This work is dedicated to John Lennon, the main character of the painting who sits oh the mosaic floor of ” Strawberry Fields” in Central Park, New York. The woman figure is not Yoko Ono, but a symbol of music, incredible and full of surprise, like the silent violin she plays. Strawberries are all around Lennon’s figure, even his hat, which is a juicer with a clock mechanism. Perhaps, for Lennon, the Strawberry image was a symbol of love and, probably juice from these berries fed his creativity as the God’s nectar.
From the Cheshire-cat-like grin of John Lennon in Michael Cheval’s Imagine, to the reminiscing of a youth’s ‘first taste of a young girl’s lips’, it’s easy to understand why this painter is the self-professed Pioneer of Absurdology in the visual arts. Peering into each masterpiece draws one in to search for the mysterious and compelling comparative analogies Cheval waves into each one.
“Surrealism and Absurdism are different styles, though, at first glance, look alike”, explained Cheval. “The main difference is that surrealism is the subconscious world of the artist, which does not require an explanation, whereas the absurdity is the conscious world, where the artist deliberately turns everything upside down. Absurdism in an invitation to talk”.
The Backstory of Cheval
Cheval was bor in 1966 in Kotelnikovo, a small town in southern Russia, where he spent 14 years of his life before moving with his family to Altenburg in East Germany. He was the first nephew, grandson and son of his family. Now he resides in New Jersey and operates Cheval Fine Art with his wife Beatrice. His family was very artistic. His grandfather was a sculptor and painter. Grandmother wrote poems for children. Everyone knew how to draw. Everyone sang, played musical instruments, and loved music. Therefore, to draw for him was as natural as for today’s children to play with Legos. Cheval’s father was an officer in the Soviet Army, and in Germany they lived on an air force base. He traveled the country far around wide and his adventures would one day influence his iconic artistic style.
The concept not “Absurd” came later. His art education was academic- portrait, landscape, still life. But after he saw works of Dali, he realized that this is the style in which he wanted to work. His inner world, his fantasies coincide with the ideas of surrealism. At first his paintings were very similar to Dali’s paintings. Over the years his style began to develop. And literature helped him, in particular his favorite authors, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. In fact already in the USA he started to call his style ‘absurdity’.
Artist who inspired Cheval: Salvator Dali and Rene Magritte. And he was always fascinated by Velazuez, Vermeer, There Borch, Brueghel and others.
Cheval says one of the greatest joys he experiences in creating art is starting a “game” with the viewer, where they must solve the riddle of the painting’s hidden meaning. The titles serve as clues, but the rest is left up to the viewer to decipher.
This painting encapsulates the Absurdist style of Cheval, and begs the question of what it means. What is the lovely maiden hunting? An excerpt from his explanation sheds light on the juxtaposition of a crossbow that doubles as a lute:
“Love – is not just roses, sighing in the moonlight and gentle words. Love – is a real war. A man and a woman hunt for each other. And someone in the war wins and someone loses. It is very important that a loser doesn’t realize that he had lost. On this hunt, as in a war, all expedients are good. To hunt down, and gently entice a win. This lady-hunter has a beautiful weapon. Delicate lute imperceptibly turns into the [crossbow]. Rabbits popping out of her satin skirt – it is what she is complete – they symbolize her desire.”
This artwork, depicting Mozart with a companion, can work if it is right-side up or upside down. Like his other works, Cheval notes that nothing is by accident in his art, including the topsy-turvy design. He even encourages collectors to see if they prefer this work upside down:
“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart served as an inspiration for this painting. Like many other creators, he always sensed misunderstanding from people, even those close to him. Creator and solitude are kindred concepts. Creator always lives in another dimension. Hard to decide whose dimension is right. Mozart, sitting on the floor, or his companion, seated on the ceiling? Try to turn the painting upside-down and now she will be seated by the piano on the floor, and he – on the ceiling. Whatever feels closer. Whichever one likes.”
As the title suggests, Cheval draws upon the theory of evolution for this artwork. The imagery is reminiscent of illustrations depicting the evolution of humans, but Cheval’s themes go beyond science:
“According to Darwin’s theory, everything evolves from primitive to complex. Actually everything in our life is a subject to this law. Social and personal relationships grow and develop complication. More developed systems control a primitive one. This can be illustrated by the example of the puppet theater, where a human controls a beautiful doll with a porcelain head, which in turn controls a wooden doll, and it manages a rag doll, which resembles a man. Doesn’t it look the same in our society?”
Inspiration can strike at any time, but what is the nature of inspiration? Cheval invites viewers to ponder such questions by drawing upon mythology to examine inspiration and creativity:
“What is Inspiration? How does it look, this delicate and elusive feeling, when you desire to create? The ancient Greeks gave to each of arts a separate Muse. But, nevertheless, it does not explain the nature of creativity. In this painting – the green table lamp turns to a female figure. Light bulb turns into glowing balls symbolizing the energy of creativity. The writer left his desk and typewriter, he was tired and went to sleep. But most likely, he left something unfinished because the inspiration remains in his room, expecting that the writer will come back and finish the chapter. Do not leave for tomorrow what you could do today!”
Cheval’s canvases represent an unreal world, absurd and, at the same time, quiet and reassuring; Nothing that disturbs the consciences or transmits restlessness, only pure, visionary, beauty … He is definitely one of my favorites modern artist ever.