Answering the Absurd: 10 Questions with Artist Michael Cheval
Absurdity can be used in many ways, from making people laugh to revealing new perspectives on old ideas. For Michael Cheval, absurdity is his invitation to be creative.
Inspired by the Surrealist movement and the literary works of Lewis Carroll, Cheval turns reality and logic on its head in his Absurdist art. His use of realistic details, fantastical imagery, and enigmatic titles encourages viewers to imagine the stories behind his art and become “co-authors” of his paintings.
We’ve previously talked with the artist about the hidden meanings in his artwork. Now we invite you to take a peek behind the curtain with our latest Q&A and meet the man behind the magic, Michael Cheval!
1. When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?
As far as I can remember, I always dreamed of being an artist. It was natural for me because I grew up in an artistic family where everyone knew how to draw, play music, write poetry, and sing. My toys were paints and brushes, plasticine, or a simple piece of coal.
2. What inspires your art?
I am inspired by everything. It can be a book, a song, or a movie. Most importantly, my brain has to be tuned to this creative wave, like a good and powerful ultrasound antenna.
3. Which artists have played a role in influencing your style?
I was impressed by Salvador Dalí when I was 15 years old. His art showed me that there are no limits for the flight of fantasy, that there are no rules and prohibitions for where true art lives.
4. You were born in Russia, but moved to the United States later in life. Did moving to the U.S. affect your art style?
Of course. Moving to the U.S.A. changed my worldview. Everything I did before emigration was grim and depressing. Life in America, despite all the difficulties of adaptation I faced, has changed my art. My paintings have become brighter and more positive, although I have not moved away from the philosophical “stuff” in my works.
5. Your work includes a lot of intricate details. How long does it take to finish one of your paintings from concept to completion?
It is difficult for me to answer this question because each painting is created individually. This is a long process that starts from the birth of the concept, then searches for a composition, the visualization of details, the main characters, costumes, lighting and so on. It is like creating a theater play.
Once that is done, the work begins on the canvas and sometimes it happens that, in the midst of the work, I cannot find a necessary detail—the metaphor. In these cases, I put a canvas away until I solve the problem. Therefore, paintings can take anywhere from two weeks to several years.
6. What do you want collectors to take away from your art?
I want a dialogue to take place—the dialogue between the artist and the viewer and the dialogue between the viewer and a painting. Most importantly, the result of this dialogue should be that the viewer creates his own presentation, his own concept, based on the idea of my painting. This is what I call co-creation.
7. Why do you believe Absurdism is such a good method for examining and understanding life?
Absurdism is a game. With this game, familiar things and phenomena acquire a new, bright meaning. By shifting your angle just a little, you can turn things upside down.
In addition, the viewer should not agree with me at all. Each person has his own experience, his own vision of the world, and this is good! Absurdism is an invitation to dialogue.
8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not painting?
I love to travel, see new countries, and meet different cultures. I love to read and reflect on what I read. I also love music and theater. I am never bored and I am very sorry that there are only 24 hours in a day.
9. Do you have a favorite color?
10. You encourage your collectors to come up with their own meanings for your paintings. Is there a story that a collector told you about your art that sticks out in your mind?
It happens from time to time and I am extremely happy when the viewer offers his own concept of my painting, a concept that I never even dreamed of. I regard this as my victory because there was a real dialogue and I met an experienced viewer.
Follow Michael Cheval on social media