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Black and white painting of man at bar
Black and white painting of man at bar

From the Two Suns series, 2020, by Sanya Kantarovsky

Surreal, strongly coloured, and imaginatively titled, the figurative paintings of Russian-born, New York-based artist Sanya Kantarovsky appear as visual translations of the common urbanites depicted in Nikolai Gogol’s short stories.

Born in Moscow in 1982, Kantarovsky moved to the US as a child together with his family. His love for art began early. “No one in my family remembers me not drawing and painting,” he told The Calvert Journal. After graduating the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, and receiving his MFA at the University of California, his career took off in 2010, with his debut at the Marc Foxx gallery in Los Angeles.

Drawing on surrealism and post-impressionism, as well as a wide range of influences including children’s cartoons, folk illustrations, and the Soviet satire magazine Krokodil, Kantarovsky depicts difficult power dynamics between lovers, noblemen and servants, or mothers and their clinging children. Elsewhere, he is drawn to angsty depictions of white collar workers. “I am drawn to simultaneity as a value,” the artist explains. “That can manifest in a variety of ways, but the cognitive dissonance involved in negotiating simultaneous truths is something I find productive and worthwhile. Perhaps the main simultaneity — the inherent truth in lived experience — is that of cruelty and love, violence and beauty.”

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