One of the mysteries of art lies in the impossibility to foretell fashionable tendencies. All attempts to do so end up in verbose treatises on the theory of composition, color schemes or an accord between the form and the content. Nobody has yet managed to derive a formula of success out of these components. However, to examine and to describe the influence of art on the individual, society and its culture in a certain period of time proved to be possible. This does not work in reverse, which, fortunately, bars the path to an easy success.

It is only through spiritual and physical labor, passion for knowledge and experimentation, together with a natural talent, that one could create a true work of art. And if such a work sees the light of day, if it is a fruit of the fusion of talent and soul, then this work of art will be claimed – and it does not make any difference in what time period and by what society. An artist can define the time by moving in parallel with it, living according to the laws of his own self-actualization. But the moment an artist embarks on the path of divining or catching tendencies of the public demand, he begets the works devoid of live and spirit that can exert no influence on a viewer. They neither attract nor repel. One passes them by without notice.

Each painting of Michael Cheval leads its own individual existence. They come to life in a mysterious and magical way, and, after leaving their creator, they become viable entities that possess a spiritual force and an ability to initiate a dialog as well as to gather around itself groups of adherents or, conversely, antagonists. This amazing phenomenon of a certain activity of inanimate objects is, in fact, the true life of art. Michael works in the style of surrealism that is the most difficult for understanding and perception. He has always worked in this style, regardless of time and place where he lived or demands of the society around him, having personally experienced an absolute lack of freedom of the totalitarian system and opportunities of the free society. In spite of the circumstances, the artist continued to work on the infinitely profound subject of the surreal while creating his own personal style.

By laws of surrealism, the image seen by an artist is not processed by the mind, but rather directly transferred onto canvas. The secret is that the artist saw what he could see on the border of the intersecting time and space. Where an ordinary person just sees an unhurried movement, an artist is able to discern a deceleration of the flow of time. An autumn landscape could be interpreted as a collapse of space into a discrete segment of the season. The depiction of timepieces – watches, hourglasses, or wall clocks with a pendulum or a cuckoo – became s symbol of the surrealists for several generations. Broken or tied clock hands, muddled numerals, melted clock-faces and hoarse-voice cuckoos seemingly vary the flow of time by drawing into it figurative objects and then distorting them, giving to them a different meaning, deepening or reducing their significance. Such an approach to a work of painting, cinema, music etc. totally conforms to the Surrealist Manifesto. However, in the course of several decades of its existence, this exceptionally profound movement generated numerous new styles in art. In their essence, they remain surrealist, fulfilling the chief task of reflecting the consciousness, but they contribute- now a greater psychological depth, now an irony, now a posed question.

One of such styles is Psychological Absurdity, or, called more literary, “The Theatre of the Absurd”, and it is, in fact, the object of search of Michael Cheval. He uses figurative objects as symbols – this principle is derived from the basics, but, at the same time, the characters are trying to solve a problem, which was set for them, proceeding from an absurd situation in which the artist placed them. Into one and the same action, he brings together people and animals, domestic objects and exotic plants that cannot possibly come next to each other in a life situation. Yet, the artist experiments by placing them into the fabric of his absurd play and tries to discern their influence on each other. At that, the psychological charging of images is enormous. Therefore, it is not surprising that the metamorphoses of transmutations are one of the principal creative devices of the artist. At times, that which is depicted on canvas breaks all the laws of biology, chemistry and physics put together. But, at the same time, the show that’s being performed is perceived as a true drama, and a dialogue among inanimate objects transforms into human relations and involves the viewer. And all this results in a spiritual communion with the work of art.

From the point of view of composition, the works of Michael Cheval are quite complex. One could call them symphonic, consisting of several tunes that are composed by individual characters of the paintings. But, for all their complexity, the compositions are always austere and balanced. They have neither distortions nor collapses. In the process of creating a painting, separate figurative images can change, transform, dress up and altogether disappear, obeying a sudden inner expression of the artist, but the main composition remains the pivot. Such an approach testifies to a high degree of professionalism, mastership as and, most importantly, certainty in the need for a spiritual revelation.

The artist works in the technique of the Old Masters following the entire technology of painting with oil on canvas. The depth of color is achieved by multiple layers. The effect of contrast is frequently employed. The color scheme is rather bright, but there is no exploitation of the pure colors. In certain works, the artist creates a texture in order to intensify some visual color effect, but, for the most part, his technique could be defined as a “smooth-painting” totally devoid of the heavy impasto. The artistic vision and mastership allow him to use such difficult for combination colors as, for instance, red and blue. Each of these colors is so profound and capable of conveying an intense psychological charge that their combination in the same composition should, in theory, emphasize two equipollent things, but they could also destroy one another in inept hands. In the paintings of Michael Cheval, the color charging of the objects is distributed precisely in accordance with the artist’s conception and obeying the laws of harmony.

Svetlana Vais – Chelsea, New York City

Director “Interart Gallery” New York, NY

October 2003