region of France.

Retired from the army in 1972 he settled in Blennes, where he first remodeled the house he had acquired, after which in the 1980's he started decorating it.

the inner side wall of the annex

The short sides of the house and the annex face the street, the inner long sides surround an elongated courtyard, while the long outside of the annex flanks a side street. 

All together a large area of walls, which Claeys gradually completely covered with mosaic frescoes.

this picture and the next two show scenes on the outer side wall 
of the annex, along the side street impasse du Puy

As can be seen on the pictures, the wall decorations are constructed from rectangular plates. 

Claeys designed his decorations on paper, after which in his workshop he transferred the sketch to the plates. Then he applied the scene with mosaic on the plates, after which he fixed the plates to the appropriate wall.

In his mosaic creations he applied a variety of materials, such as fragments of glass, tiling, earthenware, marble, sandstone, flint, mirror glass and seashells.

The scenes Claeys portrayed in general are rather realistic, such as people in all kinds of situations, possibly farmers and peasant women, but also helmeted figures who could represent warriors or knights.

the outer side wall of the annex, detail

The next images give an impression of the decorations that are applied to the walls along the inner court between the house and the annex.

To date, the work of Claeys knows no mention in the usual French publications about art environments and there are no interpretative discussions of his creations available on the internet.

To my knowledge Sophie Lepetit is the one who recently on her weblog for the first time brought this art environment to the attention of the general public.

Apart from decorating the walls of the property, Claeys has also bee active in making stand alone artworks. He made a variety of drawings, paintings, mosaics, low reliefs and wooden sculptures.

After Claeys died in 2015, his artistic legacy is cared for by his widow Claudine Claeys


Gérard Claeys
Exterior decorated with frescoes
Blennes, region Île-de-France, France
can be see from the street

January 25, 2018

Alexander Dvoretsky, сбор объектов в память о СССР/collection of objects in memory of the USSR

Above picture shows a site, kind of a museum, which could be visited around 2009 in the Russian city of Izhevsk. Meanwhile this café-museum has disappeared. The museum's collection as such still exists, but is ambulatory and the owner is looking for a permanent place.

Life and works

The collection is the life's work of Alexander Dvoretsky, who was born in 1956 in Krasnoyarsk, a large city in Siberia. After his primary education he went to work in a factory that produced worsted yarn. About his other employments nothing is known, as it is also unknown when he went to live in Izhevsk.

Anyhow, in the 1980's something happened that would give an important turn to Dvoretsky's further life. In one way or another he became in possession of an old debt letter, dating from the early years of the Soviet Union, which triggered him in such a way that he began collecting objects that carried the memory of the years of the USSR.

His collection grew and grew, up to currently some 30.000 items. many of small size, but also several of a rather large size, especially a collection of Russian cars from earlier years

Although Dvoretsky was often approached to sell some items, in particular certain cars, he refused to do so, because he wanted to keep the collection together. His dearest wish was to exhibit it in a fixed location.

In may 2009 Dvorestky could realise his dream. Together with his son he began a café, located in a small park in the city and open during the summer months. In the green area around the café he installed his collection. 

The pictures above give some idea of the smaller items in the collection such as clocks, accordions, tape-recorders, decorative items, tv sets, radios, a variety of insignia and pins, football pennants, busts of Lenin, old money, bottles, samovars, plates, cassettes, bags, chairs, suitcases and of course these old cars and motorcycles from earlier years.

Unfortunately, the café-museum soon came to an end. After the first rental period the contract was not renewed and Dvoretsky had to start looking for another location.

However, a new permanent location didn't come available and Dvoretsky and his collection had to move from one place to another. The picture above and the two below were made in 2014, when the site was located on a spot near a cooperative garage along the Volkinskoye Highway in Izhevsk.

The images of the car make it clear that Dvoretsky has a way of presentation which is not focused upon presenting the specific character of each individual item. He rather presents a total image in which the various objects form part of a larger colorful whole, are provided with decorative inscriptions or serve as support for other elements in the presentation.

Below are some more pictures of the decorated car above. They were taken in 2012 during open air festivities on the occasion of the day of the city of Izhevsk.


the installation seen from the side

The pictures show that the red car is part of an installation which apart from other items also includes another car and a motorcycle standing on a roof that in turn is backed up by ten uprights. A car showroom wouldn't present the models in such a way. 

Dvoretsky creative way of dealing with the objects he has collected, combining these in a non-obvious way, adding text signs, transforming some items into an installation, implies that the entire display of the objects can be seen as an art environment.

The search for a permanent place continues

Dvoretsky continues his efforts to get a permanent place for his collection, although the local authorities show little inclination to cooperate. In 2016 he wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, to get his cooperation.

To my knowledge currently Dvoretsky's collection is housed on a small parcel near a forest at the outside of Izhevsk.

It was reported  that Zoya Lebedeva, a well known artist in Russia, is interested in Dvoretsky and his collection. In consultation with her a plan would be considered to situate the collection on a rented plot in the community of Buranovo, some 30 km away from Izhevsk (Buranovo is the hometown of the Buranovskiye Babushki, a folk group that represented Russia in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest). 

Other reports (end 2016) say that Dvoretsky is disappointed about the lack of cooperation of the local authorities and considers to sell the collection. To my knowledge in 2017 and 2018 the internet had no reports about further developments.

* Article (january 2010) on Live Internet by Izhevchanka about the Cafe-Museum
* Article (june 2016) in local newspaper Susanin,news with a large series of pictures (This article reports about Dvoretsky's letter to president Putin)
* Article (november 2016) on the website saying that Dvoretsky, disappointed about the lack of cooperation, is considering to sell his collection
* Video of the Café-Museum by Tatiana Vasilievna (7'15", You Tube, sept 2009)

* Video by UDMTV (1'63", You Tube, January 2016)

* Video by UDMTV (1''56". You Tube, april 2016)

Alexander Dvoretsky
Collection of objects that memorize the USSR 
Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic, Russia
visitors welcome