Mikhaylov presents visually rich, complex and historically nuanced images drawing on religious themes of famous Old Master and Social Realist works. He reminds us of the complicated nature of belief throughout history as well as in our daily lives and in so doing ponders the ever-evolving status not only of the “New Soviet Man” the hero of Socialist Realist art, and the “New Russian Man” of today, but also Modern Man everywhere.
One wonders if Bulgakov and Mikhaylov had Chekhov’s story of The Student in mind where the seminary student’s tale of Peter’s denial of Christ brings to tears two village women. “’The past is linked to the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of the other.’ and it seemed to him [the student] that he had just seen both ends of that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered.” And Chekhov noted further “truth and beauty that guided human life there in the garden and in the courtyard of the high priest have endured to this very day and evidently have always been the most important thing in human life.”
Denis Mikhaylov is an artist whose talent, informed by the past, equals his insight into our complicated and often confusing human condition, a condition where conflicting realities and differing philosophies distill good and evil into an intoxicating potion that can confound the intellect and the soul. By anchoring his art in the past, he illuminates the present and shows us a path to the future.
Dr. Michael P. Mezzatesta
The Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director Emeritus
Duke University Museum of Art