Nov 4, 2011

PROFILE | Kseniya Simonova

 Kseniya Simonova is a world renowned performance sand artist who gained fame by winning the Ukraine's Got Talent 2009 competition. She has performed her sand drawings all over the world, including but not limited to: the 2009 Charity Ball L’Istrina to raise money for people suffering from cancer, the 2010 Fifth Annual Anti Human Trafficking Awards Ceremony in Kiev,and more recently at a memorial for the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Rotterdam.

Kseniya Simonova grew up in Evpatoriya, Ukraine while it was still a part of the Soviet Union, which is sometimes part of her themes during her performances. Kseniya Simonova was heavily influenced by her mother, Irina Simonova, who is an artist and art teacher. Kseniya Simonova attended the Artistic School of Yevpatoria and went on to attend the Taurida National University, graduating in 2007 with a Psychophysiology (a mix of Psychology and Anatomy) Degree. She also attended the Ukrainian Academy of Printing at the same time, graduating in 2008 with a degree in Graphic Design.
Kseniya Simonova and her husband, Igor Paskaru, had some success with their magazine, Chocolate, but the magazine quickly fell under with the financial crisis of 2008. Igor Paskaru, who runs a theater production company, encouraged his wife to learn how to do sand drawings so that he could incorporate it into his shows. After much searching, Kseniya Simonova found the perfect sand to use was volcanic sands. She practiced nightly until she perfected her technique. Around this time her husband saw an ad for Ukraine's Got Talent and encouraged her to audition. Kseniya Simonova passed the auditions and went on to win the competition.

Kseniya Simonova's performance "You are always nearby" for the semi-finals of Ukraine's Got Talent shot her to internet fame. This performance is about Germany's conquering of Ukraine during WW2 and is also a tribute to her grandfather, who died in battle. Her ability to draw quickly and seamlessly allow the narrative to flow without the usual choppiness stop motion animations often have. By utilizing the negative space and layering the sand by hand, the sand drawings gain the same depth and intensity as if they had been drawn by charcoal. James Donaghy, for the Guardian, writes
She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman's face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes - with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going

 Her most recent work is the retelling of the legend of Troy, entitled "Les Troyens". Kseniya Simonova teams up with Maestro Valery Gergiev to produce a visual accompaniment to the opera "Les Troyens", by Hector Berlioz. Although this performance is more gestural with the drawings, there still manages to be enough inclusions of detail that the animation maintains the quality of depth and intensity that Kseniya Simonova is becoming known for.

Sand Art is nothing new. Drawings have been made for thousands of years that incorporate sand. One only has to look at such groups like the Navajo nation sand paintings, or mandalas made by Tibetan Buddhist monks. What sets Kseniya Simonova apart from other sand artists is that she is not simply drawing or applying paint to sand. Each performance is just that-a spectacle of fun, entertaining, energetic movement created by this artist who is taking story telling to new extremes. She incorporates music into her works seamlessly by drawing in tempo with the beats. She becomes a part of her story, interrupting worlds with a dash of sand or creating small fragile children with the tips of her fingers. Its as if she speaks through her hands.

-Serena Rangel


  1. I looked at the video of her sand art and all I have to say is WOW. Who ever thought sand could be so beautiful. Im so glad you did a profile on her.

    - Erin Davis