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Artist of the Week – Vladimir Kush

November 1, 2010 by · 22 comments

Interview with Vladimir Kush by Galya Mladenova


Vladimir Kush was born in 1965, in a small one-story wooden house on the northern edge of Moscow. Kush was a prodigy, showing artistic ability since he was three or four-years-old.

At the age of seven, concurrent with general education, Vladimir began to attend art school until the late evening. He became acquainted with the works of great artists of the Renaissance, famous Impressionists, and Modern artists. Here he was fortunate to have teachers who did not attempt to squeeze him into the “Procrustean Bed” of academism, but rather, encouraged freedom of creativity.

Among Vladimir’s youthful passions that later became vital in his symbolic representation of the world was his unfailing love for flowers. The juvenile years of the painter took place within the 1970’s and 1980’s, and he could only dream of journeys to exotic lands through the tropical plants that he grew on his windowsill.

Vladimir Kush entered the Moscow Higher Art and Craft School at age 17, but a year later he was drafted. After six months of military training the unit commander thought it more appropriate to employ him exclusively for peaceful purposes, namely, painting propagandistic posters.

In the year 1987, Vladimir began to take part in exhibitions organized by the Union of Artists. At a show in Coburg, Germany in 1990, nearly all his displayed paintings sold and after closing the exhibition, he parted ways with the two other Russian artists that had accompanied him. He flew to Los Angeles where 20 of his works were exhibited and began his “American Odyssey.”

In Los Angeles Kush earned money by drawing portraits on the Santa Monica pier. Going home was not an option for this artist. Instead, he spent his savings on a ticket to his “Promised Land,” Hawaii. In Hawaii, Vladimir discovered the world he had dreamed of since childhood when he painted his first oil painting of a tsunami wave falling on Hawaiian shores. The needle of his compass had always been directed south. It was here that the artist elaborated his color palette to encompass the vibrant hues of the islands and here that Vladimir formed his inimitable style, his method and his language … “Metaphorical Realism.”

In 2001 Kush opened his first gallery, Kush Fine Art in Lahaina, Hawaii. In addition, he now has locations in New York, Las Vegas and Laguna Beach, California where admirers visit from all corners of the earth.


You love flowers. Do you have a favorite flower? If you had to express yourself metaphorically through a flower, which one would it be?

Since my childhood I’ve loved to grow exotic plants. Imagine that there is snow outside, but on the window – red amaryllis is in full bloom. It was an exotic envoy of the distant countries!

In my thoughts I would transfer myself into the desert of Karru. It seems there is no life on the dry, heat-cracked red land. Sometimes you meet only the crooked aloe trees, which do not look like they are alive… But in September the spring comes and the gloomy desert becomes alive, covered with thousands of large red flowers.

That was an unusual journey and I made it , of course, in my imagination and with a book in hand. That is how a desire to see the remote countries was born. That desire was fulfilled only many years later! At that time I was in my teens…

The image of the beautiful flower was revived again in the painting Music of the Woods.”

Amarillis is a name of a beautiful shepherdess, described in Greek poetry more than 2 thousand years ago. Truly, that flower contains a lot of poetry in itself!

Where do you usually work? What does the place look like?

I prefer a place with the correct lighting. I like the artistic order in the studio. Many sentimental art lovers like to associate creative process with the chaos in the artist’s studio… As Somerset Maugham noticed, they are always willing to put an artist into a poorly furnished and dirty studio somewhere in the attic…. But an artist likes the order and cleanliness.


How long does it take for an idea to turn into a complete painting? Which is the painting you’ve worked on the longest?

From the idea to realization there is a huge distance. The idea needs to “ripen” and I need to see the created image “as a whole” ( as says Gestalt psychology) “Ripening up” of the idea can last a very long time- weeks, months, years. The experienced gardener knows that the plant selection can take a while before the tree bears a good fruit.

Do you have any of your paintings in your home? What of?

The picture in my home is called “Wind.” In this painting there is a motion and it reminds me of a wind of destiny that brought me to American continent in 1990. Many people know the book by Mitchell “Gone With the Wind.” Something similar was happening in Russia in the beginning of 90’s. The old order was collapsing and the new order was hidden behind the smoke from the burning parliament.

How did you come up with Metaphorical Realism? What’s its essence?

Our thinking and every day language are deeply metaphorical. One of the most evident examples is “Time is money.” Still the metaphor is not limited only with the form of language – the very process of thinking is metaphorical. Metaphor allows us to build a bridge between distant and unrelated objects. Or as Aristotle put it: “Metaphor is the intuitive perception of likeness in the things that are different.”


Could you tell us more about the book “Metaphorical Journey” and the film “Metaphorical Voyage?”

“Metaphorical Journey” is a perfect art and coffee table book with texts and poems accompanying the paintings written by my father, which allows you to see the ‘parallels’ in history, science, literature and mythology. “Journey to the Edge of Time” is written by my uncle and my father as a complete story around the paintings in the form of a diary and is a mix of science fiction and art book. It is also a graphic design masterpiece, created as a “book within the book.”

What do you consider your greatest success?

I would choose “Nero” I think this painting reflects the dual metaphorical essence of Time – it is material, and can be measured by the amount of the crust folds of the ancient tree.


What is the hardest obstacle that you have overcome in your life?

It was a moment in my biography, when after the show in Germany I had to decide where I would fly next: back to Russia, which was uninviting but still my native country, or like Ulysses, go on a journey to the Unknown.

What is the most unusual comment on a painting of yours?

The most unusual and rare is when someone says that the flowers on “orchid Family Rollercoaster” are evil or that the blue shirt on the “wind” symbolizes the working class. The effects of the mass media are immeasurable.

You also create sculptures. Are your metaphorical concepts implied in them as well? Is sculpture more challenging than painting?

The main purpose of creating the sculptures was the desire to have the 3 D versions of my paintings. But they held by restrictions in 3D space, which do not exist in 2D:it is the material and its quality and surface and, of course, the color.


What’s your next goal?

I do not think that I reached the “ceiling;” new unexpected analogies and associations in the life of people and in the surrounding world will always attract my attention. My slogan: “The world is the mirror of Metaphor.” The ways of expressing yourself are also changing, moving from the traditional canvas to the TV screen, but the possibilities of the human imagination are unlimited!

You can see more of Vladimir Kush’s works here.

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