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Michael Cheval (born Mikhail Khokhlachev, Russian: Михаил Хохлачев; 1966, in Kotelnikovo, Russia, Soviet Union) is a contemporary artist specializing in Absurdist paintings, drawings and portraits. He is the co-founder of Cheval Fine Art Inc. and currently resides in New Jersey, United States. His work is internationally acclaimed and has been exhibited regularly in galleries across the United States and Europe.
Michael Cheval was born in 1966 in Kotelnikovo, a small town in southern Russia. Growing up in an artistic family, his love of drawing was encouraged from early childhood by his father, Mikhail Khokhlachev, a self-taught artist and by his grandfather, Yuri Lipov, a professional artist and sculptor. His ability developed quickly and by three years old, he could already draw complex compositions.
When Cheval's family moved to Germany[which?] in 1980, the new environment made a great and indelible impression on the young artist. During that period he also pursued other artistic pursuits, composing songs, playing in a rock' n' roll band and writing poetry.
In 1986, he moved to Balkanabat, Turkmenistan and graduated from Ashgabad school of Fine Art in 1992. Absorbing Eastern philosophy and the character of Central Asia, he began working as an independent professional artist, shaping his style and direction. He also collaborated with several theaters and publishing houses in the Ashgabad and Balkanabat, creating stage sets, costumes and illustrating books.
In 1990 Cheval held his first personal exhibition in Turkmenistan's State Museum of Fine Art, a significant event that showed high appreciation from the region's artist community.
In 1993, he moved to Moscow, Russia, and worked as an independent artist and illustrator for various publishing houses, including the famous book-publishing house "Planeta".
With his immigration to New York City, United States in 1997, a new epoch began for the artist. He returned to the Western culture that inspired him in his youth, but now brought along his own experience, philosophy and vision.
Acclaim for his art grew quickly and in 1998 he became a member of the prestigious New York's National Arts Club
Since 2009 Cheval has collaborated with the writer, philosopher and poet Boris Glikman, who has written short stories, fables and poems to accompany Cheval's paintings. In 2011 their collaboration "Local Call/The mePhone" was published in U Magazine. Cheval and Glikman are also considering collaborating on postcards and an art album with accompanying poems and stories.
In 2011, commissioned by Gina Lollobrigida, he completed a full body, official portrait of her.
Cheval's art is notable for its power, technical brilliance, subtlety, grandeur and the originality of its concepts.
Cheval compares his paintings to a puzzle whose code needs to be discovered; yet there may be more than one solution to the riddle and he invites the audience to provide their own unique interpretations of his art, through which new ideas and a higher level of understanding of the work is attained. Cheval says: “ The spectator should have aspiration to understand the world I present, and thereby expand his horizons and his consciousness. I'm always happy when I see that a viewer understands me, when they have the desire to play my game”(7) (8).
Amongst the influences on Cheval's art are the Russian artists of the 19th-20th centuries, such as Pavel Fedotov, Vasily Perov, Vasily Surikov and Viktor Vasnetsov, the artists of the Italian Renaissance painting and the Dutch artists of the 16th-17th centuries, in particular Vermeer and Gerard ter Borch.
The greatest influence that helped him define his style came from the two Surrealists of the 20th century, Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, although he sees his style as distinct from surrealism, describing it as Absurdism. According to his definition, absurdism is an inverted side of reality, a reverse side of logic that does not emerge from the dreams of surrealists or the realm of the subconsciousness. Rather, it is a game of imagination, where all ties are carefully chosen to construct a literary plot. Cheval says: "Absurdity, like any other genre, has its own rules. But it implies everything that is outlying of common rules and boundaries. "Absurdism" is an attempt to understand our life the way it truly is. Without propaganda, ideology, politics, and imposed tastes. Life in its pure state is beautiful, full of logic and meaning. But combined with the above, it is absurd, illogical. The majority of people became accustomed to such life and they do not notice this. That is why it is useful, once in a while, to turn everything upside down, in order to wake them."
He cites his passion for literature and poetry as contributing to the visual vocabulary and symbolism of his art. He also describes the experience he had gained from being a musician and a writer as an essential factor in the realization of his goals in the painting field.
Critical and Public Response
Every one of Cheval's paintings is a map of his journey into illusion. His work is often metaphorical and requires a sharp eye to decipher the hidden allusions. Figurative objects are used as symbols; the human form is often only alluded to. Instead of relying on cultural sources, he explores deep motives of unconsciousness that are easily understood because they are universal. He paints using the language of dreams, juxtaposing things that "should not" exist together in an often otherwise realistic style, making it easier to accept.
Cheval’s artwork is crafted with the virtuosity of great masters belonging to the Golden Age of Dutch art and conjures visions of supernatural domains, doorways into parallel realities, and glimpses into the world of absurdity (13). The irrational and the mysterious is expressed simply and clearly in his paintings, which are often similar to photographs. The familiar, however, is inevitably invaded by the unreal: unfeasible spheres, floating under the arches of gothic cathedrals, a violin sliding down the pipes, countless masks, continually changing and leaving their characters for different roles. Moments of time collide; threads from one world seep into another; life on its stage with the fine strings controlling our actions is caught, momentarily, like a photo somehow capturing the hand of God.
Each of his paintings leads its own individual existence. They come to life in a mysterious and magical way, and, after leaving their creator, they become viable entities that possess a spiritual force and an ability to initiate a dialog as well as to gather around itself groups of adherents.
Cheval Fine Art Inc.
Cheval Fine Art Inc. was established in 2009 in New York by Michael and Beatrice Cheval. The company publishes, exhibits, promotes and popularizes the works of Michael Cheval.
Cheval Fine Art Inc. offers original oil on canvas paintings by Michael Cheval, as well as limited edition prints(16) on canvas, aluminum and paper, and books.
Cheval Fine Art Inc. works with different galleries around USA, private collectors around the world, museums and auction houses.
- 2000. National Arts Club Exhibition Committee Award
- 2009. Chosen as The Best of Worldwide Oil Artists by the "Best of Worldwide Artists" Volume 1 Book Series
- Winner of the First Prize of “Palm Art Award”, awarded by Palm Art Award Jury and Art Domain Gallery (Leipzig)
- Cheval, Michael (2004). Lullabies. InterArt Gallery. 96 pages full colored, art album 12" x 9,5"
- Cheval, Michael (2007). Nature of Absurdity. InterArt Gallery. 128 pages full colored, art album 12" x 9,5"
- Who's Who in Visual Art, Vol. DE 2010-2011 ISBN 978-3-9813474-1-8
- Dreamscape 2009 Publisher: Imaginary Editions ISBN 9789490668020
- Dreamscapes 2010 Publisher: Imaginary Editions ISBN 9789490668020
- Imaginaire III: Contemporary Magic Realism, 2010. Publisher: Fantasmus-Art Aps ISBN 8799214784
- 2006, September, Should I like Michael Cheval? - Chris Rywalt, NYC Art
- 2006, September, Absurd Intacta - Mark Gauchax, Charleroi, Belgium
- 2003, October, All about Michael - Svetlana Vais, Director Interart Gallery, New York, NY
- 2004, Society for Art of Imaginations, INSCAPE Magazine
- 2003, August 17, Daily News
- 2008, August, Michael Cheval - Creator of Absurdology - Interview with the Artist Central Orange County's Best magazine, Volume 2, #4, Umbrella Publishing
- 2008, August, Dalí Meets Rembrandt, Interview with Peggy Howell, owner of Gallery HB Central Orange County's Best magazine, Volume 2, #4, Umbrella Publishing