The Mysterious and Whimsical World of Sergey Malish

Exploring the work of Sergey Malish means entering worlds of fairytales and theater. You helplessly fall into intimate, mysterious, and occasionally unsettling worlds full of quirks and characters that demand your attention. One canvas invites you into a cluttered cabinet full of knick-knacks and curiosities, and in another, a whimsical scene centered around a hot air balloon with doll-like figures crowded below. Each painting draws you in and invites you to consider a world slightly different than our own, where there may be a different sort of magic and mystery. 

Sergey Malish, born in 1965 in Krivoy Rog, studied graphic arts in school in Kharkov. He's been actively creating artwork since 1990 and has participated in Ukranian exhibitions since 1995. His narrative paintings are beautifully distinct but never boring or stale, despite recurring subject matter; in fact, every time he dips into a similar-feeling fantastical world, more mystery and head-scratching ensues. Each composition houses a snapshot of a deeply atmospheric world with its own narrative yet often includes the same visual and thematic motifs. When taken together, a visual style deeply unique to Malish immediately emerges—a limited color scheme, fairly symmetrical compositions, specks of gold and pink, and a beautiful subtle application of paint all define his work. His restraint, particularly in color, highlights Malish's artistic prowess and unique approach.

Let's dive into five paintings that populate his portfolio. Clouds at Sunset Paradise (2019) features a few elements that run through his work—hot air balloons, circus themes, a hazy atmosphere, and an elusive narrative.

CLOUDS AT SUNSET PARADISE original oil painting by Sergey Malish

A few figures—all mysterious and quiet—are in the basket of the balloon, and a group stands below, looking both up and out to the viewer as if they are observing something secret. Their expressions suggest that the viewer is unwanted. These doll-like characters, which populate so many of his paintings, have masks, somber costumes, small bodies, and headdresses, sometimes standing alone or in small groups. Normally, humans find symmetry satisfying—but here, a hot-air balloon placed in the exact middle of a canvas is somehow deeply unsettling. 

A more figurative work, Doll in Blue (2019), stars a young doll figure holding a purse-sized button and oversized skeleton key.

Her gaze wanders to the side, lazily peering at something beyond the frame—or maybe just daydreaming, with an expression that is somehow both somber and coy. She appears almost as a marionette, blown up to life-size. Like so many of his characters, the doll wears an elaborate costume that lives somewhere between a court jester, clown, and the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. In fact, a viewer may be reminded of Louis Carroll's world more than once when meandering Malish's oeuvre. Especially with Doll in Blue, viewers may also be reminded of Picasso's Blue Period, during which he painted circus families in somber blue tones surrounded by an insignificant landscape.  

Young Girl with Doll (2019) features two more characters. A young girl peacefully plays with marionettes, yet herself also appears doll-like, standing atop a lone platform with ambiguous buildings emerging from the haze around her. She appears to be both inside and outside, playing with a doll, yet quite doll-like herself.

This is a very intriguing part of his work—subjects are sometimes labeled as girls and sometimes as dolls, despite a very similar scale and appearance, contributing to the dizzying effect of Malish's dreamy world. This young girl with a doll wears an enigmatic expression, adorns a drum on her hip, and plays with a marionette, gazing out to the viewer. Malish forms a truly quirky fragment of a different world—and his imagination—through a remarkably limited and restrained composition. 

Another common tangent that Malish takes resembles cabinets of curiosities, such as in Rusty Copper (2018), in which a rusty pot, locks, multiple skeleton keys and more sit beside each other.

Although there are no figures here, the objects have their own personalities, leaning against each other in front of a golden-hued wall. They take on a life of their own, similar to the masked figures and marionettes, despite simply being objects on a long-forgotten dusty shelf. Objects that appear in other compositions—such as a white button and key—seem to be at home in this painting after adventuring to those paintings. There is another painting, White Button, that has nearly the same composition but emphasizes the titled object. Malish gives way to a subtle sense of humor through hints like these.


In Malish's own words, "The paintings are reflections, fragments of experiences and fantasies, sometimes ridiculous and inept. Or maybe I dreamed it all...?" This playful approach is easily seen in Waiting for a Miracle (2019), which of the paintings that have been discussed, perhaps seems most like a centuries-old fairytale come to life. With the moon placed precisely in the middle of the sky over a grand fountain, it is both unsettling and beautiful—another instance of eerie balance. Figures with the recurring striped costumes surround the oversized fountain. What is the miracle, and how long have they been waiting? The title hints at an elusive narrative and timeline made even more fascinating by those of other paintings, such as Dawn of Paradise and Looming Storm in Paradise.

We can each attach our interpretations to these titles and enigmatic compositions, but it is hard not to wonder about the artist’s  specific inspirations for his paintings and titles. 

His expertise in thematic and narrative painting shines in every one of his paintings, and it seems as though hundreds of stories and hours of conversations could arise from his compositions. In a beautiful way, close inspection of Sergey Malish's paintings seems to simply yield more mystery, a true testament to his technical skill and philosophical motivations. The 'artist-storyteller' continues to make fantasy-inspired work using his signature visual style. Malish's whimsical portfolio delights private collections in Ukraine, the United States, and Israel.

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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