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Kseniya Simonova in 2010
April 22, 1985
|Education||Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University (2007), "Ukrainian Academy of Printing". (2008)|
|Known for||Painting, drawing, sand animation|
|Awards||Winner of "Ukraine’s Got Talent"|
Kseniya Simonova (Ukrainian: Ксенія Симонова; married name: Kseniya Paskar, Ксенія Паскар) is a Ukrainian sand animation performance artist, alongside additional work as a graphic artist, illustrator, film director, and is a Merited Artist of Ukraine. In 2009, she won that year's series of TV contest Ukraine’s Got Talent, a part of the Got Talent franchise, and competed in 2019 in America's Got Talent: The Champions, the spin-off series of America's Got Talent, reaching the finals and finishing in third place.
- 1 Early life and family
- 2 Education
- 3 Career
- 4 World renown sand animation projects
- 5 Sand animation and music collaboration
- 6 Theatre
- 7 Other genres of art
- 8 Special facts
- 9 Awards
- 10 Exhibitions
- 11 Philanthropy
- 12 Collaboration with brands
- 13 Current projects
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Early life and family
She was born on April 22, 1985 in Yevpatoria, a town on the Crimean peninsula, in Ukraine, which was then a part of the Soviet Union. Her mother, Irina Simonova, is an artist, a theatrical designer and teacher of fine arts. Her father, Alexander Simonov, is a former military officer who runs a business in furniture design. Since she was a child, Kseniya painted, drew and designed with her mother.
Kseniya’s parents discouraged her from a career as an artist. Kseniya explained, "It is a constant struggle. I knew that, and was ready for it. If you chose this profession, you're struggling all your life. You do not enjoy everyday life - like comfort, and buying furniture... You're always looking for something more, and actually, I was never interested in a life of comfort and buying furniture."
She graduated from the Artistic School of Yevpatoria and studied in the School of Fine Arts. At school, Kseniya wrote research papers on English folk poetry and 15th and 16th century English folk songs and ballads. She also translated folk poetry and great poets like William Shakespeare, Robert Burns and George Gordon Byron. For her research work, Kseniya earned entrance to any University in Ukraine with English Philology Departments. In 2002, Kseniya chose a psychology major and graduated in 2007 from the Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University with honors. Her scientific specialization was Psychophysiology – a sphere between Psychology and Anatomy. At the same time, in 2003, Kseniya entered the Ukrainian Academy of Printing and studied Graphic Design. She graduated in 2008, six months after giving birth to her son.
Since 2006 Kseniya has been working for a magazine "Crimean Riviera" as an artist. In 2007, Kseniya and her husband Igor Paskar, launched a bilingual magazine "Chocolate" in English and Russian. The magazine stopped production in 2008 due to the financial crisis.
Sand performance was suggested by her husband. Initially, Simonova was unsure, but she decided to try it in the absence of other viable options to improve their financial situation. When tests with both beach and river sands proved unsuitable, Simonova's husband began researching better options on the internet. He sold his printing equipment to buy 3 kilograms of expensive volcanic sand.
Simonova began experimenting with the medium at night, after serving as a full-time mother throughout the day. She found it challenging, but persisted in spite of early impulses to give up. Physically grueling, the art form required her standing for long periods of time and also required her to retrain her vision to adapt to the unique medium.
"Ukraine's Got Talent"
She presented a two-minute sand story and was selected as a semi-finalist. She wanted to perform a sand story about World War II, but the producers encouraged her to choose a more popular theme. Kseniya refused, saying, "I just want to bring some immortal sense to this show. Not just pictures or video clips. Something close to all hearts."
Kseniya was hoping to get some exposure as an artist, but it became much more. The audience was moved to tears. As soon as she finished her performance, applause erupted and she received a standing ovation.
Kseniya passed the semi-finals and moved on to the finals. In the third round, she performed a sand story "Don't be too late!" about a son who became successful and forgot his parents. The aim of her sand story was to remind the grown children of their parents and to encourage them to call.
Kseniya was declared the winner of the competition and collected 100,000 euro. The Guardian Called her Online phenomenon after the video of her performance was viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. After the competition, she became an international artist performer and began giving sand art performances in different countries of the world. With the money they won, Igor and Kseniya bought a house in Yevpatoria. They received invitations from all over the world to perform.
"America's Got Talent: The Champions"
In 2019, she took part in America's Got Talent: The Champions auditions on NBC. After performing, she received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience. As soon as the performance was over, she got the golden buzzer from host Terry Crews which sent her straight through into the finals of the competition. Her performance in the finals, “Love Always Wins,” was highly esteemed by the judges. Simon Cowell called it "one of the most beautiful acts in the history of Got Talent". At the end of the show, she finished in third place.
International artist performer
Since 2009, Simonova has been performing her sand animation stories in different countries of the world, in particular in Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Japan, Poland, Austria, China, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Qatar, India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Malta, Monaco, Australia, Greece, Thailand, Bhutan, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Chile, Croatia, Morocco, Bahrain and others, including presidents, heads of states and royalty. She has appeared with her sand stories in more than 40 countries around the world, from London's Royal Albert Hall to the Sydney Opera House, became a special guest of international global ceremonies - from the closing ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games in Athens in 2011 to the gala concert YouTube Symphony Orchestra. She introduced her art at various events – from Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 to Champion League Final Gala in Milan in 2016. Simonova has performed in the presence of presidents and royalty in different countries. Among her audience were President of Malta George Abela; Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand, Princess Marie of Denmark; Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco; Members of British Royal Family and others. From 2009 to 2016 she has created and shown more than 300 sand animations, more than 200 of which are presented in YouTube.
In her interviews, Simonova emphasizes that she never divides her audience according to status, she considers all people equal in their feelings and perceiving of her art.
Kseniya Simonova (interview to CNN, 2012):
- The heads of different states are the same audience as audience in every country. They have eyes, brain, heart, and I never divide them from other people.
World renown sand animation projects
Live or real-time performances
Since 2009, sand artist Kseniya Simonova has been invited as a special guest with her performances at important events all over the world. In the end of 2009, she performed her sand story "Planet of Childhood" in the capital of Malta, Valletta, at live charity marathon L’Istrina. Simonova received invitation to perform from the President of Malta George Abela. Marathon collected €2.5 million for treatment of children and adults suffering with cancer. After Simonova performed her sand animation, the President accepted her and thanked her for participation in the marathon.
In 2010, Kseniya Simonova performed at Victory Day Gala in Royal Albert Hall as a special guest with her sand animation “You Are Always Nearby” and its continuation “I remember” having received standing ovations of the international audience.
In 2011, in Monte Carlo her sand story “Chess” has opened the Amber chess tournament - annual invitation-only event for some of the world's best players, having received appreciation of the guests, especially, Russian chess Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik. The art of Simonova was appreciated with Albert II, Prince of Monaco.
In April 2011 Simonova created a sand story «Lady Dior Moscow» for Christian Dior and performed it in real-time, at gala opening of Dior-themed exhibition in Moscow, having received appreciation by the fashion experts and Russian top-model Natalia Vodyanova. In 2013, the film appeared in the 15 best fashion short films according to Paste Magazine.
In 2011, Simonova became a special guest at a number of big galas with symphony orchestras where she visualized in sand the music pieces – YouTube symphony orchestra (March 2011, Sydney opera house), «The Four Seasons of Vivaldi» (June 2011, Florence), Gergiev fest where she performed sand animation stories based on the opera «Les Troyens» conducted by Valery Gergiev. 
In July 2011 Russian top-model Natalia Vodyanova has invited Simonova to become a special guest with her sand animation performance at charity «Love Ball» of Natalia Vodyanova and Naked Heart Foundation in Paris where Kseniya Simonova performed a specially created sand story about life and charity impact of Natalia Vodyanova.
In January 2012 Simonova became a special guest of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Thailand anniversary ceremonies in Bangkok, where she performed live the sand animation story «Long Live the King!» about life and impact of the king, the first performance of the four was in front of the Royal family and Princess Sirindhorn. After that Simonova was accepted by the Princess and received her appreciation and presents. In turn, Simonova presented Her Royal Highness two discs with the sand animation film «Long Live the King!» she shot in her studio together with Thai Ovation TV. The film "Long Live the King!" was viewed 1,5 million times on YouTube.
Simonova had a set of performances in Tokyo having presented there her sand animation story “Life Always Wins” devoted to the tragedy of tsunami on March 11, 2011 in Japan, and her other sand stories.
Simonova became a special guest of the international cultural fest Wadden Sea in Denmark under the patronage of Her Highness Princess Marie of Denmark where Danish government organized a set of concerts of Kseniya Simonova. She was accepted by the Princess during the festival (2012). In 2014 Simonova performed her sand animation with a symphony orchestra in the presence of Queen Margarethe II of Denmark in Aalborg.
Since 2013, Simonova creates sand animation stories for Morocco Royal projects devoted to environment protection. One of them - a sand animation film "Beautiful Morocco" (2013) devoted to the history of kingdom and its environment protection, was viewed over 2 million times on YouTube. In 2016 she became a special guest of Morocco Awards gala under patronage of King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
In November 2015 in Thimphu, Bhutan, Kseniya Simonova became a special guest of the ceremonies devoted to 60th anniversary of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, father of the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk who invited Simonova to perform her sand animation in Bhutan. She created a sand story “Gorgeous Bhutan” which she performed in the presence of both kings and the Royal family in the Royal palace in Thimphu. After the performance, she was accepted by both Kings who expressed their appreciation of her artwork. She was also received by the Royal couple – King Jigme Khesar and Queen Jetsun Pema in their palace where they had an informal talk. After that the King called Simonova his friend.
In 2016 Simonova presented a film “Astana, my love” devoted to the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and depicting Kazakh nationhood, which was viewed over 30 thousand times within a few days on YouTube.
In 2016 she created a sand animation video "Live, Serbia"which became viral and made her popular in Serbia. After that, in 2017, she was invited to perform in Belgrade National theatre with her show devoted to Serbia. Also, the exhibition of her pictures was organized in the central gallery of Belgrade called "Progress", after that the exhibition travelled in 5 biggest cities of Serbia. She was warmly received by the Minister of Culture of Serbia Vladan Vukosavljević. Simonova was invited to bring her sand show to Belgrade.
In 2018 Kseniya made a show in the biggest concert hall of Greece "Megaron" with sand animation stories about Greece. In the end of 2018 she had 6 big shows in Hong Kong which were viewed by more than 30,000 viewers.
Simonova states that her art is a message to human hearts and souls. She insists that her artistic goal is not to entertain people but to change them. She refuses to perform for events of tobacco and alcohol companies, instead she shares sand stories about war victims, refugees, environment and orphans.
The Guardian: “Simonova has achieved her goal as an artist. If we take it that art's purpose is to illuminate the world in a new way, provoke a reaction, somehow alter the consciousness of the viewer then her work is a huge success».
Inventorspot.com: «To the common viewer, the process seems random, and the images develop in a similar way to photographs in a dark room; splotches of color, suggestions of shapes, and then finally, the resulting triumph of delicate shading, intricate detail, and whimsical splashes of life and symbolism».
Simonova has created a number of sand animation films based on the current or historical dramatic events. She shares these artworks on her YouTube channel where they are viewed by millions:
- «Eternal Tears» (2011) devoted to Chernobyl disaster. Was shown at concerts and festivals in Europe, South America and USA.
- «September 11th» (2011) devoted to 10th anniversary of the tragedy in September 11, 2001 in New York.
- «Haiti» (2010) devoted to the earthquake in Haiti.
- «Life Always Wins» (2012) devoted to earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.
- «Love is Stronger» (2011) devoted to the last Russian Emperor Nicolas II and his family, their life and tragical death in 1918.
- «Angel on the Seashore» (2016) devoted to a 3-year old Syrian boy refugee Aylan Kurdi who sank in Mediterranean Sea in 2015. The music for this film was written by young Italian composer Giuseppe Morgante. The film became the winner at Palm Springs Film Festival in 2018.
- Environment protection films: “Love the Planet” and “Beautiful Morocco” (for Mohammed VI foundation, Morocco), “Save Polar Bear” (for WWF), “Endangered Species” (sand animation video for Esperansa Spalding’s song for Amazonia nature protection, together with Amazon Aid Foundation).
- "Thank you, Mummy!" (2013) against abortions.
- "One Night at the Edge of the Sea" (2017, collaboration with "Guy Mendilow Ensemble" funded by the National Endowment for the Arts) The tale of a decorated Ottoman captain from WWI, betrayed by a nation whose turn to fascism threatens all for which he fought and sacrificed.
Sand animation and music collaboration
Collaboration with symphony orchestras
Simonova has performed her sand animation in real-time with a number of symphony orchestras - YouTube Symphony orchestra, Symphony Orchestra della Toscana, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Aalborg, Belgium National orchestra, orchestra of Wermland opera and others.
The beginning of this kind of collaboration was the Sydney performance of Simonova, where the on-line Gala of YouTube Symphony orchestra, including sand animation performance for “Ascending bird” was viewed online 33 million times.
Limelight magaizne: “In Sydney, Simonova created one of her signature, free-flowing sand animations in real time as the backdrop to music performed by Richard Tognetti and members of the orchestra». In 2009, Simonova performed her sand animated improvisation with Djivan Gasparyan in the air of the Channel One Russia.
In 2017 Simonova performed with National Orchestra of Belgium conducted by Domingo Hindoyan which played The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. She has drawn with sand the whole story of the fairy-tale& The show received standing ovations.
In August 2018 Simonova performed as a special guest at Verbier Festival together with pianists Georgy Gromov and Maria Masycheva. They played Cinderella (Prokofiev) and Kseniya recreated the story in sand. They repeated this performance in Berlin in December 2018.
Sand animation and popular music
Simonova’s sand animation «Share your heart» became the backdrop for Ukrainian entry at “Eurovision-2011”. Simonova created a sand animation story for the song “Angel”. They performed in the second semifinal, and then - in the final of "Eurovision". Ukraine took the fourth place. In interview to Eurovision Radio International, Simonova confessed that she devoted her sand story "Share your heart" to children of Simferopol orphanage house she helped in that period.
In 2012 Simonova collaborated with the youngest winner of Grammy Awards Esperanza Spalding. The result of cooperation was the sand animation video for the song «Endangered Spieces» devoted to Amazonia nature protection. The project was supported by Amazon Aid Foundation. The premiere of the music video took place at the National Mall in Washington, DC and at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on the Earth Day on April 22, 2012. It was shown to over 250,000 people on 3 jumbotron screens.
In 2014, Simonova shot two clips for the British rock band «Menace» found by ex-participant of “Napalm Death” Mitch Harris. The music videos on the songs «To the Marrow» and «Painted Rust» were created as a result of friendship between Kseniya Simonova and Mitch Harris. The video for the song «To the Marrow» was filmed in the technique of "snow graphics".
In 2015, sand animation by Simonova became the basis of a video clip for song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" written by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, performed by Canadian a capella band Cadence.
In May 2019 Simonova returned to Eurovision for Eurovision Song Contest 2019 as a part of Team Moldova, having created a staging act for Moldovan singer Anna Odobescu. This time she performed not sand animation but “snow animation” which is live drawing with artificial snow 
Since 2013, Simonova and her team have been working on their show “The Past Side of the Future” which Simonova defined as “visual solo performance”. In May 2015, the premiere of the show in Kseniya’s mothertown Yevatoriya. The performance is devoted to children of WWII. In this show, Simonova is not only an artist but also as an actress. “The Past Side of the Future” is a symbiosis of a concert and dramatic performance. Sand animation performance is not only a visual genre, it acts as a drama. In this project, Simonova first introduced the new animation technique "Snow animation", developed in 2013. A set of publications called the show unique.
In the interview to The News Hub, Simonova says:
«It is a mono spectacle - I am alone on stage but create a whole world with heroes and their lives. I love this project but it is pretty difficult to present it somewhere, maybe because I am an artist, not a theatre manager, so I am open to proposals, I will be happy to bring it to new places - cities and countries».
Other genres of art
Inventions in animation
In 2013, Simonova presented her new inventions in animation – “Snow art” or “Snow animation” – drawing with a substance similar to snow on the frozen surface. It became world renown after Simonova’s collaboration with WWF with the film “Save Polar Bear!” (2013). During the first week, the video received more than 100 thousand views on YouTube.
In 2013 Kseniya Simonova launched “Plastic animation” – drawing with liquid sand. In this technique she has created a set of award-winning animated films. Both new techniques Simonova uses in film creation and live performances.
Since 2009, Simonova has created over 500 sand animation pictures. The method she used is photography of what she has drawn on the glass with the sand.
Aside from her sand animation, Simonova works as a graphic artist since 2005. In 2006, she founded her own style in graphics "Psychoanalytic line graphics", which united her knowledge of the psychologist and the artist. The essence of art is complete freedom of conscience and hands when an artist can draw, closing his eyes, fine lines, gradually sinking into a state of freedom, reaching depths of archaic consciousness. Simonova works in this style from 2006 to the present day.
From her early years Simonova wrote poems and prose. In school, she was engaged in literary research in English folk ballads and poetic translations of ballads, folk songs and poems of Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Lord Byron. In 2014 Kseniya Simonova introduced the autobiographical book "Another story", illustrated with own drawings.
In 2019, her second book "The Last Trip" will be published in Moscow.
This article contains a list of miscellaneous information. (February 2019)
- On December 4, 2009, Simonova presented the first Sand Picture Exhibition. In 2010, she founded an International Cultural Center "Sand Club" in the Crimean city of Yevpatoria.
- Video of Kseniya Simonova’s performance “You Are Always Nearby” devoted to WWII in the semifinal of the show "Ukraine’s Got Talent" on YouTube was viewed 40 million times.
- In 2010, Simonova performed her sand story "Gift of Hope" devoted to orphans as a special guest of “Ukraine’s Got Talent” second audition. The first time in the history of sand animation of drawing on two tables in one story.
- In 2009, at a concert in Simferopol, and in 2011 as a special guest of “Ukraine’s Got Talent” third audition, she drew her sand animation story “Chess” during the live TV-broadcast, blindfolded.
- Simonova was one among a few foreigners who received a personal audience with the King of Bhutan, and in fact, with two kings - the current monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his father Jigme Singye Wangchuck, both of them have expressed admiration for the work of the artist. Simonova also was accepted by the Queen of Bhutan, Jetsun Pema.
- Kseniya Simonova appeared in the top 10 of people with the most interesting professions in the world according to Forbes.
- Official YouTube channel of Kseniya Simonova is a leader in request "sand art" (sand animation) - both in the number of views and in the number of subscribers. The channel has 66 thousand subscribers from different countries of the world, and about 14 million views.
- In 2012, 2013 and 2017 Simonova became a judge of International Sand Animation competition in China.
- 2009 - honored by the Mayor of her hometown, Yevpatoria
- 2009 - Gold Medal and honors («Общественное признание») from Yevpatoria, Government of Crimea
- 2009 - "Person of the Year" finalist, nominated under "New Generation" in Kiev
- 2009 - honored by the Supreme Council of Crimea
- 2010 - honored by the International Organization for Migration in Ukraine
- 2010 - the title of Honored Artist of the Autonomy, awarded by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
- 2011 - Certificate of Appreciation of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine for participation in "Eurovision-2011" and the popularization of Ukrainian culture in the world
- 2012 - Gold badge with the symbols of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand (Bangkok, Thailand)
- 2012 - Letter of thanks to the Scientific Research Committee of Mexico in the field of Psychiatry
- 2013 - The winner in the special nomination "Success of the Year" of Crimean Council of Ministers
- 2013 - The title of Merited Artist of Ukraine
- 2016 - the title of "Artist of the Year" at the annual award Evpatorian Awards
- 2018 - The Human Rights Medal for volunteer and charity activity
In 2009, Simonova opened her first personal exhibition «Sand Personality» which included over 300 pictures in sand art and graphics. The exhibition was presented in different cities of the Crimea from 2009 to 2010.
In 2017 and 2018 her third exhibition "Sand Geography" opened in Simferopol and Evpatoriya. It is devoted to different places of the world she visited and managed to capture on the paper. The exhibition included over 100 artworks of Simonova in sand drawing, graphics and painting.
In June 2008, Simonova and her husband Igor Paskar founded a local open charity organization "Live, my Sun!" («Живи, Солнышко!»). The organization provides assistance to ill children in need of treatment, material and information support of cancer patients. Most of the work done by it is creating films in sand animation about the people who need treatment and sharing the films in networks. The purpose of these short animated films is to tell others about those who need help, who can not afford expensive treatment or rehabilitation. In the period from 2009 to 2016, Simonova was created over 50 charity films.
From 2010 to 2013, Simonova helped Simferopol city orphanage house until its disbandment in late 2013.
Simonova is an anti-abortion advocate. Before winning the show Ukraine’s Got Talent she worked as an anti-abortion volunteer, organizing lectures and showing films in the protection of life and against abortions in schools of Yevpatoriya. After winning the show, Kseniya decided to use her fame to speak in defense of life through the art of sand animation. The sand films Do not kill me, Mom! (2009) and Thank you, Mummy! (2013) were created against abortions.
Collaboration with brands
Since 2010, Simonova has created over 20 adverticement films in sand animation for big international companies, among them Ferrari, Lincoln, Volkswagen. In fashion sphere Simonova created films and live performances in sand animation for Dior, Ermenegildo Zegna, Puma. In April 2011 Simonova created a sand story «Lady Dior Moscow» for Christian Dior and performed it in real-time, at gala opening of Dior-themed exhibition in Moscow, having received appreciation by the fashion expers and Russian top-model Natalia Vodianova. In 2013, the film appeared in the 15 best fashion short films according to Paste Magazine.
In 2012, Simonova supported by Puma created series of sand animation short films called Dreamcatcher about live and early dreams of prominent football players – Cesc Fàbregas, Tomas Rosicky, Giorgio Cellini and Gianluigi Buffon. For this, she met these players in their native places and interviewed them. During the interviews, she sketched their faces and expression, portrayed their childhood dreams in her sketchbook, and after that brought their stories into sand. Simonova and Puma presented these films during UEFA Euro 2012 in Ukraine at national TV channels and in Internet.
She was also invited to perform live at more than 300 events of international brands in different countries of the world.
Since 2013 she has been working on the show "White era" where she is planning to use all her skills in all animation techniques.
In 2016 she used sand art to illustrate the opening sequence in season 1, episode 3 of Netflix’s “Midnight Sun” (“Midnattsol”).
In 2017, Simonova began working on The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, with multiple funding awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Boston Foundation. The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories conjures women's voices lost to war and upheaval. Folding radio drama-style storytelling into a top-tier world music concert, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble’s sweeping arrangements and storytelling are brought to life by Kseniya Simonova who creates, obliterates, and morphs sand images in a flowing narrative.
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- Official website
- on 's channelYouTube: official YouTube channel
- on 's channelYouTube: official YouTube channel (in Ukrainian)
- "Ukrainian sand artist proves that reality TV's got talent". The Guardian. 13 August 2009.
- Johnston, Ian (19 September 2009). "Sand artist Kseniya Simonova, winner of Ukraine's Got Talent…". Daily Telegraph.
|Awards and achievements|
| Winner of Ukrayina maye talant