Mihail Chemiakine

Painter, graphic artist, sculptor, book artist, theatrical designer, performance artist. Born in the family of Mikhail Shemyakin in Moscow (1943). Grew up in the German town of Königsberg, where his father served in the Soviet army (1950s). Moved with his family to Leningrad (1957). Studied at the Leningrad Secondary School of Art (1957–59, expelled for Formalism). Worked as a common labourer (1959–61) and a rigger at the Hermitage Museum. Founded the St Petersburg group (1967). Collaborated with philosopher Vladimir Ivanov on a theory of metaphysical synthetism based on a study of the religious art of all times and peoples. Held happenings similar to theatrical shows in his apartment with other members of the St Petersburg group (late 1960s). Created series of drawings and lithographs based on his favourite motif of the masquerade. Developed his own personal style combining features of Symbolism and Surrealism. Stripped of Soviet citizenship and exiled to France (1971). Spent ten years in Paris, winning fame following an exhibition of his Petersburg Carnival watercolour series. Published the Apollo-77 almanac, which became a collective manifesto of Russian underground art (1977). Moved to New York (1981). Elected to the New York Academy of Sciences. Influenced by the masters of the World of Art. Developed the themes of semi-fantastic figures and carnival in works of plastic art (1980s). Sculpted a series of monuments installed in public places in St Petersburg and Moscow (early 1990s), including a grotesque statue of Peter the Great in the Peter and Paul Fortress (1991). Awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation for Literature and Art (1993). Designed the sets and costumes for a production of Peter Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg (2001). Lived in the town of Claverack in the United States (from 1989). Lives and works near Châteauroux in central France (from 2007). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1962), including Portraiture in Russia: XX Century at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg (2001–02), Times of Change: Art in the Soviet Union (1960–85) at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg (2006) and one-man shows at the editorial offices of Zvezda in Leningrad (1962) and in Moscow and St Petersburg (1989).

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