The Magic of Quiet Landscapes and Busy Cityscapes in the Paintings of Sergei Polyakov

Sergey Polyakov's oil paintings span landscape, urban scenes, and figurative subjects, sometimes painted with a slightly surreal approach to color and perspective and always striking a skilled balance between realism and abstraction. He often opts to paint with oil on canvas and, less frequently, cardboard.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Sergey Polyakov later moved to Kiev with his family, graduating from the city's National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture. As a student, he participated in several exhibitions and plein airs. To know and further appreciate Sergey's work is to understand his philosophy as an artist: 

"I like to paint both simple landscapes and complex genre paintings, because it is a different kind of inspiration. For me, success is not when a painting is sold at the highest price, but when you enjoy the process of creating it, when you are satisfied with the result and are able to grow as an artist." It's fascinating to hear this succinct explanation of why he creates the art that he does, and it invites deeper appreciation for his varied yet cohesive subject matter, which is driven for the love of process.

His paintings can be difficult to describe, but they each contain a soft sense of reverie fueled by airy colors, soft atmospheres, and quiet moments. Whether it be an urbanscape or a dreamy nature scene, you feel the artist's devotion to depicting the palpable energy of the world around him. Often, just one or two figures appear in the scene, typically at a distance, adding to the quiet feel of so many of his compositions. 

In Magic at Dawn (2020) he creates a surreal landscape, with vivid magenta blooms floating past the viewers, enticing them into the world on the canvas.


Sergey paints as if looking through a distorted camera lens, adding to its dreamlike, magical feel. It almost takes on a three-dimensional effect, as if you are walking among these floating flowers in an installation. There is a definite sense of motion, as if the blooms are unfolding in front of your eyes or gently passing by. 

The cool blue hues of the composition bring to mind the peace of a quiet and snowy winter morning with the sun slowly emerging, diffused by the clouds. This landscape feels especially subjective compared to his other works, conveying a warped yet beautiful view of the winter scene, perhaps extra vivid through the artist’s eyes. We often see bright blooms of springtime paintings but less often winter ones, when everything can feel bleak, giving viewers a delightful little surprise. The flowers depicted—magnolia blooms—pop up in several of Sergey's paintings, introducing a lovely smattering of pink notes when viewing his portfolio in its entirety. 

He also has a love for capturing a certain time of day. Like the Impressionists, there is particular attention to capturing the various intricacies, hues, and fleeting nature of light at the very beginning and end of each twenty-four hours and the changes throughout the seasons. His experience painting en plein air during his school years is on full display in these quiet yet vibrant nature scenes—a sense of the artist observing the world outside in real-time is tangible. To reduce certain shapes to loose yet specific shapes suggests years of close attention of the world around him.

Sergey applies a similar magical cloak to Magic of Reflection (2023), a truly unique approach to depicting a subject made so famous by Monet: water lilies sitting on a glassy, still pond.


It's soft, hazy, and dreamlike, again created in a slightly distorted manner with the lilies bending to form a fishbowl effect with a surprising crop on the right. Magic of Reflection, even more so than his other works, conveys Sergey's interest in, and mastery of, capturing the soft light that can be so difficult to effectively recreate in two-dimension. After visually meandering across the foliage on the left and the lilypads on the surface, a viewer may at last spot two figures standing quietly in the distance, also seemingly gazing at the pond's calm surface. He paints the same subject in Lilies in the Evening (2023) with the viewer at the same height as the water lilies, made even more intimate by the petite size of the canvas. The latter could be just a few hours later after the light has transformed. 



Another portion of his oeuvre is made up of more traditional landscapes. Old Boat on the Shore (2023) is a recent work that bridges his more surrealist work with low-key landscapes.


In the painting, the chipped bow of a large boat looms over the shore, stuck in the sand, dominating the composition. Ambiguous figures pepper the background. It's serene but a little sad, with just one out-of-use boat sitting alone on the shore, hinting at a narrative that we are not privy to. This is one among many calm and simple serene seaside paintings, an apparent favorite subject of the artist. 

As we mentioned, Sergey doesn't shy away from urban scenes—in fact, he captures the red glow, angular architecture, and machinery of cities with similar poeticness. In Blue Evening (2022), the warm interior of a pub lives on the right side of the canvas.


Traffic lights from streams of cars lining the streets fill out the rest of the composition, forming a damp and chilly atmosphere. Albeit in a different manner than Magic at Dawn, Sergey focuses on conveying a sense of motion with the cars turning the street corner. Something about it ventures into sadness, especially considering the title, with no human figures visible in the cars in traffic on the rainy day. Still, the painting emits an inviting energy from the warmth of the interior space on the corner. Blue Evening is just one example of Polyakov's foray into urban scenes, bringing bold, saturated color into an otherwise predominately light and airy palette. 

Sergey continues to make work spanning landscapes, cityscapes, and more figurative subjects, enjoying the process of each one. His hand deftly switches between capturing a distinct specificity and loose ambiguities to create paintings that are held in private collections in Ukraine, Russia, the USA, Canada, and China.

Whether you are looking to decorate one room or your entire house, or add professional credibility to your work place, you will find the perfect piece of art on Benarto’s Online Art Gallery. Click here to view their work.

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