Kupriakov, Nikolai

Born in Siberia, Nikolai Kupriakov spent his childhood in Ukraine and later settled in Lithuania before coming to Montréal from Lithuania in 1991. In addition to being a painter, Kupriakov is a conservator and architect. Often exploring controversial and sexually explicit themes in surrealistic paintings likened to Hiernymous Bosch, Kupriakov’s paintings challenge and extend what the artist deems to be the confining limits of artistic expression. Towards Justice (Vers la liberté) (1995) was inspired by Richard Barnabé, a Montréal taxi driver who was brutally beaten by police. The police officer in Kupriakov’s painting appears as a dog, reflecting the artist’s disillusionment with the police who were able to violently assault a man with impunity. The failure of the judicial system to bring about justice and their reluctance to send a message that the police are not above the law prompted Kupriakov to paint Towards Justice as a way of objecting. In keeping with his conviction that the artist has a social obligation to their communities in Towards Justice, Kupriakov endeavours to give the victim a voice about the corruption and inequity that frequently prevails our society. Towards Justice was removed from an exhibition in Complexe Desjardins in Montréal in 1996, along with another work called The Children of Paradise (Les enfants du paradis) (1994) sparking a controversy over the issue of censorship. The Children of Paradise depicts a harlequin in a church, tiny nude figures on a table in front of him staging an orgy. “The painting shows the contradictions in society that spark the artists’s need to give creative expression to his sorrow” (Jonathan Gatehouse, 1996). Commenting on the removal of his works the artist said: “It’s very funny. My first exhibition was in the Soviet Union when I was a student and the same thing happened. I didn’t think it was possible in Canada” (1996).

Peaceful Morning

acrylic on canvas
24 x 24