Vania Zouravliov – Darkest Fine Art from Russia
Russia is definitely the most prolific country of Fucked Up Artists after Japan. And if Uno Moralez’s random pixel art can be considered the equivalent of Japanese ero guro nansensu (“nonsensical erotic gore”), Vania Zouravliov delivers illustrations which are much more aligned with traditional ukiyo-e prints and classical fine art, with an outstanding blend of eastern and western vibes.
Ivan Zouravliov (Vania is a diminuitive) was born in Russia in an artistic environment, his father being a painter and his mother an art teacher. He soon became an internationally recognized prodigy child, exhibiting since the age of 13. He relocated to the UK as an adult, first to study at the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland, finally to settle down in London. Some of his work was featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, and Duran Duran’s TV Mania album cover. His talent is incredible and well-recognised: he won the D&AD Yellow Pencil Award in 2007, the Communication Arts USA Award of Excellence in 2008, and Le Club Des Directeurs Artistiques Best Advertising award in 2009.
Stylistically, Vania Zouravliouv’s art reminds me a lot of Takato Yamamoto’s Heisei aestheticsm. Both of their illustrations are dark and gothic, calm and eerie, often including nudity and elements of death such as skulls and skeletons, but rarely ever explicitly violent or gore. The amount of detail he puts in his character portraits is awe-inspiring, often making you wonder if you are looking at a photographic piece rather than at a drawing. The atmosphere he depicts is often surreal, twisted and macabre, yet never feels entirely out of this world.
Zouravliouv considers himself ‘unmistakably Russian’, despite living for half of his life in the UK, and drawing inspirations for his art from a variety of different cultural works such as The Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, early Disney animation, North American Indians and Japanese woodblock prints. When asked about his personal motto or favourite quotation, he even quoted a haiku from Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, an ukiyo-e artist and poet from the 19th century:
Death Poem of Yoshitoshi
Holding back the night
The summer moon
A 160-page limited edition book of Zouravliov’s artwork, titled “Vania”, was released in 2009 but soon became sold out. Today, you can only find Vania from second-hand sellers, and prices range around 500$ on amazon.