The son of a painter and an art teacher, Russian-born Vania Zouravliov began experimenting with his mother’s art supplies at a very early age. He remembers drawing what he describes as ‘evil hammerhead people’ when he was only four years old. Developing an extremely skilful hand and eye for illustration, Vania became a celebrated child prodigy in Russia, which led to several appearances on Russian television and introductions to famous communist artists, the godfathers of social realism. By the age of thirteen, Zouravliov was exhibiting internationally, and in 1997 moved to Britain to study at the Edinburgh College of Art.

His first published work appeared in the Eros Comix series in 2000, by which time his richly detailed illustrations, combining symbolism, myth and eroticism were widely known and appreciated. Zouravliov’s drawings demonstrate his ability to portray both fantasies and fears, combining modern imagery with historical references and elements from both East and the West.

Beach Orgy, 2002

When asked about his influences, Zouravliov explains that ‘Seeing works of Goya, Dürer, Mantegna and Arcimboldo made me realise that there was a multitude of fascinating worlds out there. Even as a child, I felt that I needed a world of my own. Starting drawing early in life also taught me the importance of discipline and routine. Just like any other exercise, drawing needs to be practised regularly; otherwise, you lose form. My parents are very artistic and open-minded people, and thanks to them I became aware of Bayros, Sade, Rops and Boris Vian very early, together with many other less controversial artists. It’s hard for me to pinpoint what makes some of my work Russian or Slavic. Our art, religion, and language are all strongly influenced by other cultures, and yet there certainly is such a thing as a Slavic spirit that is instantly recognisable. For me, a work by Josef Sudek is a perfect example of what it means to be a Slav. The way I see the world is unmistakably Russian, and this is also represented in my work. Strong influences for me were Somov, Borisov-Musatov, Bakst, Vrubel and Bilibin.’

Example illustration