Aske - Design Bureau



Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

The artist in question is known as Aske (pronounced as-KEH), a name he chose for himself because of its unique typographical appeal. “I’d been thinking about what name to choose for quite a long time before picking up this one. I liked the combination of letters and their shapes,” he explains. “Since graffiti is all about letters and writing your name, I started experimenting with letterforms as soon as I got involved in graf.”

Since the days of scrawling this moniker on scraps, Aske has emerged as an international graphic and graffiti artist. Born the son of a classically trained type designer, Aske came of age during the heyday of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, whereby Russians were granted personal and civil liberties never before seen in the USSR. Since then, he has developed and matured as an artist, just as Russia has seen increasingly exclusivist and restrictive policies enacted by Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. While Aske speaks freely and eloquently about the ins-and-outs of Russian history and politics, chatting with him quickly reveals that he’s more concerned with the politics of the Russian art community than he is with the politics of governance.

In Russia, there was a long ‘break’ due to Soviet times, so today our visual culture is far behind Europe and the US.

Even with unprecedented interest and institutional support for Russian contemporary art—due in part to the increasingly visible 21st century Russian oligarchy and to high-profile projects like Dasha Zhukova’s Moscow gallery, The Garage CCC—graphic design and illustration are largely excluded from the existing art establishment. “Visual arts and culture have been developing in the West constantly over a [long] period of time. In Russia, there was a long ‘break’ due to Soviet times, so today our visual culture is far behind Europe and the US,” says Aske. “You can’t compare a German or American car with a Russian car, because it’s worse in all respects. The same applies if you compare the average works of Russian illustrators or designers with that of their Western counterparts.”

Although Aske will somewhat disdainfully tell you that today’s Russian graffiti scene is limited in both size and scope, he reminisces of the time when the scene was even smaller, with the graffiti more original and distinguishable by a uniquely Russian style. “There are only a dozen really talented graffiti writers; the majority, unfortunately, just imitate their foreign counterparts.” He and his friends were part of the Moscow graffiti community during its infancy, experimenting with English and Cyrillic letterforms and typography, playing with form through volume and space, and making names for themselves in the process.

Recently, Aske has moved from graffiti into the realm of graphic design and illustration, where he again finds himself blazing a trail. His style is distinct and original, undeniably influenced by his background in graffiti arts, and his designs are clean and succinct without appearing simple. “Graphic design [in Russia] is mostly used in advertisements, product packaging, or the service sector,” he says. “During the Soviet period, all the services were state-owned; nobody needed graphic design.” Though Aske has faith that Russians will learn to appreciate graphic design and illustration as a genuine art form with time and exposure.

Today, Aske’s name—and that of Sicksystems, his company and personal art platform—can be found incorporated into graphics he’s designed for Nike and Adidas, painted onto a 20-foot concrete wall in a graffiti hall of fame in Minsk, Belarus, and screened onto vinyl shoulder bags produced by Incredible Factory in Moscow. His designs have also been included in Computer Arts Magazine and he was recognized by Print magazine as one of their best New Visual Artists in 2009.

With his diverse works and building portfolio, it’s hard to say what the future holds for Aske, but whatever it is, it looks bright. He might just have it all figured out, saying, “The most important thing for me right now is to go forward and enjoy what I do.”

Aske lists his top 5 places not to miss while in Moscow:

1. Moscow State University on Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills): This is a magnificent edifice with a fascinating view of the whole city.

2. Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge (Greater Stone Bridge): A steel arch bridge, and one of the best places to enjoy a spectacular view of the Kremlin and the Moskva River.

3. Kamergersky Lane: A short pedestrian side street just off Tverskaya Street (the main street of Moscow). This is where the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre is located along with lots of cafes, small restaurants, and bookshops.

4. Krymsky Bridge (Crimean Bridge): A suspension bridge in the central part of the city. It’s pretty unique for Moscow.

5. Polytechnical Museum: The largest technical museum in Russia. Founded in 1872, it exhibits a large number of historical inventions and technological achievements from different scientific fields.

Ellen Knuti is a writer and photographer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Find more of her work at

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