Denis Mezentsev
Through Fire and Water

12 October 2022 — 08 January 2023
  • Denis Mezentsev. Through Fire and Water

Erarta Museum presented an exhibition by Denis Mezentsev whose artworks bring into sharp focus the subjective nature of human perception and demonstrate that reality is an illusion

  • Works inspired by the art of the past, from the High Renaissance and Russian lubok prints to American Regionalism and Sots Art
  • A visionary artist who has spearheaded his own, more rationally driven, branch of Surrealism termed Subrealism
  • Highly imaginative storylines and elaborately detailed images

Denis Mezentsev falls into the category of visionary artists exploring the realm of the imaginary. It was no mere coincidence that his first major solo show in 2002 took place at the Ernst Fuchs Gallery in Vienna: a disciple of Salvador Dalí, Fuchs is known as the founder of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism.

Mezentsev’s take on the fantastic, however, does not chime with the Surrealist canon. The founders of that movement, with their tendency towards the outrageous, intentionally distorted the common naturalistic perception of reality, bending it according to the whims of their subconscious. Denis Mezentsev spearheaded his own branch of Surrealism – more rationally driven, and yet congenial – and coined the term ‘Subrealism’ to distinguish it.

A contemporary artist, Mezentsev realised he was ‘standing on the shoulders of giants,’ feeling backed by the entire history of visual arts. He had an affinity with the old masters of the High Renaissance and the American Regionalism, Russian lubok prints and even Sots-Art.

Mezentsev not only demonstrated like-mindedness with the masters of the past, but was incredibly diverse stylistically. His surrealistic images provide clues as to the twists and turns of his own life journey or bear a resemblance to his friends and family members. One can spend hours scrutinising his pictures, noticing tiny details and finishing the storylines – thus becoming the co-creator of these works. The message behind Denis Mezentsev’s Subrealism is that any human perception, whether of our own self or the world around us, is intrinsically subjective. The artist shares his detached view, suggesting that all reality is illusory.

In 2003, Denis Mezentsev was granted a private Papal audience in Vatican and presented his Angel painting to Pope John Paul II. Early in 2020, the artist died while waiting for a donor heart. During his final days at the hospital he never stopped drawing.

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