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A Russian in Robertson

An artist needn’t tell a tall story with his art, although he can use his art as a form of expression or to poke fun at the status quo.

Alexander (Sasha) Lochenkov is a larger-than-life type of character. Sit down with him for five minutes and he will leave a lasting impression on your memory.

The Russian painter recently painted a mural, similar to the Renaissance one by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, in the DR church in Robertson East. “I added my own twist to the mural by removing the halos from the people in the boat,” he says.

Lochenkov speaks English with a heavy Russian accent, and knows some Afrikaans, especially idioms such as “Die koeël is deur die kerk”.

Born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), Russia in 1957, he fell in love with Africa and South Africa when he read books about the Boer War at a young age. In 1990, Lochenkov emigrated to South Africa, where he started his journey as an art restorer in Cape Town.

“I arrived in Cape Town, and I couldn’t speak a word of English, I only knew Russian and French,” he related. “I sat in a restaurant at the V&A Waterfront, where I started to draw people on the back of an old calendar and sold these.”

Lochenkov now resides in Robertson with his wife, Lynette.

“In a place like Robertson people buy art to use as a decorative piece,” she points out. “We open our doors onto nature, and that is art. But in Europe people live in small houses, and a big painting is something that creates a door for them into something new, into a new world. That is why Sasha’s paintings are so big.”

“I have a strict schedule that I follow every day,” the painter said. “I get up to train and then I make time to paint. After painting I relax. I am not like one of those artists that paint when inspiration strikes.”

He is described as a hyper manneristic artist. “In all of his paintings you will notice a certain mannerism that stands out,” says his wife. “Sometimes some of the arms are longer and sometimes the eyes are big. It depends on what he wants to depict in the painting.”

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