Vladimir Kush Talks

Art & Culture

Meet Vladimir Kush, the worlds greatest Metaphorical Realist and one of the heavyweights exhibiting 9th – 10th May at Illustrated 2015.

Internationally recognised for his contribution to surrealism he’s exhibited all over the world and also has a Wikipedia page! Many consider him to have created some of the most fascinating and imaginative hand-crafted visual narratives of our time, we grabbed a few minutes of his time;

Your work often makes deep connections to the wilderness, how does your evident appreciation for nature influence you and your practice?

Actually more often than not nature doesn’t have a direct impact, the starting point of each piece comes as a complete vision, a premonition via my imagination, its only later connections to nature are realised. I like to compare this process to that of the Australian aborigines who drew an image of their prey in the sand & attacked it before the hunt. This symbolism plays a great role in establishing the correct mindset to actually realise a vision.

Has your service in the Russian military, although only brief, had a lasting impact on you and your style?

I went into the Soviet military after one year at the Art Institute. During my military service the official Soviet doctrine of Realism imposed upon us at school was lifted – I had lots of free time and access to art materials.  Surprisingly it was during my time in the military when I began to expand my artistic vision and experiment with the unknown. The Russian army (at that time) was the epitome of Soviet isolation, this only helped focus my creativity.

Do you think it’s difficult for today’s surrealist painters to emulate the huge successes achieved by the likes of Salvador Dali & Max Ernst?  Do you feel pressure to differentiate and bring something new to the genre?

I don’t feel pressure due to the fact that I have my own path, “Metaphorical Realism” realistic in expression and metaphorical in concept, this alone sets me apart from the classic Surrealists like Dali or Max Ernst.  I first saw the scope of Dali’s works when I was about 23 and really into exploring and experimenting with the world of imagination. Surrealists like Dali and Magritte were great inspirations later, but in my earlier years it was the German Romanticists, French Impressionists, and the innovative art of the 1920’s that influenced me.

Much of the narrative seen in your works champions adventure – this appears to be a common theme throughout.  To what extent do your pieces reflect upon your personal desires to explore? 

Absolutely.  A metaphor itself is a connection of seemingly distant things implying exploration and discovery. As a child in Russia, behind the iron curtain, I dreamt of traveling to the edge of the world.  The isolation only made it more desirable.  Among my works, “Departure of the Winged Ship” (pictured) stands out as an example of this ambition. It’s known that butterflies rest on the masts and rigging of ships while crossing the Mexican Gulf, but by fusing the image of the butterfly and the sailing ship in this piece, the two become connected by common qualities: the butterflies’ freedom of flight and the ship as a symbol of the journey.

The painting “Departure of the Winged Ship” is possibly one of your most iconic works, how do you ensure new pieces improve upon the brilliance of your previous creations?

Artistic hits cannot be commissioned or ordered, I can only continue to explore the ocean floor in search of pearls, if I find one I’ll have a look around, there may be more nearby… As one poet said, “If you only knew what trash the flowers grow from!

What’s next in the pipeline?

To continue expanding forms of expression, my sculpture and jewelry line as well as my fairy tales allow me to do this.

See Vladimir at Illustrated 2015 on 9th and 10th May, limited tickets available here.