Vladimir Kush hasn’t always painted fantastical landscapes and surreal expressions of man and nature. Before he sold his first work, he created propaganda art for the Russian army. Kush describes his sometimes funny but always beautiful art as metaphorical. On his website, some of his paintings are paired with written explanations which give the viewer the artist’s broad intention while allowing more specific meaning to be attached by the audience. As an accomplished painter, sculptor and animator, Kush talks to us about owning and operating galleries as well as adapting his talents in the digital market.
How do your Russian heritage and your life experiences (being in the military, living in California) influence your art?
Being exposed to different cultures is definitely a positive gain. My homeland, Russia, was a “closed country” at the time I was growing up. Inability to travel or to see other cultures evoked in me the determination to overcome the boundaries of everyday routine with vivid Imagination and an ability to see surrounding symbols, not just facts. The Russian military at that time was simply an exaggerated model of Soviet social life: a mix of a prison and Boy Scout camp. When I emigrated, many people in America were already “thirsty” for imported imagination, which reminded them of their own forgotten dreams, while surrounded with everyday practical, factual and dynamic life.
You have four galleries in three states. What planning went into establishing these (location, capital, staff, etc.) and what has made them successful?
Destiny brought me to the westernmost state of Hawaii in 1991. Opening the first Kush Fine Art gallery in 2001 was nothing like a practical undertaking. The first gallery was opened with ZER0 starting capital, purely “on the wave of interest” in my art and with no planning. If the new gallery did not sell in the first week, I would “go down.”
In 2003, I started my way eastward and opened a gallery in Las Vegas having just a hint in my hands that my clients might travel to Las Vegas as well as to Maui. The Laguna Beach gallery was a tribute to my nostalgic feelings about the place when I strolled the streets of Laguna Beach shortly after emigration with roll of canvases under my arm and the local gallery owners, who would not take a moment to look at the canvases. No business planning or sufficient capital foundation was ever a factor.
In 2009, during the economic downfall, when many galleries had closed, I opened another one in Las Vegas in The Forum Shops, which saved us from this downfall. “Going against the current” is the strategy and plan. The capital is my artwork.
Your website is exceptionally well designed to market your brand, Kush Fine Art. How did you go about finding the right designer for your brand, and what was the collaboration process like with him/her?
I met my Graphic Designer when I traveled back to dark Moscow in December of 2001 with my vague plans about the first book, Metaphorical Journey. I was lucky to find a guy with an extraordinary mind, great taste and understanding of my art. For the most part, I learned to “trust his eye” on many aspects of our design (He only has one eye).
Although you have merchandise available for purchase online, you have decided to sell your prints and sculpture in-store only. In a digital age, why did you choose this arrangement?
At the present time, the human factor (sales staff), plays a significant role in the process of selling, due to various sales tricks. I hope to move on to selling artwork online. I also believe that some of the sales staff activities could be replaced by a sound box, which will tell the story about the particular painting to the viewer by pressing one button.
You say on your website you plan to open a gallery in Hong Kong. What advantages do see in that location?
My career as a professional artist started in Hong Kong and I have many memories connected with that city. I would say it is again my inner feeling that tells me if I should open up in certain places, rather then a deliberate planning.
You have entered the multimedia world with a DVD and iPad app. Do you have plans to do another project like your Metaphorical Voyage film or the Aries the Sheep app?
There are big plans for multimedia projects. The pile of stories and screenplays is accumulating. The multimedia projects require other people’s involvement and it plays a big role on the outcome. Little by little I am gathering a team of people, involved in creating ”Kush Projects.” I am a strong believer that Metaphorical Realism can exist in all expressions of human culture. In order for us to see them, we just need to “wipe off the mirror of metaphor with the flannel of world culture.”