Understanding the Absurd Art of Michael Cheval

 In Art & Gallery News, Articles, Artists & Special Collections, Michael Cheval
Michael Cheval dye sublimation absurd art

Melody of Rain” (2015), Michael Cheval

Calling a work of art “absurd” could be interpreted as an insult, but not for Michael Cheval, who is thrilled to present artwork that turns reality on its head.

Cheval is considered a master of “Absurdist” art. This doesn’t refer to it being unreasonable or foolish. Instead, he defines Absurdism as a style and philosophy that shows an inverted side of reality that juxtaposes things that shouldn’t exist together in a realistic style in order to invite people to look at life differently.

“Absurdity, like any other genre, has its own rules. But it implies everything that is outlying of common rules and boundaries,” he says. “‘Absurdism’ is an attempt to understand our life the way it truly is. Without propaganda, ideology, politics, and imposed tastes.”

Cheval’s greatest artistic influences are Surrealists Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. However, Cheval doesn’t consider himself a Surrealist, as his ideas originate in imagination as opposed to dreams or the subconscious. He also draws influence from authors like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, both of whom he calls “fathers of absurdity.”

Each of Cheval’s works has a hidden story or meaning behind it. The inspiration behind these themes is typically drawn from literature, especially philosophical and historical books. The metaphors that form in his head create abstract images that he translates into detailed paintings.

Cheval compares his paintings to puzzles, challenging viewers to discover their meanings and allusions. The name of the painting is often the first clue – a key that begins to unlock the mystery.

“From the title, you can jump up with any explanation,” he says. “If you have the title and the image, it’s like a game.”

 

The game of absurdity

absurd art dye sublimation Michael Cheval

Fifth Element” (2015), Michael Cheval

When deciphering Cheval paintings, the human figure is alluded to, while figurative objects are used as symbols. As an example of Cheval’s game, examine the painting “Fifth Element.”

The name alludes to the four elements of earth, fire, wind and water, so Cheval wants to depict what he considers the fifth element. The clown-like figure of a woman in the painting appears to be juggling glowing white spheres that hover and interact with the sky. Meanwhile, she dons a cape made of the sea.

So what is the fifth element? According to Cheval, it is the moon due to how it affects everything from tides to metals:

“What is the moon to the Earth? What is the enigma and legend behind the moon?” he says. “The moon has so much influence on the Earth that it could be the fifth element.”

However, despite Cheval’s meanings, he doesn’t want to limit viewers to just one interpretation. In fact, he encourages his audience to provide their own unique meanings, which in turn spawn new ideas and a higher understanding of the artwork.

“People insist on an explanation, but I think it’s really cool when you try your own,” he says. “When you do your own you’re like a co-author, it’s co-authorship. You create your own story, and the image belongs to you now.”

 

Creating absurdity

Michael Cheval dye sublimation absurd art

Echo of Misconception” (2015), Michael Cheval

Finishing a painting can take anywhere from two weeks to five months depending on the image and its story. He says every detail matters in his paintings, so even the smallest brush strokes are critical.

“The goal is to make another reality,” he says. “The painting is like a window to another reality, and my goal is to make it so real that people won’t think it’s false.”

He understands that absurd art isn’t for everyone, but even the naysayers are an encouragement for him to continue painting.

“I have seen people act aggressively to my work – if they don’t understand it and they turn aggressive,” he says. “It is a good thing, because people don’t have just one look and walk away. Even the negative reaction is a reaction.”

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Showing 14 comments
  • Laura Colman
    Reply

    I love absurdity!! Can’t wait to get an opportunity to meet Michael and his work.

  • Steven Apostolo
    Reply

    I absolutely love his work and we can’t wait to meet him! Hopefully, we will be invited to a VIP show he will be attending in 2016! Amazing talent!

  • Rita Mooore
    Reply

    Absolutely fascinated by Michael’s art. Love each and everyone. Haven’t the money to buy even a print but enjoy looking at them on my IPad.

  • JEFF COHEN
    Reply

    We say you and Michaels Melody of the Rain on the Oasis of the sea during new years 2015. Is it available online for purchase?

  • JEFF COHEN
    Reply

    Sorry, this past new years cruise, 2015-2016

  • Joetta Tilton
    Reply

    I love Michael Cheval’s work I own 4 waiting for them to be shipped home from my cruise would love information how to purchase more. Thank You so Much Joetta

  • Monica Rodriguez
    Reply

    My husband and I have now collected 4 of Michael’s works. Each is so incredible that I love awaking to them each morning, what an incredible start to the day.

  • Michael Madajski
    Reply

    Thank you ParkWest for introducing me to the art of Michael Cheval. I purchased three pieces during my recent Caribbean cruise. Special thanks also to Dillon Cilliers and the ParkWest staff as well. I look forward to collecting many more pieces from Michael Cheval.
    Respectfully, Michael Madajski

  • Katelyn
    Reply

    I bought Melody of Rain and I would love to know the explanation Michael Cheval gives for it, but when i click on the link that had Melody of Rain’s picture for artwork explained by him, I didn’t see it.

  • Laura & David
    Reply

    We love Cheval’s art, recently bought 5 of his paintings & we cannot wait to own more!

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