top of page

Van O

Van O (Ivan Isaev) is a photographer and installation artist who has exhibited extensively in Russia and internationally in London, Rome, and Seoul. His works remain in the permanent collections of The State Russian Museum and Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art, both in St. Petersburg. Notable publications include London’s Bluebee Magazine, Florida - United States based magazine Dek Unu, and Berlin’s Chromart magazine. Van O’s art often entails setting up scenery with props and actors in order to create temporary installations to photograph. 

Princess Frog (pictured above and below) is a series of photographs using a male and female model swimming in a swamp. The female’s bright red hair helps contrast her figure with the surrounding nature. As the couple struggles to keep the upper portion of their body free of swamp debris, they tread carefully throughout the photographs, which are not in sequence. They reflect a sort of Adam and Eve narrative wandering around nude in bacteria-infested waters. The emotions range from discomfort, joy, confidence, to even embracing the slimy swamp. Placed upon the photos are symbols of frogs and frog legs set up to either look like an alien language or even spread across to look like insects such as centipedes. Van O tries to convey a sense of storytelling through unfamiliar imagery and symbolism, perhaps communicating the varying degrees of experiences instilled upon humans when interacting with nature. 

The Red Zone series depicts props and actors painted and spray painted with monochromatic red against a rich crimson background. These pieces are meant to be ironic in projecting a reaction of the unfamiliar. Happy Birthday! (pictured below) presents an image of hands in the same theme of The Creation of Adam fresco on the Sistine Chapel but instead of God injecting life into Adam, he lurches forward with an arm to pull a grenade pin. The interpretation of the concept could range anywhere from a statement about war to the relationship between God and man. The title Happy Birthday! may suggest God destroying Adam while the lifeless human not understanding what scenario pulling the grenade would entail. Red Lunch I (second picture below) portrays a spray painted lobster protruding out of a pot armed with gnawing pincers and a menacing face as if to attack the person trying to eat the subject. Perhaps a message about a state of rebellion against what remains tasked before a subject. The lobster in the pot indicates the crustacean should be eaten, however the reaction of the lobster towards the audience shows a sense of defiance towards his defined role. 

As we have discussed examples of Van O’s art the viewer may analyze the defining qualities which define the works as a whole. Some of the works can come off as vintage as they are shot in monotone grays and earth tones, while others appear more contemporary with bright colors such as red or contrasting colors such as red and green put together. The production values on the props are top tier as if assembled by a professional film crew for an independent film. As a director of performance art and a sculptor of temporary installations, the photography serves as a documentation record to capture these moments of time in order to be presented with viewers repeatedly. The props are usually found objects put together to become sculptures, sometimes the objects are used by themselves such as the Victorian-era props in Eve (bottom of article).

Van O provides the viewer with rich installations and vivid documentation of his creations and orchestrated scenes. Like a film or theatre director, he composes the stage in a manner of which to have the audience partake in storytelling. With insightful set design, careful color management, and skilled actors, Van O gives photography a deeper purpose.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page