top of page



The trace you want to leave?

I would like to say to myself that all the projects I have started have indeed come to fruition. But there are so many that its a real disaster in my head! However, all that I have accomplished in Art makes me the happiest man on Earth.


An Epitaph?

Dont be jealous, asshole. »

There are encounters that pop up in your life without warning, magical encounters that mark. My meeting with Anton happened naturally, without artifice, like something obvious, a kind of premeditated meeting. In a week, it will be just a year  that I had contacted him. I did not know then that he lived in France and I still did not know anything about its history, a busy and fertile past to which the following paragraphs  testify. One year only.

The first time I met Anton was at his house. I was confused, I have made a representation of the character totally unfounded, full of prejudices forged while trying to decipher his work: a lustful, hallucinated and eccentric fanatic. Far from there. He approached me slowly. A disturbing calm, sheared by a Russian accent, behind smoked eyeglasses and that flash of genius that some people have, too rare, too precious, in a verbal exaltation, accompanied by that glimmer of madness that characterizes the madness of living and enjoying everything. I was going home. A room saturated with dolls with sinister human figures, multicolored wigs, a pile of handcuffs, empty frames and a whole lot of mismatched charms. Here, no introduction, rounds of legs or introductory sales pitches. The first discomforts are immediately ;erased, the common places left outside. I landed with two sheets of paper and as many bottles of red to begin the interview. Others were already waiting, previously open. An unleashing of enthusiasm then sets in, a devouring passion. A guy who lives. Were not bored. Time passes too quickly.

Anton is and will always be 69 years old, it can;t be invented. Add to the libidinous fellow this year dear to Gainsbourg. Provocative, licentious but not corrupt. Trying to reduce the character to a brief biography would be to take away his very substance, but you have to go through that to try to understand the contours or the ectoplasm. 

Anton Solomoukha was a multidisciplinary artist, member of the Academy of Fine Arts of Ukraine, trained in kyiv. Painting, drawing, collage, photography, any support goes there. Upon his arrival in Paris, he became friends with Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson, two encounters that would influence his involvement in photography. Anton is known for being the inventor of a new genre: “photo painting”, combining photographic imagery with pictorial art. His stagings, “his mental theatre”, are unfathomable shambles, orgiastic entanglements, where the opulence of human forms and characters recalls the great classical masters. But here, the rupture with classicism is assumed, asserted and deliberate, giving way to the paradox of composition, to contemporary art, through an aesthetic provocation of modern laws.

Sublimated by a black background, a sooty background exhuming Caravaggio, his works (“La fille au bilboquet”, “Les sexes des Anges”, “I Fuck Your TV” “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Odalisques”... so many evocative and corrosive titles) are equivocal carnal poems, absolute and deconstructed nonsense, aberrant absurdities shaping this strange amalgam of the kitsch universe and the lacerated baroque. The pose, like the light, tinged with mystery and symbols, is pictorial, the photograph is constructed like a tableau, like a painting. The artist plays with the infinite possibilities of digital composition.


How does a KGB summons work?


Transgression often has an ostentatious side: one also transgresses to get noticed, one breaks a law to be seen and identified as a refractory, even rebellious or dissident element, to situate oneself in relation to a system of values and in relation to a ethics, a set of rules of behavior.

Phone call. Invitation for a meeting in a large hotel in kyiv. An empty hotel room. I wait 10 minutes. Two men arrive. The conversation begins. You feel that we want to fool you. They ask you very easy questions.

- Are you a patriot? No other choice but to answer,

- Sure !

- Do you want to help some organizations that protect the peace and stability of the country? ". And then they tell you “You have to betray your friends, because they are lost. It is to purge society of the rotten”.

Its hard to get it upside down, I lived all my childhood among the sharpest politicians, guys who only lied, and who excelled in this area. I read Oscar Wilde, Nietzsche and they convinced me that someone who can;t lie is a boring, uncreative person. I love creation. The reality is nothing. Everyone is capable of spitting the truth, but inventing a lie is great. For 6 months, they summoned me regularly. One day they give me a tape recorder with reels. I was on a mission to pull the worms out of my friends and record the conversations. Of course, I never resolved to carry out this betrayal. Under the watchful eye of an agent, while I was getting drunk with friends in a café, I deliberately “forgot” the tape recorder on the table. You should know that the KGB in 1977 was not as repressive as in Stalin;s time. Moreover, I was married to a Frenchwoman, that kind of protected me. Following this, I wanted to leave the USSR for France. All my childhood, I read Balzac, Flaubert, Maupassant, Céline, the poems of Apollinaire which I knew by heart in Russian. France was my second homeland. Also, my wife was a native of Guadeloupe. I filed two visa applications for France. My wife was mixed race and I played on that. I accused the administration of being racist. In two weeks, I obtained two visas for one month. So I arrived in Paris in 1978.


Can you “briefly” tell us about your visit to Paris?


In the USSR, there was an anecdote: “the foreign woman is not for love, it is for the visa”. When I explained to a few French students my desire to leave my country, they were all very enthusiastic about the idea of having a sham marriage, of saving a “dissident” artist from repression. My ;white marriage has become a true marriage of love.


I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow with all my complete file in order to validate or not my request, stamp it or not. I arrive early, superb Gothic, Stalinist house, with the star at the top. I wait 5 hours. The person before me comes out of the office crying. The visa was refused to him, like all the people before me. The door opens. A colonel looks me up and down and offers me to come the next day because ;s 7 am, it;s the end of his day. Normally Im obedient and rather docile, but there, I don't know why, I tell him: “Today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday. This is Moscow. I live in Kyiv. I have nowhere to sleep. I have a return ticket tomorrow morning and tomorrow your ministry will be closed”. He asks me where my accent comes from. I answer him: ;From a pretty town in the south, from kyiv. He replies, “Good. Youre still young, you dont understand anything, but you like me. If you want to go to France, fine. But, come to my office, I will tell you my story”. Her story lasted until 7am. I was the last client of his career. He took out the bottle of vodka, the caviar. We got drunk all night and sang Ukrainian songs. That;s how I got my visa.

I go back to kyiv, it;s raining. As I walk in a park, I see a great anti-Soviet of the time, a dissident activist (who became the Minister of Culture when the USSR fell), Ivan Dziuba. I had met him twice before.


As I walk up to him, a KGB guy comes out of nowhere and says, You can go talk to him.; Stressed by the situation, I replied that I did not know him. He asks me to listen to him. I ask him if I have to. He replies: “No, but I know that you received your visa for France today. Your father helped me defend my thesis at university, I want to send the favor back to you. Monday, the KGB will come to arrest you under any pretext. Your visa will be cancelled. We gave it to you, but it is a strategy to trick Unesco, to show them that we are a free society. We issue visas, but strangely people don't “want to leave anymore”. You have two days. Leave right away”. I;m going back to Moscow, this time with my wife. I dont have tickets for Paris... In a canteen, we meet a woman, secretary at the French Embassy:

“Do you want me to hide you at the embassy? I can get you tickets but only in 5 days”. Miracle ! This woman has become a great friend. Thanks to her, I am in Paris in 1978. Two hours later, I pass before the judge of the 9th arrondissement (I was staying rue des Martyrs). She tells me that she has nothing against me, but before giving me the paper authorizing the application for nationality, I have to go to the DST (Direction de la Surveillance du territoire). Supported by a translator friend, I enter the administration. They give me a survey to fill out. I am exhausted. I am then asked if I have relations with communists. I tell them, I;m not going to fill that in! Its as if I came from China and you asked me if I had relations with Chinese people! ;. The situation relaxes. My arrival is a series of miracles! I move from a black and white world to a color world. It is too beautiful. But beauty is fragile and I don;t yet believe that this miracle can last.


You rubbed shoulders with Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson. In which circumstances ?


To replace his very ill chief of staff, Jacques Chirac, at the time mayor of Paris, wanted to replace him with a person "who knew the capital like the back of his hand". One of his relatives comes out as a joke: “The fire chief! ". The next day, my friend Jean-Eudes Rabut (socialist), fire chief, becomes the chief of staff of the mayor of Paris. He is married to a very close friend with whom I exhibit. At that time, I exhibited series of large paintings all over the world, from Paris to New York. It was during one of my exhibitions at the Orangeries de Bagatelle that I met Jacques Chirac. He asks me one day: “What is Ukrainian, is it a little bit Russian?”. To which I reply: “And Italy, is it a bit like France? ". (At this very moment, the USSR fell, and the town hall of kyiv, suddenly set up from scratch, wanted to exist on the international scene. The mayor then asked me to make the link with the town hall of Paris.

I was therefore invited to the salons of the town hall of Paris, in the years 1988/89, where meetings with the artists were held every Thursday and Friday. One evening, Jacques Chirac warmly welcomes me in an apron, while opening oysters.

He asks me to sit next to a guy with a cap, a cigarette butt stuck to his gums, boozing. I'm disappointed. There are plenty of girls, why put me next to this guy. I then ask him who this man is:

- This is Robert Doisneau

- Ah okay, okay, fine, I'm going! (I ask this photography genius to excuse my French. We talk about the principles of visual composition. We arrive at the “Baiser”. He confides to me:

“Oh the kiss! This is the torture of my life. The assholes, they always sue me. And who are you? What is this accent? ".

He had the same voice as Edith Piaf, nasal but adorable. Behind his apparent bad mood, there was someone caring and caring. We shared this bourgeois, classical upbringing. We saw each other regularly thereafter.

I last saw it at the exit of Picto. We spoke for barely two minutes. And he, who has never addressed me formally, told me “Beware of overwork”. He died two months later.

One day, a friend invites me to go see a drawing exhibition. As usual, between artists, we begin to analyze the works. At that time, I did not yet fully master French, especially to have an advanced technical conversation on drawing. A man next to us, looking like an aristocrat, scans us with his piercing eye. He suddenly asks me if I'm a designer. I answer him "modestly" that I am the second best designer in the world! I then suggested that he take part in the drawing sessions of nude models, which we regularly did with painter friends, in my studio in Bastille. For 6 months, we exchanged our ideas on drawing, on the different schools, eras and masters. This man was Cartier-Bresson.


Your projects ?


I am eternally dissatisfied with the means of visual language. In my opinion, the female body offers the greatest palette of image creation. We can say anything with poetry, it's quite a challenge.  Maybe one day I will venture to realize my dream, an autobiographical and paradoxical photo novel.



What is photo-painting for you?


Originally I am a painter. In Soviet Ukraine, where I grew up, all Fine Arts students were required to receive academic training in drawing, painting, and then composition. Since 2005, all my projects consist in deliberately constructing series of composite photo-images. Each photo is built from multiple independent elements that I voluntarily unite in order to define a scenic composition. This approach is probably comparable to Neo-happenings (collective improvisations very fashionable in the 1960s).


When we read that you are the creator of the photo-painting, what do you think?


I started from this postulate “It's not art that copies nature, it's nature that copies art” (O.Wilde). (I seek a universe, sometimes structured and mechanical, sometimes overloaded and organic (no choice is innocent) - these are the contradictory patterns of my mental theatre.  Ideas materialize, they crystallize in a sum of tensions, adequate to the initial idea.(My digitized phantasmagoria are more of a baroque allegory (almost polytheistic), which projects a vision of a deceptive subjectivism, eminently pictorialist.

Often I dream of Allegory. This antithesis of art, this “aesthetic aberration”, is constantly accused of venturing into the forbidden zone: contemporary art.

It appeared as a response to a feeling of despair opposing aesthetics, philosophy, morals and even traditional mystical currents. In fact, the Allegory represents the space between the present and an irrevocable past, a mirror inquiry into the modern fascination for mythical subjects... An attitude neither frivolous nor stupid.


How did you become an academic?


My father worked in the secretariat of Khrushchev (at that time first secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine). From time to time, the whole clique would gather in our apartment to fill their stomachs. During a well-watered dinner, the family legend has it that when asked by Kroutchev “Anton, what job do you want to do later? », I answered with the naivety of my 5 years « I want to be an angler ». Kroutchev then threw this sentence at me: “In truth there are two noble titles: the marshal and the academician. The rest is crap." With age, angling has disappointed me. So in 2009 I gave in to the insistent proposals of my academic friends to join their ranks. It was then necessary to obtain 75% of the votes, I obtained 100% (They were probably badly awake).


The nude was not a problem for them?


Not really. In the Ukraine of 2009, some transgressive projects were rather welcome because the real issue was rather to sweep away the legacy of the USSR. The Soviet artistic school was well constructed but too academic and opaque. It stood in opposition to contemporary research. Because in Europe, for decades, the practice of art has been dominated by certain key ideas, such as freedom of expression or the primacy of form. This period, which is associated with neo-post-modernity, will open a new era of bursting of forms and schools of thought all over the world, as in Ukraine. If there is no passion for contemporary art, it may be that there is no need to be passionate about it. We get a lot more excited when we talk about Houellebecq, Jeff Koons or the latest Lars Von Trier... What if that was contemporary art? And then art is also medicine, carpentry and pastry. I hope that the desire for derision will extend to many aspects of artistic creation, sparing neither the prejudices nor the tastes of the public.


How does the son of a Soviet apparatchik become a provocative contemporary artist?


At 6 years old, by the greatest of luck, I received the silver medal for the best drawing in the world in Tokyo. My indifference to this distinction changed completely, when a friend of my father's exclaimed, “Now maths, physics and chemistry, in the trash! Anton is going to be a painter”. This idea immediately captivated me. Then, when I was 7 years old, I learned that all the sentences spoken or written were limited to only the indicative, interrogative or exclamatory modes. This disappointed me terribly. My possible career as a writer was in jeopardy. Painting offered me a greater openness.


In some projects, you claim to be a “pornographer”, what does that mean?


Obsessed with my work, I insist on technical virtuosity, my mysterious and perverse imagination, and the expressiveness of pictorial materials. The word pornography was coined in the Age of Enlightenment and can be defined as: "A complacent representation - of a sexual nature - of obscene subjects, details, in an artistic, literary or cinematographic work". It then referred more specifically to studies on prostitution. In my view, the real pornography (in the Enlightenment sense) is the highly touted posters of presidential candidates displayed on walls and billboards. Concerning the presentation of naked bodies, I can bet 1000 against 1 that on the paintings of the Louvre, there is not a single bra, nor a single underpants/panties. My photographic images are syntheses of my meditative vision, simulacra of reality. Thus, everything that is not necessary, because it is harmful and/or perverse, is necessary precisely through a dichotomy - welcome and desirable. If art provokes destructive passions, it is almost always because of political or religious opposition, puritanism or intolerance. Never finally for its content. He is taken as a scapegoat, he symbolizes the enemy to be destroyed.


Disputant then?


Contesting in art means abolishing taboos, prejudices or traditional visions of times gone by. (My "staging" concentrates on a few square centimeters the commentary on the relationship between the body and evil, Art and evil. I seek the formula of iconography of intense beauty. By provocation I speak of pornography, but I think more about the idea of transgression than about the idea evoked by this kind of images. Each artist seeks his own language, his symbols to express himself. Me the language with which I express myself the best is the female body. I think you can say anything with a woman's body, it's a universal language. In addition, all my models have an angelic substance, which adds to my works divine lighting. Joel Peter Witkin once said: "I shocked him, that means the picture was good. Art must open your eyes and to open your eyes you have to clap your fingers, otherwise people stay blind.”


Some photos were taken in Chernobyl, any anecdote about this shoot?!


Chernobyl was, and remains for me, like an abandoned and betrayed territory. I went to this cursed place to transgress, to cross the ethical or moral Rubicon, not to respect a law, not to conform to rules taken for granted, integrated and accepted by all, to cross a limit, a forbidden line, the most often knowingly, by questioning in a virulent and sometimes ironic way, the rule or rules that are thus ostensibly flouted. Like an automaton, I took hundreds of photos where almost no one had set foot for 22 years. Suddenly, I realized that I was alone, that the two technicians who accompanied me, after drinking five bottles of vodka, had disappeared. I felt a deep sense of emptiness, almost an absence of will to live. The sun was setting, animals and birds were starting to make noises, nature became very sad. I climbed onto the roof of a building while waiting for the bus that had brought us. As night almost fell, I suddenly saw its headlights. They had been looking for me for hours. The poor, they were more desperate than me!

- Find the continuation of Anton Solomoukha dansNormal Magazine No. 5 -

bottom of page