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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Andrei Kuznetsov lubki (folk prints) - Star Wars as an artist in the time of Peter the Great would see it.

A few years ago I came across Kuznetsov's "faux traditional Russian woodcuts" of scenes from Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, etc. and fell in love with them. They are modern parodies of the Russian folk woodprints called lubki (singular, lubok).

The artist, Andrei Kuznetsov, does not have much of a web presence and doesn't weigh in on the various queries about his work. His website allows free downloads of his images, and they have been published in many places on the internet. I welcome further illumination from anybody, especially about how to buy his work.

So what do these lubki say? I contacted my friend from Yiddish book club, Professor Emeritus Larry Feinberg, specialist in Old Church Slavonic at UNC-Chapel Hill, and he did the translations below. He also said:

The language is actually not Old Church Slavonic, it's Russian of the seventeenth and early 18th century (Petrine Period) - or rather, Kuznetsov's attempt to mimic it. The biggest challenge is getting his puns: for instance *zhoker* in the Harry Potter text (not a word in any kind of Russian) seems a hybrid of *dzhoker* 'joker (in a deck of cards)' and *zhokej* 'jockey'. A lot of the material is off-color, though the point of his innuendos isn't always clear. Is he trying to say, for instance, that Harry is kind of a girly-man, more witch than wizard?

The one above says: "And here you have the Joker/Jockey called Harry Potter. He studies wizardry and attempts to become skilled at flying. As he mounted the broom he also pressed his fingers to [his groin].

Plasticene of the sheep

From a Metafilter thread:
"The title was the artist's pun (in Russian) on the actual movie name. "Lord of the Rings" in Russian reads as "Vlastelin kolets," phonetically similar to "Plastilin ovets" which means "Plasticine of the sheep" ... although "Sheep silly putty" might be a more appropriate, if freer, translation." [The contributor goes on to translate] Above the hobbit, written in traditional fairy tale rhyme: I am a hobbit animal called Frodo, I have a prickly face and my legs are crooked and furry. I have a ring of magical forge, when I put it on I disappear from the view and get quite sick from it.

Above Gollum, per Professor Feinberg: This creature is called Gorlum [sic: K. is punning on Горло 'throat'], a sea idiot with a croaky voice. He catches fish beyond the ice blocks and eats them raw And then suffers from stomach swelling.

Above the cup: To avoid being laid low by illness, drink beer as a chaser (опохмелиться 'pull a hair off the dog that bit you')

Below the cup: I should put on the ring so nobody can see my shame [sram: a euphemism for genitals].

War of the Worlds

"So long as the Martian was healthy he waged a war of the worlds against mankind. Some humans he simply incinerated, sparing only their shirts and trousers, others he pureed into fish broth . He went about the city and caught a nasty disease for which he wasn't treated. He got sick and turned to dust and came crashing to earth."

Beaver, exhale!

References Rastaman Folk Tales 3.1, a collection of short stories by Dmitrii Gaiduk utilizing folklore motifs and based on experiences of people getting high on cannabis. Printed on the laptop case: For adults only


From the movie of the same name. At the top: And here is Monokonda, a hundred cubits long. When he swallows a man he spews him out immediately.

Left: A greedy pharmacist slaughtered his comrades for a flower, and the swamp serpent made a meal of him.

Right: A learned maid took a machete and cut off the aspid's head.


Cheburashka is "a funny little monkey who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. When he wakes, his paws are numb after the long time spent in the crate, and he tumbles down ("cheburakhnulsya") from the table onto the chair and then from the chair, where he could not sit, for the same reason, onto the floor.

Professor Feinberg wrote: "Here is Cheburashka, a Moroccan beast. Speaks a heathen language. Body of a bear [ведмедь is dialectal for медмедь], face of a cat. Captured by women on the Neglina stream."

Crocodile Gena

"Crocodile Gena works as a crocodile in an urban zoo. Every evening he returns home to his lonely flat. Finally, Gena is very tired of playing chess against himself and decided to have friends. Animals and people responded to his advertisements stuck throughout the city. First comes a girl Galya with a homeless puppy, then followed by her, Cheburashka."

The woodcut is titled "Sabantuy," which is a "Bashkir, Tatar and Chuvash peoples' holiday celebrated at present by the remaining peoples of the Volga Region." You can watch a youtube video (the guy plays a cute tune on the accordion) here.

Feinberg: Top: And here is Korkodil [sic] Afrikanych [patronymic]. The alligator-beast, called Genadii, is dressed in German clothes. He never wears pants because his tail would get in the way. The Tatar walks him on a chain.

Bottom: I play the accordion so alluringly that I can use it to get sustenance [here K. seems to be punning on the word пропитание 'sustenance': the root pit- 'nurture, nourish' resembles the root of the verb ???? 'drink' (note the samovar held by the Tatar), although it has a different origin. But Gena probably has more solid nourishment in mind.]

Korobeynik - "The Peddlar"

There is a famous Russian folk song by this name, you can watch it performed on accordion, saw, and spoons here.

Left: "And here for you, local product, strong weed."
Right: "We don't need your heroin, we drink beer and that's how we get happy."
Below: "A joint for five kopecks. For a ruble you can become a total fool."

Farenheit 451 ("War with nonsense #3")

Top: And this is nothing new: nothing but evil comes from the printed word. So as not to tempt the simple folk we have decided to remove all harmful books from circulation and burn them.

Lower left-hand corner (over old woman): holy simplicity
Title of book in her hands: The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food

Title of books in fire: (1) [can't read] (2) Perennial Grasses (3) Mushrooms of the World
Sign on building: Book Store

"To beat means to love"

Top: Here you have a double [Jean Claude] Van Damme. He fell so much in love with himself that he split in two. If by chance he drinks too much vodka he fights with himself.

Right: He does splits and even his balls [муди: whited out] protrude..

"To live to drive"

TOP: And here you have Kharlam Davydov [cf. Harley Davidson], a pot-bellied biker. His beard is like a shovel. He has the niftiest bike (1), with a sidecar [??????? also means 'stroller'], wears a German spiked helmet and leather pants with silver studs.

LEFT: Kharlam is a crack pool player (2). He used parts of a wolf's rear for billiard balls [???????? 'pyramid' also means 'Russian billiards'; ????? is 'animal's tail' and also 'tail end'].

RIGHT: The wolf howls in frustration, Kharlam gives him beer to drink.

Mission Impossible - The Russian title is "Anikeika Lamer"

Annikeika Lamer presses the keys but has no idea what he's doing. He bought a USB data stick [св исток, literally 'whistle'] but doesn't know where to stick it. [Annikii, aka Annikeika, Ivanov was a 17th-c. icon painter; ла мер is contemporary slang for someone who is clueless about computers.]

Star Wars

TOP: And here is Luke Skywalker. He is on a flying saucer (1), and a smart samovar (2) helps propel him along.

LEFT: Luke spent a long time looking for his father, and once he found him, slew him with a fiery sword (3), which brought on grief and sorrow.

CENTER Here I might have had some vodka to ease my grief, but my father cut off my hand. I can't pick up a glass; looks like I'll be living sober from now on.

RIGHT: And here is his friend Chewbacca, something between a monkey and a dog. He speaks no words, but roars and howls. Evil men took him captive and turned him into ice.

[Writing on samovar in lower left-hand corner: R2D2]


UPPER LEFT: I've never washed my leggings, so my feet stick to the ceiling.

LOWER RIGHT: Here I am, the Spider Man. I have an extra pair of hands. From the front I embrace a maid, from behind deftly pour myself some wine. [The placement of the adverb сьзаду 'from behind' is sly: even though it modifies винца себе наливаю 'I pour myself some wine" it stands directly after обънимаю 'I embrace' - notice where Spiderman's right front hand is going.]

The Matrix

UPPER LEFT: And here is Neo, who always looks skyward. He dodged a bullet by bending backward, injuring the back of his head, and he never managed to straighten himself up. When he noticed the two cats he farted through his pantaloons.

UPPER RIGHT: I am Doctor Morpheus, with the face of an Abyssinian Negus. In the back of my head is an iron socket like an oar lock. I walk about hooked up to a telephone.

LOWER LEFT: Brother apothecary, can you give me a pill for reverse curvature of the spine and hemorrhoids?

CENTER: Neo goes about stinking, and Morpheus reproaches him: "You ask me for a pill, you idiot! Don't you want to eat [literally 'bite off'] the bird?" [The Russian equivalent for our 'flip the bird' is пока зать кукиш - дулю; the gesture referred to is quite similar.]

The Terminator - Russian title: "Revolt of the Machines."

TOP: I 'm an odd fellow, a wind-up dummy, called Terminator 2. My head is made of tin. I get drunk on kerosene and ride my bike (1) very fast. I'm very handy with a pistol (2).

LOWER LEFT: I'm three arshins [about 7 ft.] tall. Inside I'm all wheels and springs.

LOWER RIGHT: I landed in a smithy (3) and smashed up my head.

Did this illustration appear in "Gentleman's Quarterly" in 2009?

At the top is a quote from Burt Reynolds: "When an actor marries an actress they both fight for the mirror." (Actually here it says "they begin fighting for the mirror.")

Next, from Truman Capote, a version of: "a fellow loses two IQ points for every year spent in Hollywood."

The next one, by Jack Kerouac: "It's impossible to live in this world, but there isn't anywhere else."

Andrei Timofeevich Kuznetzov was born in 1966. Besides being an artist, he produces animated films.

In 2003 he and Maxim Pokalyov put together more than 200 depictions by various artists of cartoon heroes in parodical and humorous context - it was called "Cheburaki" - this example is titled "Khodiki" (clocks)

Links related to the Andrei Kuznetsov mystery woodcuts
Metafilter thread
Rastamanskie Narodnye Skazki

Kuznetsov's LiveJournal
There are lots of pictures.
Enough With The Pickles Already, Chewbacca
Rollins College has a series of articles on the lubok, written by Alexander Boguslawski including:The Kuznetsov lubki gallery
Another collection of historic lubki at Johns Hopkins


At 1:43 PM, Blogger Craig said...

So my surname, Lubach, is a Germanized spelling of a Russian word? The name appears to have emerged in Saxony and Brandenburg in the 17th century from Upper Lausitz or Lusatia, which straddles what is now the borders of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, so quite possibly Slavic in origin. Both Ireland and the Ukraine have rivers with my name dating back to the middle ages or earlier.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can buy prints from Andrei from you need to speak to Evgeniya Mironova - who speaks English. Well worth it.


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