We’re leaving Beardsley country. Taking the old dirt road off Harry Clarke county, on thru the inky backwoods and the old lost village long grown green and rotten with tree and weed, towards a place called Vania Zouravliov. The sky’s dark, and there’s movement among the trees that grow too close together to give any idea what that movement might be other than it’s something watching, something waiting. And you know pretty soon you’re going be meeting this something one way or another and the thought of it sends a cold ripple of excitement through your backbone as you push on ahead wanting to get there faster.
That’s kinda like the feeling I get when I look at the artwork of Vania Zouravliov.
Zouravliov is a Russian graphic artist based in London who draws sensuous, intricate pictures of beauty, death, sex, and decay. Born into an artistic family (his mother was an art teacher), Zouravliov was a child prodigy whose earliest works gained him considerable praise and some notoriety—“famous communist artists, godfathers of social realism, told him that his work was from the Devil.” He was drawing “evil hammerhead people” at the age of four, which he has said proves that “Contrary to what most adults would like to believe, a child’s mind can be a very strange and disturbing place.”
By thirteen, Zouravliov was exhibiting his work in Moscow in 1994 and then internationally. He began to travel and later attended art college in Edinburgh where he started his career in earnest producing work for the Scotsman newspaper and then for magazines and comics. He moved to London where he is currently based.
In an interview with Awk Online Gallery, Zouravilov said he found his inspiration everywhere:
[F]rom popular culture to classical art.I get inspired by fashion magazines, books, films, old photographs, music, various cultures, and religions. I think my overall melancholic view on life is represented in my work.
When I was a child I used to draw animals and birds all the time and now I draw women. I can’t think of anything more interesting or beautiful at this point in my life. I use female characters in my work to say or explain things about myself.
He cites his favorite artists as Ingres, Gustav Dore, Grunewald, Von Bayros, Bakst, Utamar, and Belgian symbolist Fernand Khnopff—whose paintings have an “other-worldly feel to them.”
That other-worldly feel is also there in Zouravliov’s work which is rich, beautiful, and utterly personal. There’s a quote from Zouravliov that’s been bandied about the Internet for a long time which gives his answer to the question “What’s the one thing that gives you the inspiration to keep making art?”
A strong belief that creativity is the only relative freedom we have in this world.