Art’s a difficult thing to make a living out of. Difficult to get noticed, difficult to get a name in, difficult to stand out – especially if you’re living in some garage with barely enough money to eat. It appears Vladimir Kush knows this particularly. A Russian born surrealist, shoved through military service and out into the world after graduating with qualifications in fine arts. Yet he now has four galleries in the US, has had overwhelmingly successful shows in Hong Kong, and has plans to open more specialising in his beautifully surreal paintings.
His work seems transcendent. I know that can be an easy word to throw around but his genuinely do. They often take the form of great landscapes, with surrealist tones on a huge scale – conveying a wondrous sense of scale to the quirks and divine, super-human elements that form his art. Take ‘Departure of The Winged Ship’ for example. It shows a great galleon leaving out into the bright sky and sea, with its enormous sails formed instead from the great wings of butterflies – the clouds too, grand in size and stature. It’s a piece that I find exhibits the background as much as the foreground, I spent as much time gazing into the rolling clouds as I did the evidently surreal butterfly sails. I always found this in Dali too, that the background of a surrealist piece can make as much a jewel as the focal point as well – the environment of the art seems as important and as effective in rendering a viewer as anything else. Much like the piece ‘Arrival of The Flowered Ship’ which shows a bright white vessel boarding into a harbour made of ice, with delicate pink blossoms as its sails underneath the same gorgeous clouds. This, much like the other piece, feels a joy to watch; it’s as if the waves are in motion, the butterflies and the flowers moving in time to some unseen breeze. In this to we see human figures floating on petals to great the pale ship. The scene seems to move purely due to the vibrancy of colour, on top of the simplistic yet rewarding imagination of its content.
I found it curious as well, that his human figures are always non-descriptive. They look positively human but only in physical form, lacking faces and clothing. His art puts the focus on the grander scale of the image. Yet somehow this seems to render the human figures just as vital in the exposition. It’s like panning out to highlight how small we are, and yet how lucky we can be to exist in a world so largely varied – especially the fictional view of Kush’s world. The people, and the nature of these humans seems ethereal, which I think can be hard to achieve with a form we’re so familiar with as people. The focus is pulled back from them, and therefore we associate with them more; indeed ironically, we focus on them more. Kush has a distinct skill of setting a subtly small form against a huge expanse of surrealist motivation which for me, highlights the role of the imaginer in the imagined – that there must always be a source from which a gap in reality originates, a mind from which a flowered ship was birthed.
Other paintings of his utilise this in a similar way, breathing a tone of divinity into his strange scenes, or even a glimpse of metamorphosis. In some ways the are physical, and in others they feel like an out of body experience. Take for instance ‘Walnut of Eden’ which shows an open walnut on the backdrop of a Pangaea-esque landscape, it’s inner working the shape of two humans embracing in a birthing position. There’s definite reference to classical tales of genesis here, but even with that knowledge of context, the piece conveys the same biological and spiritual transformation in its process. Once more, your focus as a viewer ebbs slowly outwards, starting with the humans, going out to the tree they hang from and eventually to the sweeping landscape behind them, drenched by an invisible sun. The pure beauty of his colour scheme seems to constantly keep your senses in touch with the painting, as if viewing his work s a process – the way I saw his art seemed to mirror many of the processes occurring in his images, seeming to move according to my own perception of them, and i suspect it would be the same for many others. Although not all his work has to be viewed with the same sense of artistic grandeur – for it’s the simplicity of his imagination that first interested me in his work. It reminded me of the original surrealist mantra of fusing two things together to create a new image (probably most famously Dali’s Lobster Telephone.) His piece ‘African Sonata’ uses the same awesomely spectacular landscape, on which to place giant elephants with Tubas for heads. It fuses the contextual connotations of Africa as a pace of birth and rebirth, in spiritual and physical forms but also it re-awakens a simple curiosity and playfulness in us as a viewer.
Both suit his style wonderfully, his deep textures and warm tones always creating an image, that in it’s initial layer, captivates. Below that layer there always seems to be movement. The magic and the purity of his images always seem dream-like, and for that I admire his take on a lighter form of surrealism. I you get the chance to visit one of his galleries I really would, his work lasts in your mind and urges you to think beyond your own body and your own environment.