Oleg Tselkov (b.1934)

Biography

Born in Moscow in 1934, Tselkov studied art in Moscow and Leningrad between 1949-1955, also studying Theatrical Design in Minsk during this period before being expelled on ideological grounds. In 1960, he settled in Moscow; the same year he had a revelation regarding his work, producing his first 'Portrait'. The recognisably figurative work had a universality he had been searching for - the painting represented everyone and no one, an inscrutable mask concealing the ambiguous and archetypal being beneath. This ambivalent sense of persona came to become a central theme in the artist's oeuvre; expressionless figures, often physically imposing and wielding the symbols of productivity or oppression (the spade, knife, crucifix), dominate his striking canvases. Yet despite the uniformity the figures present, each of his works is radically individual.

The breadth and depth of Tselkov's prodigious career justifies the assertion of Simon Hewitt that 'Tselkov is destined to be acknowledged as the greatest Russian artist of his era.' Further accolades have come from Arthur Miller, the influential playwright who applauds the 'tragic power' of Tselkov's canvases; and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, who describes him as 'the most remarkable Russian artist of the post-war period.' In his sparsity of style and instinctive approach, the influence on his work of the work of his compatriot Kazemir Malevich is evident.

Controversy has become synonymous with the artist's work due to the challenging motifs and content Tselkov includes in his canvases. In 1977 Tselkov was expelled from Russia, emigrating to Paris in order to continue his artistic career in France. The ending of the Cold War and thawing of Russia's attitude towards avant-garde contemporary art has led to a complete reappraisal of his work in the artist's homeland, and recognition of his importance in the development of contemporary painting. In 1997 he was awarded the Tsarskoe Selo Prize; in 2005 he received the Triumph Prize, Moscow; in 2012 the Pushkin Museum Award, and the following year he won the Hermitage Museum Foundation Award. His works are now held in many important collections, including those of the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam; the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; The State Fine Arts
Pushkin Museum, Moscow; the Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow; and the Yokohama Museum of Art, Tokyo, as well as numerous private collections around the world. His paintings have been exhibited widely including the Saatchi Gallery, London and Lazarev Gallery, St. Petersburg, as well as in important exhibitions in Japan, America, France and Britain.

Current exhibition at Alon Zakaim Fine Art:

Oleg Tselkov: Alter Ego, 5-7 Dover Street, 17 October - 28 November 2014