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Nikita Kaun: Dreamshapes

A Parallel Planets piece by Julia Escano
Endless spinning forms, morphing. Each image seemingly the beginnings of the next, still unimagined picture. Twisting lines conceive shapes, which birth figures of layered fantasy, infused by foreboding darkness. It is a gloomy, albeit fantastical world, and Nikita Kaun is its lord and master.

The 21-year-old self-taught Russian illustrator is still veiled in internet mystery, and finding anything more about him beyond his place of origin and age didn't come easy despite the social media filled interwebs. But his works speak loud enough for themselves, and whether I knew everything or nothing about him doesn't matter. It is impossible not to be drawn to Nikita's art.

His colours may be subdued, most often monochromatic with a few pops of color here and there, but it's more than made up for by the layers and layers of images each illustration presents. One look was not sufficient for me when studying his works, because there was so much to be discovered nestled within the lines, tucked within the figures: a clouded face beneath a shock of hair; a dog's head within a dog's head beneath a face beside a face; empty eye sockets in an explosion of flowers.

Nikita's works are almost hypnotic, if only for their surrealism. Looking at his illustrations is like peeking into a dream right as the dream-image begins to morph into its still-shapeless reiteration; like dabbing a wet brush onto paper and waiting to see what shape the paint takes. Things merge with each other in a seeming non-sequitur: a teddy bear and a scorpion, feathers and a skull. Yet, combined, they're a visual orchestra. There is a pervading sensuality about his lines, despite a constant shroud of gloom. His pieces toe the boundaries of the visceral and the grotesque, the carnal and the ephemeral, the dark and the dreamy. Weighty, hefty forms, yet fleeting.

Nikita's dreamworlds are steadily gaining repute the world over thanks to gig posters for American bands Russian Circles, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Being As An Ocean, as well as Russian band She Was the Universe. He has also designed for Russian-based skateboard company Union Skateboards and Sword Clothing.

SunTurnsIntoWater is Nikita's universal handle online, where his works in their different stages are exhibited. He details the process of his art through a compilation of sketches and snapshots of different works in progress. For avid followers, some of his works are also available for purchase.

Sure Nikita Kaun's dimensions may be dark, but they are arresting, like a dream that may or may not turn into a nightmare. They have a quality about them that makes us viewers stay and wait for more, hoping to see what his figures evolve into. For me, as well as a growing number out there I'm sure, there is just no looking away.


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