Leningrad, USSR, 1949 –
Sasha Okun was born in Leningrad in 1949. He graduated with an M.A. from the Muchina Academy of Arts & Design in 1972. In 1979, Okun immigrated to Israel.
He has been a senior lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design and at “Emunah” College in Jerusalem, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Bellarmine College in Kentucky, U.S.A.
Okun contemplates humanity with a distant gaze and a certain empathy, similar to a physician or scientist, sparing nothing from the figures he depicts as eventually “to dust returned.” He does not poeticize suffering or melancholy, nor does he propose any conclusions or suggestions: Okun observes. The superb painterly qualities of Okun’s paintings link him to the European post-Renaissance tradition. Okun’s paintings neither reflect nor imitate. They walk a fine line between caricature and the grotesque, but do not stoop to crudity. His works have been rightly compared to frescoes in terms of the sensation they create. We can think of Giulio Romano’s Hall of the Giants in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, from the 16th century, or some of the figures in the San Antonio della Florida in Madrid by Goya (1799), both wall paintings full of fantasy and severity. Okun’s observation of the world is pitiless, striving for the essential, to the fundamental reduction of human relations. It is perhaps not a mirror of society, but is sharpened and precise in relation to the pathetic hierarchical perception people have, forever needing someone to be more miserable than they are so they can feel superior.