Iliya Mirochnik paints landscapes and still lifes, but he is particularly noted for complex portraits of his friends and family members, painted in oils and often large in scale.
When he was two, Mirochnik emigrated with his family from the Ukrainian city of Odessa to Brooklyn, where he grew up. The boy started taking art classes at age 12 and then, having earned admission to New York City’s LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, studied after school at the Art Students League of New York and at the Bridgeview School of Fine Arts, where several instructors had been trained in the former Soviet Union.
In 2006, Mirochnik enrolled in St. Petersburg’s prestigious Repin State Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, where he spent seven years earning B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees. There he mastered ﬁgure drawing, anatomy, and perspective, and he concedes that “it is precisely this training that allows me to diverge from it” today. Now, based in a Manhattan studio, Mirochnik aims “to connect the Russian aesthetic with American sensibilities,” and has focused this effort on ﬁgure paintings set in his home or studio. Not surprisingly, he admires the intimate domestic scenes of Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), who also believed that the home can, in Mirochnik’s words, “speak to everyone.”
Even more than Bonnard, Mirochnik juxtaposes images — for example, a portrait within a portrait. This practice owes much to the visual culture of comic books and graphic novels in which he grew up, and to our contemporary Internet world of frames and pop-ups. This also references a historical tradition that belongs less to painting than to printmaking, in which drawn frames have played integral compositional roles. The resulting compositions evoke ambiguous narratives, some of which even Mirochnik does not fully grasp as he works: “there are times,” he admits, “when the image comes before understanding of the image.” By juxtaposing “a geographical and social solidity” (e.g., his family’s living room) “on a psychological instability, I enable the various strata of daily existence (ﬁnancial, intellectual, personal, spiritual, etc.) to intersect and result in inner conﬂict,” Mirochnik explains.
A suitable example is illustrated here: “‘Fathers and Sons’ is essentially a portrait of my father, but the canvas also includes a self-portrait assuming a pose that is unnatural to me, but one in which my father often falls asleep. It’s a painting about connections I have, and it’s also about the relationship I have with my father, which has changed as I get older.” It’s pertinent that Mirochnik loves reading poetry, and that he says “there is something of the poetic that I am striving to achieve.” We don’t expect poems to tell immediately coherent stories, so perhaps it’s best to allow Mirochnik’s scenes, like poetry, to sink in over time.
Visit Iliya Mirochnik’s website at www.iliyamirochnik.com.