Kseniya Simonova

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Kseniya Simonova
Kseniya Simonova.jpg
Kseniya Simonova in 2010
BornKseniya Simonova
(1985-04-22) April 22, 1985 (age 33)
Yevpatoria, Crimea, Ukrainian SSR, USSR
EducationTavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University (2007), "Ukrainian Academy of Printing". (2008)
Known forPainting, drawing, sand animation
AwardsWinner of "Ukraine’s got Talent"

Kseniya Simonova (Ukrainian: Ксенія Симонова; Russian: Ксения Симонова; married name: Kseniya Paskar, Ксения Паскар) is a sand animation artist, the 2009 winner[1][2] of the TV contest Ukraine’s Got Talent, which is part of the Got Talent series. She is a performance artist in sand animation, graphic artist, illustrator, film director and a philanthropist, and is a Merited Artist of Ukraine.


Early life and family[edit]

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."

In 2007, she married Igor Paskar,[3] a theatre director, journalist and magazine editor. Their son Dmitry was born on November 27, 2007, their son Serafim was born on July 20, 2014.



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.[4] 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 artist: first steps in the genre[edit]


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.

Winner of Ukraine's Got Talent[edit]


Her husband, Igor, suggested that she should enter the competition Ukraine's Got Talent, where the prize was one million hryvna, the equivalent of $110,000. Kseniya decided to enter.[5]

She presented a two-minute sand story [6] 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."[5]

The sand story Kseniya presented live on TV[7] was an eight-minute story of a young couple separated by the war.[8]

In an interview she said, "It was so emotionally hard, and I now still can not think about those minutes without pain... My hands were dying and reviving making the images."[5][8]

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.[5]

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!"[9] 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.[5]

Kseniya was declared the winner of the competition and collected 100,000 euro. She was named an online sensation, when in one day her video from the show was viewed more than a million times.[10] Kseniya understood what happened only after she returned to her native town Yevpatoria and could no longer walk freely in the streets. She was surrounded by people asking for autographs. With the money they won, Igor and Kseniya bought a house in Yevpatoria. They received invitations from all over the world to perform.[5]

Online sensation[edit]

The video of Simonova's semi-final performance at Ukraine's Got Talent "You Are Always Nearby"[7] devoted to WWII, was viewed 2 mln times within a day and became and online sensation according to The Telegraph:[10]

"Sand artist, Kseniya Simonova, who moved audiences to tears as she won Ukraine’s Got Talent, has become an online sensation with more than two million hits".

In her interview to CNN in 2012, she confessed, she never expected that her video would become a viral video.[11] The second name the audience and media gave this sand animation story is "Requiem in Sand".[8]

Since 2009, this video was viewed 40 mln times on one YouTube account.[7] It was shared on YouTube among over 6,000 users.

International fame[edit]

Since 2009, Simonova has been performing her sand animation stories in different countries of the world, in particular in Ukraine, Russia, Norway,[12] Japan,[13] 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,[14] Croatia, Morocco, Bahrain and others, including presidents, heads of states and royalty.[11] She has appeared with her sand stories in more than 40 countries around the world, from London's Royal Albert Hall[15] to the Sydney Opera House,[16] 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.[16] She introduced her art at various events – from Eurovision Song Contest in 2011[17] to Champion League Final Gala in Milan in 2016.[18] Simonova has performed in the presence of presidents and royalty in different countries[11] among her audience were President of Malta George Abela;[19] Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark;[20] Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand,[21][22] Princess Marie of Denmark;[23] Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco; Members of British Royal Family[24] 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.[2]

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.[11]

Kseniya Simonova (interview to CNN, 2012):[11]

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[edit]

Live or real-time performances[edit]

Since 2009, sand artist Kseniya Simonova has been invited as a special guest with her performances at important events all over the world.[11][25] 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.[26] 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.[19]

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”[27] having received standing ovations of the international audience.[25]

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.[28]

In April 2011 Simonova created a sand story «Lady Dior Moscow»[29] for Christian Dior and performed it in real-time, at gala opening of Dior-themed exhibition in Moscow,[30] 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.[31]

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),[16] «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. [32]

Kseniya Simonova became a special guest with her performance at Special Olympic Games Closing ceremony in Athens (2011) where she visualized in sand history of Greece.

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.[33]

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.[22] 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.[21]

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.[34]

During UEFA Euro 2012 in Ukraine, she performed her sand animation concert live at the St. Sophia Square in Kiev supporting the Ukrainian national football team at the championship.[35]

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.[36] She was accepted by the Princess during the festival (2012).[37] In 2014 Simonova performed her sand animation with a symphony orchestra in the presence of Queen Margarethe II of Denmark in Aalborg.[20]

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 mln times on YouTube.[38] In 2016 she became a special guest of Morocco Awards gala under patronage of King Mohammed VI of Morocco.[39]

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.[40][41]

In 2016 Simonova presented a film “Astana, my love” devoted to the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and depicting Kazakh nationhood,[42] which was viewed over 30 thousand times within a few days on YouTube.[26]

In 2016 Kseniya Simonova performed her sand animation about football in Milan at Gala presentation of the UEFA Champions League Cup.[43]

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.[44]

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».[45]

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».[46]

Sand stories[edit]

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[2] where they are viewed by millions:

Sand animation and music collaboration[edit]

Collaboration with symphony orchestras[edit]

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, orchestra of Wermland opera [50] 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.[16]

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».[16] In 2009, Simonova performed her sand animated improvisation with Djivan Gasparyan in the air of the Channel One Russia.

Sand animation and popular music[edit]

In 2011, she returned to television competition in another form, performing on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, during the performance of Ukrainian entry by Mika Newton.[51]

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.[52]


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.[48]

In 2014, Simonova shot two clips for the British rock band «Menace» found by ex-participant of “Napalm DeathMitch 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.[53] The video for the song «To the Marrow» was filmed in the technique of "snow graphics".[54]

In 2014, she was featured in American R&B singer Joe's music video "If You Lose Her."[55][56]

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.[57]


Since 2013, Simonova and her team have been working on their show “The Past Side of the Futere” 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.[44]

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 coutries».[15]

Other genres of art[edit]

Inventions in animation[edit]

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.[44][58]

Art expert compare Simonova's graphic and samd pictures with Chagall's and Dali's ones.[46]

Inventorspot.com: «Simonova's visual art as a singular image is also compelling. The fludiity of the images within the work is difficult to classify in terms of art movement or style, in the same way that Chagall was said to belong to no movement. Some of her work is reminiscent of Chagall's disembodied heads, floating lovers, and simple scenes embedded with layer upon layers of symbolism.

Simonova's genre is just as difficult to assign, because her unique style of creation and her fluctuating imagery and subject matter shows a spontaneity and a passion that is somehow couched in masterful control and brilliant draftsmanship. It is impossible to believe that she plans every stroke ahead of time, predicting the way that each grain of sand will lay next to another. Therefore, while she may have the story in mind, she must be as flexible as her medium, and be ready to change and re-direct her artistic flow in an instant.

The other artist that jumps to mind when you see the dream-like quality of her sand stories in action or her single-frame visual art is Salvador Dali. Simonova has a similar flair for the bizarre and cerebral. Much of her imagery is overlapping, impossible, and strange, as though plucked from a wisp of inexplicable dreaming».


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.[59]

Special facts[edit]

  • On December 4, 2009, Simonova presented the first Sand Picture Exhibition.[60] 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.[61]
  • 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.[62]
  • 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 60 thousand subscribers from different countries of the world, and about 11 million views.[63]
  • In 2012 and 2013 Simonova became a judge of International Sand Animation competition in China.[64]



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.[44]

In 2014, Simonova presented her second personal exhibition “Another Story” which included 165 pictures in different genres – sand animation, graphics, painting.[44]


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.[44] 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.[68]

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[edit]

Since 2010, Simonova has created over 20 adverticement films in sand animation for big international companies, among them Ferrari,[69][70] Lincoln, Volkswagen.[71] 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»[29] for Christian Dior and performed it in real-time, at gala opening of Dior-themed exhibition in Moscow,[30] 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.[31]

In 2010 she shot a sand animation adverticement film for The Sunday Times.[72]

In 2012, Simonova supported by Puma created series of sand animation short films called Dreamcatcher about live and early dreams of prominent football playersCesc Fàbregas,[73] Tomas Rosicky, Giorgio Cellini and Gianluigi Buffon.[74] For this, she met these players in their native places and interviewed them.[75] 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.[76]

She was also invited to perform live at more than 100 events of international brands in different countries of the world.

Current projects[edit]

Since 2013 she has been working on the show "White era" where she is planning to use all her skills in all animation techniques.[44]

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 [77] with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble,[78] with multiple funding awards from the National Endowment for the Arts[49] and The Boston Foundation.[79] 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. Weaving together late 19th/early 20th-century women’s songs from Sephardic enclaves of the former Ottoman Empire, the show evokes a panorama of the unraveling of an older Mediterranean world — not as we see it today with the benefit of hindsight, but as ordinary people lived it, unaware of how the dots would connect. With song lyrics in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), an endangered blend of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek, together with English narration, the show renders scenes of daily life from WWI and the Ottoman Empire’s collapse to the glimmers of democratic hopes crushed by fascist regimes: A WWII genocide reducing Sephardic populations by as much as 93% and cloaking entire communities in a ‘shroud of oblivion.’


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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
First winner
Winner of Ukrayina maye talant
Succeeded by
Olena Kovtun