Villa dei Misteri: Secteur Privé London

18 November - 22 December 2021

Karnik Gallery is pleased to present Sasha Okun: Villa dei Misteri, the gallery's first exhibition dedicated to the Jerusalem-based artist. This intimate presentation features seven new paintings and a selection of oil sketches by the painter.

From November 19 through to December 22, 2021, Sasha Okun: Villa dei Misteri will be on view at Karnik Gallery's pop-up location at Secteur Privé, 35 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AE.

Sasha Okun has acquired global recognition for his dramatic and unapologetic approach to the depiction of mankind through his paintings. His highly-stylised compositions do not bow to the convention and niceties of present day, but rather, look towards the human condition from a more philosophical perspective. Okun's oeuvre vocalises an art of contradictions and a truthful concept of our contemporary times, painted in his own classical approach.

Okun's art is that of an outsider: he felt so in Leningrad, his hometown, and continues to feel so in Jerusalem today, where he has lived since the late 1970s. This feeling is essential to understanding his perspective on life. Being the outsider, the dissident and the non-conformist, has enabled him to retain his independence from any dictation both by teachers at an early age or by art professionals today. The Hermitage have expressed the view that Okun was one of the most notable representatives of Leningrad's non-conformist art scene in the 1970's, a time when Okun placed regard for his personal safety second to his artistic freedom.

"I cannot depart from what, in one way or another, relates to the topic of human existence, everyday life and death. Perhaps that is why an older, lived-in body is more interesting to me than the 90/60/90 of the Hollywood starlets. Most of us are not really wise men but also not complete idiots, for us life is a tragicomedy. And for me it is the most interesting and productive genre. Eternal and short-lived, faith and cynicism, sanctity and sacrilege, soaring spirit and awful vulgarity-what a marvellous cocktail! Lifting the mundane to the heavens and plunging the heavens into a muddy puddle. This, basically, is what I do."

Since the beginning of his career, Okun's chosen subject matters and the format of his presentation have changed significantly. In the 1980s the artist moved from small scale paintings to large scale installations, which then transformed into his classical oil paintings on wood in contemporary works. His evolving choice of media for his art is a manifestation of his constant search for the meaning of life. Okun's continuous study of man's everyday life is summarised in his highly elaborate works of art bearing a covert sophisticated philosophy.

In Villa dei Misteri and other bodies of work, Okun accentuates the contradictions in the notions of high and low in art: he elevates the lowest tiers and minimises the higher ones. The ideal body of youth and classical perfection is transformed into a deteriorated physique and the soul is exposed in all its hideous absurdity and empty pursuit of the unattainable glory of life. However, this condition is not a pessimistic one. Okun finds in the human condition an indicator for compassion: human love is just a small miracle if you can find a way to love the common and the ordinary, with all his or her complexities. "The act of being human is in itself a courageous one," says the artist.

About the Artist


Born in Leningrad in 1949, as a young boy Okun began to study one of the many art courses for young artists with Solomon Levin at the Pioneer Palace Studio. He graduated from the Mukhina Higher Industrial Institute of Art in Leningrad after which he worked as a sculptor and taught at some of Israel's most prestigious art institutions. Recent exhibitions include: The State Russian Museum, Russia, St. Petersburg (2019); Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria (2017); U+I Gallery, London, England (2016); New Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia (2015); and Museum of Israel Art, Ramat Gan, Israel (2013).

The artist presently lives and works in Jerusalem, Israel. Discussions are in place for a major European museum exhibition for next year.