Michael (Mikhail) Pertsev and His Moving Sculptures

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Dancing Youth by Michael (Mikhail) Pertsev

By Susan Tsang

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.28.48 PMFor Artists In Residence (AIR) Series session 104, the guests transform Keiko’s cozy home to a salon that is of fluid conversations and ideas while appreciated the vegetarian lasagna and wine. The guests who have already attended the previous sessions are welcoming to everyone, including the first-timers like myself. Amongst the new guests, there are Misha’s students who come for their teacher’s presentation. Michael (Mikhail) Pertsev is a figurative sculptor from Moscow, Russia. He has a studio at Parker Street and teaches at Emily Carr University. He inspires his students to master their skills in sketching and sculpting. They would practice their drawings because Misha likes to make drafts on paper before sculpting. But the one who has a significant presence in Misha’s life is his father who was an artist from the Soviet Union.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.27.00 PMMisha’s story begins with his father’s artwork, drawing inspiration from the arduous times of the Communist Soviet Union. Seeking to capture the oppressive lives of the Soviet labourers on canvas, his father’s works were marked by strong strokes of dark green, red, and other saturated colours. The images left an impressionable imprint from the distinct lines that are sharp and angular to the subjects’ eyes that are hollowed out by black shade. Yet Misha’s father was not only an artist but also a part of the browbeaten citizens who needed to have his voice heard. He wished to draw the spine-breaking domestic lives of the Russians instead of the style of multi-figure, male-centric artworks. While his piece of drawing might have been controversial since it reflected the reality of the iron-fist governance, his intrinsic disposition to his cultural background made the occurrence of that drawing to be almost inevitable.

            Under the influence of his father, Misha draws pictures since he was young. His drawings from the early days consisted of armoured Medieval knights on galloping horses charged with movement. When the audience asks why movements attracted Misha, he tells us the time when his father complimented him for the intricate details of the soldier’s motion in one of his sketches. When asked why he chose sculptures specifically to convey his passion for movement, Misha recalls at the age of seventeen, he accidentally stumbled upon Michelangelo and his sculptures. Being impressed by his works, Misha sculpted his first statue of a youth.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.27.56 PMAs dusk turns to night, we sense that Misha’s love for movements follows him throughout his journey as an artist. Not only do his sculptures emphasize movement, but he himself is always on the move from one place to another. For example, Misha moved to Vancouver because of its mild climate compared to Europe. In a new place with its own unique culture, Misha expresses that the First Nation arts intrigue and inspire his recent statues like the Totem Horse. From the statue, we can see how Misha mixes his history of drawing battalions with Canadian arts. Similar to how the political climate impacted his father’s artworks, Misha cannot separate real life from art.


In his new home, Misha continuously looks for opportunities to strive as an artist with different approaches, though there are many opposing internal and external forces in his journey. Firstly, stating that “naturalistic figures are not enough,” Misha’s works challenge the fine line between abstract and naturalistic style. Even though his love for sculptures has started out with naturalistic sculptures, Misha is an “artist-in-progress”. He is on a constant search for personal growth and challenges. To illustrate that he wants to break free from the anatomy of body sculptures, Misha sculpted with bronze and plastic albeit that he likes stone the most. After each experiment and artwork, he “became a new person”. Like his statue, he is repeatedly being chipped and refined. Secondly, Misha expresses the dilemma that many artists face—to fulfill their clients’ want for realistic arts that fit the art culture, some artists have to sacrifice their creativity and will to create whatever they want. His concerns raise a complicated debate: do artists create culture? Or does culture create artists?

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.28.28 PMNevertheless, the conflicts do not hinder Misha’s search for his own style. Instead, they are the driving forces for his progress. An English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argues that voluntary motion starts with imagination which causes actions. Misha’s abstract and wild imagination for his sculptures push him to move forward. His next step is to create a statue outside of Vancouver with his team of fellow artists and students in Cyprus, Greece. Like motion, Misha is hard to stop.