5 Fascinating Contemporary Russian Artists

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Note: Contains nudity.

When you have a country as diverse and geographically immense as Russia, the art that comes out of it is equally so. Some of the artists selected here have engaged with the turbulent political and military past of their country, while others have done the opposite and explored the rich folklore and mythology of their homeland in photography and painting.

Regardless of the medium, these chosen creative individuals make art which is engaging, shocking, and down right cool!

Top: Mickey Mouse in meat form by Dimitri Tsykalov.
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Tsykalov transforms everyday objects like meat and vegetables into sinister objects.

Dimitri Tsykalov

Although currently based in Paris, Tsykalov’s controversial and visually stunning sculptures and photography retain a distinctly Russian feel. His photo series “Meat” encapsulates this mood: naked models are posed against a black backdrop and dressed up with raw meat into different war personas, with guns, flags and gas masks. Here Russia’s war-like reputation is playfully subverted in memorable style. His recent sculptural work is a series built around the use of wood, including a giant human heart made from this durable substance.

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Russian folklore beautifully brought to life by Katerina Plotnikova.

Katerina Plotnikova

A fine art photographer whose work can accurately be described as an “enchanting wonderland.” The forests and wild places act as a base from which Plotnikova casts a spell of fluorescent smoke, balloons and wild beasts. The way she works with colour and light are breathtaking as a sense of natural beauty shines through all her photographs. Based in Moscow, she stands apart as a Russian photographer with a real sense of the theatrical.

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Street art with a conscience by Pavel P183.

Pavel P183

Regularly dubbed the “Russian Banksy,” the street artist known as Pavel P183 has grabbed media attention in the last few years with his anti-capitalist driven graffiti art. Known for his large-scale hyperrealist murals and his attacks on the corporate side of the art world, once dismissing designers as “money makers” for example. Pavel sadly passed away in April 2013 under mysterious circumstances, while working on stage sets for Teatralnoye Delo in Moscow.

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The quirky, minimalist drawings of illustrator Mina Milk.

Mina Milk

A contemporary illustrator based in London, Mina Milk (what a lovely pen name) makes art which is at once delicate and feminine with ink, pen and pencil, but at the same time fiercely individualistic. Her subjects range from the animals of the forest and erotic nudes to children’s books and fashion illustrations. There is nothing her brush cannot shape to her own personal style. Equal parts mythology, dreams and eroticism, her illustrations are a beauty to behold.

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Striking black and white portraits by Nikolay Bakharev.

Nikolay Bakharev

From the far frontier of the Russian Federation comes photo-artist Nikolay Bakharev. Born in a remote village in Eastern Siberia, he was brought up in an orphanage from the age of 4 after both his parents passed away. His work exists between documentary and social realism: shooting in black and white he captures intimate moments of everyday Russians like himself with a great amount of clarity and compassion for his subjects.

Images © respective artists and galleries
Christopher Smail

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Christopher is based in the UK, the former assistant editor of Illusion magazine. Follow the author @ and view more articles.