Who I am

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

I put on canvas what I cannot convey in words. I start as an artist where I cannot move on as a scholar. My art starts where my scholarship ends. My art transcend the way I work and think; it challenges any discourse I am part of.

What I am

My path to art was long but by no means straight. I have had two careers, one as a literary scholar and another as a historian, before I finally realized: art is my passion.

I put on canvas what I cannot convey in words. I start as an artist where I cannot move on as a scholar and precisely where I end up as a scholar I start as an artist. Art allows me to transcend the way I work and think; it helps me challenge any discourse I am part of.

What I do besides art

Who he is

The imaginative, powerful paintings of Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern evoke a world of the past through saturated color and bold contrasts. The strong graphic style describes folkloric life populated by animals, people, and mythic creatures that dance and pop off the strongly colored surfaces. This reduced palette, simplified forms, and fantastical combinations evoke an intuitive approach that is both joyful and dark. From anthropomorphic bees gathering nectar from a fantastical flower tree to a menacing colossal wolf in a village from yesteryear, these works show a personal vision, colorful and troubling, but vital on every level.

Corinne Granof

Curator, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
Co-author of Design in the Age of Darwin and The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz

YPS is truly something "new under the sun." He is an artist-scholar possessed with an intuitive sense of color and composition, coupled with a deeply learned perspective on the past. Blessed with an irreverent outlook and joie de vivre, YPS brings whimsy, flair, and unadulterated color to even the darkest moments. We cheer for his tragi-comic human and animal subjects, grateful for a view into this reference-rich, vaudevillian world.

Ilana Segal

Curator of Collections at the Spertus Institute

His works of the last five years can be divided into four series: Icons, Circus, Tales, and Nightmares. A rich mythology and an uncurbed fantasy can be traced throughout them. Besides lubok, Yohanan makes good use of the technique of icon painting, void of spatial perspective and unfolded in two-dimensional realm. The economy of style, paper-cut technique, and the multi-layered semantics in both form and color travel from one series to another. Petrovsky-Shtern adheres to his newly found style yet in his explorations one also perceives his impulse to deny and overcome what he has already found-the impulse betraying Yohanan's tendency toward artistic self-development.

Vasyl Makhno

Poet, writer, essayist

The value of his work is not in his dexterity, professionalism, and style but precisely in his unique, ironic and still quite trustful view of the 20th century. The view in which his sensibility as a historian is combined with his inborn sense of beauty and poetry. In a sense, he starts with stereotypes, or perhaps with clichés which he turns into stereotypes. His work reminds of posters but it does not have pedestrian stylization…. His works reflect a sort of a family memory turning into a historical memory of the people, in which the trauma becomes a horrible tale, into a bitter joke, and a untrivial understanding of what is happening today.

Nina Gourianova

Art Historian
Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Northwestern University

Truly moved, inspired, and captivated. There is much more to say, but my enjoyment at the moment is completely and blissfully non-verbal.

Rory Finnin

Chair, Cambridge Committee for Russian and East European Studies,
University of Cambridge, UK

Where I will be

Parlour and Ramp Gallery

Starting March 19, 2023

I will be donating my artwork to support
Ukrainian cause and will be talking
about art at war as a form of resistance