Michael Cheval is a contemporary artist known for his “Absurdist” paintings, drawings, and portraits that capture the imagination by turning reality on its head. Cheval presents his ingenious artwork as a puzzle. He invites the viewer to solve the hidden meaning behind his art by using clues within the artwork’s title and imagery.
Cheval has won numerous awards for his art including Best of Worldwide Oil Artists by Kennedy Publishing in 2009. He is a member of the prestigious National Arts Club in New York City and the internationally-acclaimed Society of Art and Imagination in London.
Cheval was born in 1966 in the small town of Kotelnikovo, Russia. Growing up, Cheval was raised in a family of creative talents. His grandfather was a professional artist and sculptor while his grandmother wrote poems for children. Cheval’s father was a soldier and artist and his aunt was a musician. Cheval’s passion for drawing developed at an early age and eventually encouraged his rise as a professional artist.
In 1980, Cheval moved with his family to Germany. The beautiful museums, extravagant castles, ancient streets, and scenic landscapes of southern Germany inspired the storybook-like element of Cheval’s artwork.
During his time in school, Cheval played in a rock ’n’ roll band and wrote poetry. After graduating, Cheval served in the Soviet Army for two years. In 1986, Cheval moved to Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia.
Cheval took formal training at the Ashgabat School of Fine Arts where he absorbed Eastern philosophy and the character of Central Asia. While he was still in school, Cheval held his first solo exhibition in 1990 at the Turkmenistan National Museum of Fine Art. In 1994, Cheval moved to Moscow and worked as an independent artist and illustrator for various publishing houses including the famous book publisher “Planeta.”
In 1997, Cheval immigrated to the United States. He used his philosophy, experience, and vision combined with his love of Western culture to develop his artwork. In 1998, Cheval was accepted as a member of the National Arts Club in New York City. Two years later, he was recognized with the club’s Exhibition Committee Award.
Style and Influences
Cheval’s absurd style stems from literary greats like Lewis Carroll and legendary Surrealist artists Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. Cheval says his art represents an inverted reality and reverse of logic. Unlike the dreamlike origin of Surrealism, Cheval’s works emerge from his conscious imagination.
“Not even one detail is accidental,” Cheval says. “All details are like words in a poem. If you take out a word, the whole poem is crushed.”
Cheval considers absurdity a game of imagination where all elements are chosen to construct a literary plot. His work includes metaphorical references that challenge the viewer to find hidden allusions within the artwork. Often, Cheval uses the title of a work of art as the starting point to uncover the mystery. Cheval constructs intricate stories behind each work, but invites viewers to become “co-authors” and invent their own interpretations.
“Absurdity, like any other genre, has its own rules. But, it implies everything that is outlying of common rules and boundaries,” Cheval says. “‘Absurdism’ is an attempt to understand our life the way it truly is.”
Music is an integral part of Cheval’s life. Although he grew up in Russia, Cheval listened to American music throughout his youth. Cheval continues to be inspired by music and listens to hard rock, jazz, and classical music while painting.
Cheval has published two books of his artwork and two 24-page catalogs of his most popular paintings.
“My paintings are like a window to another reality, and my goal is to make it so real that people won’t think that it’s false,” Cheval says.