Ilya Zomb’s brilliantly conceived, chimerical paintings lie at the elusive intersection of reality and pure fantasy.
In a new series of paintings, Ilya Zomb turns his intricate imagination to birds, depicting them in balancing acts with insects and fruit in whimsical, wonderful still-lifes. The birds are as precise and specific as Audubon’s: royal blue hadeda ibis, yellow-billed stork, African crake, ashy-headed goose, each painted in a luminous palette with exquisite detail down to the individual markings on their feathers. Gazing at the viewer with sharp eyes, they possess an avian quality that is uncannily lifelike, a perfect blend of elegance and comic charm.
Born in the former USSR, Zomb has lived and worked in the New York area for many years, building a reputation for his consistently beautiful, arresting “pseudo-realistic” paintings, his preferred term for the fantastical images that perch on the edge of possibility. Revering art from the Italian and Northern Renaissance, he embraces a time-consuming, traditional process of layering oil paints, relying purely on brushwork for texture. Though his images hint at narrative, the meaning is ultimately up to the viewer: “You tell me what you see,” he says. “You have to find your own version of the story.”
Zomb studied art from an early age and graduated from Odessa’s prestigious art college before immigrating to the U.S. His paintings are included in the collections of the Knoxville Museum of Art and the National Museum of Art in Ukraine, and have been exhibited across the U.S. as well as in Russia and the U.K.