Kiev, Ukraine, 1976 –
Born in Kiev, 1976
Lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Graduated from HaMidrasha School of Art, Beit Berl in 1999 and from Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin in 2003.
Several years ago, right before opening her solo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum displaying her paintings alongside bronze sculptures of human feces (a show in which almost all of the works were sold in advance of the opening), Zoya Cherkassky (known simply as Zoya) decided to move to Berlin. She had recently won several “Promising Young Artists” awards, including The 2004 Chosen Artist of Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation (IcExcellence.com), the 2000 Ingeborg Bachman Scholarship (established by Anselm Kiefer), the 1999 Israel Ministry of Education and Culture Prize for a Young Artist, and the 1999 Steinman Award for a Young Sculptor. She went to Berlin in 2005 with no specific plans, but soon found herself participating in the prestigious Künstlerhaus Bethanien residency program and in a few international exhibitions. In 2009, armed with new ideas about art, she returned to Israel and started an alternative gallery with friends in the south of Tel Aviv called “Golden Gate.”
Since her return, she has embraced traditional painting techniques, taking her easel out into the street and capturing everyday people in their natural elements. In recent years, Cherkassky’s work has focussed on the experiences of Jews who, like herself, immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. The piercing portraits of embarrassing Russian-Israeli culture clashes have earned her widespread notoriety on the social media circuit.
But Cherkassky’s work has always been politically charged. Whether her targets were the sacred cows of the insular art world, rigid religious dogma, or sectarian strongmen in the Israeli Knesset, Cherkassky has always been irreverent and iconoclastic.
Almost all of Cherkassky’s works feature distinct grotesque elements, combined with a generous helping of black humor – from the exaggerated figures to extreme satirical narrative scenes. The exaggeration, irony and humor wish to wake the viewers up from their apathy, gain their attention and gently break through their defensive barriers. The artist’s criticism is mainly directed at establishments of all kinds while her searing satire is a function of her subversive joy at breaking rules, crossing boundaries and desecrating any kind of hallowed institution.