I came across Vladimir’s work online not too long ago, and immediately wanted to connect and feature him. For me, his work is what I equate with a “play on words,” though he explains it much more eloquently. Enjoy!
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
I grew up in a family with high cultural values. At the time of my childhood, Russia was still behind an iron curtain and the only way to see exotic and unusual places was by traveling in my own imagination. Books that provoked such imagination were always on my family bookshelves. I grew exotic plants from seeds and cuttings only to travel with them to their native countries.
I attended an art school when I was 7, and was very lucky with my first art teacher who did not suppress imagination, and allowed certain freedom in his student’s creative flow. His stories about the greatest artists told while we were painting, left a deep impact in my memory. When I was 12, my father and I stood in a mile long line of people to see the "underground" exhibition of younger and progressive artists in Moscow, which was in many ways a fresh wind amidst the stagnation of socialist realism. No doubt it influenced me greatly on the course of my art and overall thinking.
I started to draw and paint when I was 3 years old (differently than other kids), and I liked to sit on my father's lap, interactively drawing and coloring after him: here is the man walking with the stick, over there is a car passing by....
My relatives said that the artistic gene was inherited from my father's line: my great grandma had attended the art academy...
After 10 years at the art school, I entered the Moscow school of Art and Design, but was conscripted to Russian army after the first year. During the 2-year stint in Russian army, I was mostly employed by my commander to paint large paintings for various purposes. Some of them were patriotic scenes and some allowed certain artistic freedom. The spirit of freedom was in the air, and I included some fantastic elements into the military scenes. In one of the large paintings, I placed a military antenna and other equipment onto an iceberg. It looked very romantic and the commanders liked it. In any case, it was an excellent training and everyday exercise of my artistic skills.
In art school, I became acquainted with the works of great artists of the Renaissance, famous Impressionists, and Modern artists. Here, I was fortunate to have teachers who did not attempt to squeeze me into the “Procrustean Bed” of academism, but rather, encouraged freedom of creativity. It was a time of a new generation not influenced by the rigorous spirit of orthodox Russian realism. The process of a new understanding of aesthetics was underway in Russia and the West, freeing artists from the labels: realist and idealist. I got a supply of inexhaustible inspiration for my early works and painted my first surrealistic picture.
Many connect surrealism with Salvador Dali. Most of Dali’s work was expressed in distortion, created in a time of wars, crisis and nuclear threat that imposed a “troubling sheen” and gloomy character on the surrealist movement.
In contrast, for the first time in art history, I have introduced a fresh, positive side of surrealism, expressed in an unexpected and original form that is in deep harmony with nature. Instead of distortion, common to surrealism, my work reveals hidden or internal similarities of realistic objects “unusually” connected. In other words, I attire the romantic side with the surrealistic overview of the world.
This difference between “traditional” surrealism and my style, “Metaphorical Realism,” is significant. My style implies the possibility of truthful depiction of the material world and combines with it my own vision of cultural world traditions and mythology.
What inspires you most?
To reflect the world in the mirror of the metaphor — this is my goal. Metaphor does not only belong to linguistic communication, but can also be found in our daily life. Metaphor is the means of communication that we live by. First of all, the metaphor is aimed at the viewer's feelings and subconscious. It gives full rein to imagination, as it is the imagination that creates the connections between two seemingly different things. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge has its limitations, while imagination has no limits.” ~Albert Einstein
Metaphor leaves the mind open to grasp onto the hidden likeness of things and events. And the more distant these things are, the greater the effect. The unexpectedness of the connection and sudden insight, which takes your breath away, is the true measure of the painting's value. Different from art that leaves us in speechless admiration (realism), or suggests we solve a puzzle made of symbols (abstract art), metaphorical art challenges our subconscious with the symbolism of artifacts. Any metaphor has its own story to tell. Metaphor “sees” through centuries, unveiling the images of the world and connecting notions created by civilization. At the same time, metaphor can easily reflect the complexities of our modern life, with its ambiguity and contradictions. My mission is to find a metaphorical “parallel” for every side of real life. The element of unexpectedness will shake up the viewer and awaken his artistic nature.
I believe that the viewer’s insight comes at once. It is not about discovering something new. This concept is similar to that of Plato, who believed there is an ideal world, a “cave” that human souls once dwelled in. The “cave” retained their core ideas of things after they left. Therefore, the insight that comes when viewing art is a recollection of that. My role is to stimulate this subconscious process of remembering through my art.
Is there a Creative, past or present, that you would give just about anything to work with? Who, and why?
Not to work with but … just a few artists’ names of the past that I admire:
1. Hieronymus Bosch for his fantastic imagery and Breigel for his refined drawings and etchings.
2. El Greco for his alien looking streamline people who seem to come from another world.
3. Caspar David Freidrich for showing a place of a human being amidst the grandeur of Nature.
4. Ingres for its refined design and exquisite line lacking in impressionist paintings.
5. Russian art of the 1920-1930 for its innovative ideas.
6. Dali, Magritte, DeChirico, and finally our contemporary genius artist Claude Verlinde, who I consider a source of inspiration.
In regards of literature: As a child I was brought up on classical literature. I am still as interested in modern literature, which reflects the calamities of our time. Since teenage years, I loved to read Vladimir Nabokov (bi- lingual writer) for his sharp and artistic descriptions and language. Alber Camut ("Stranger"), Zuskind' ""Parfumer" and, nowadays, Bernard Werber are the great examples of the literature of spirit and intellect. I consider Josif Brodsky one of the greatest poets of our time for his use of metaphors (poetry is metaphorical by definition) and sometimes I discover some new authors for myself like I discovered Ian McEwan (“Amsterdam", "Solar")
As far as an admiration goes, I admire scientists and writers more than the artists. If the writer creates a new world, the scientist explores it; most of the artists in the modern times are no more than craftsmen.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
Art for me is like the everyday run, every morning cup of coffee, a torture and pleasure, hard work and an addiction. In modern times, art is not playing an important role in the society as it did in past centuries, therefore it mostly went into stagnation. There is a certain call for revival though... Most people use metaphor in everyday language and by transferring the metaphorical thinking to the world of visual imagery, there remains the hope for the revival.
The symbols in my art are related to World mythology and history, and therefore are universal for most people. For example, the broken egg and the yolk coming out as a sun symbolizes the birth of the world according to ancient Indians, Chinese, and even in Polynesia there was a similar myth.
My job is to re-construct the myth in accordance with the "curvature of my fantasy spine," using the language of metaphor. Speaking metaphorically, I break a myth with the hammer of irony, and reassemble it again in my own laboratory, but in accordance with the creator's draft.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
Yes, it happens, and it differs how I treat the block. Sometimes it helps to back off, but often, I plow through it.
Famous mathematician Gauss was asked if his theorems are created due to inspiration. He answered, "Due to the methodical and planned efforts."
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
The sculptures allow me to add one more dimension to the existing ideas when it comes to the form. It is proven now that metaphors can exist not only in the form of words, but also 2-dimensional paintings, and 3-dimensional sculptures and jewelry.
Do you have any rituals that help to set your creative time and/or space?
A cup of espresso in the morning, jogging or swimming in the daytime, and Internet at night. Besides all that I need good quality natural hair brushes, and northern exposure light or mercury artificial lighting to get my job done.
Where can we find your art?
I have my own galleries where my work is displayed permanently turning into one continuous one-man show, split in 4 locations, Laguna Beach, California; Lahaina, Hawaii; and 2 in Las Vegas, NV at the Forum Shops at Caesars and Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.
You can also visit my website at www.vladimirkush.com
Twitter Page https://twitter.com/vladimir_kush