Maxim Zhestkov: Exploring complexity within simplicity


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With hypnotic visuals and futuristic concepts, Maxim Zhestkov, for almost two decades, has posed questions about the nature of the physical and digital worlds. His works are virtual sculptures based on computer simulations and algorithms that exist in bespoke digital galleries, challenging the traditional importance of museums as places for the perception of art. At the core of Maxim’s artworks lies realisticity, as every project is based on algorithms that accurately capture the laws of nature.

One of the pioneering artists in the realm of digital imagery, Zhestkov has been creating his computer worlds for over two decades. As the artist describes, his fascination with computer graphics began with the first computer that he got at the age of six, the moment when he found out that he can create multiple worlds with the help of new technologies.

Experimenting with digital illustration as a teen, Maxim decided to study architecture and graphic design at university to learn more about visual arts and to integrate this knowledge into his practice. From 2D worlds, Maxim became interested in three-dimensional artificial universes, and, since then, 3D graphics and motion continue to be his main media for self-expression.

For Zhestkov, his work was always about decoding the real world with the help of digital tools. Having started his practice in the 2000s, the artist did not have access to 3D tools that were developed later and that have laws of physics incorporated into their algorithms. To get closer to reality, Zhestkov conducted experiments with real-world objects, examined their motion, and, using this information, animated digital objects manually. This hacking approach was defining for digital artists of that era, such as demosceners, who were pushing forward the possibilities of their computer, modifying the software to create unusual visual and sound effects.

Another characterizing trait of Zhestkov’s pieces is their totality. The artist is responsible for every aspect of the work — abstract computer simulations that serve as his main characters, architecture, and sound. Compounding different media, Zhestkov constructs experiences with close attention to every detail and makes every seemingly insignificant thing an important part of his vision and story.

Published on SuperRare is Zhestkov’s project Layers, released in 2018. It is a two-minute film, which explores the theme of differences between our perception of things and their true nature. Layers features monolithic digital sculptures that get dissected by invisible forces, transforming from brutalist black blocks to complex shapes that are full of color and movement on the inside.

The artist uses the simplest three-dimensional forms — spheres, pyramids, and prisms — to cut through them and reveal their inner colorful layers, juxtaposing silent and almost featureless exteriors of sculptures with their vibrant and vivid interiors. With slow and hypnotizing movement and elaborate camera motion, Zhestkov creates a universal depiction of uncovering the truth, hidden beneath the surface and requiring a closer look.

For the artist, his work is an exploration of the laws of nature that rule every system in our universe, elementary or sophisticated, predictable or chaotic. His abstract approach and attention to detail result in artworks that can be interpreted in various ways and are aesthetically flawless. Each aspect of each work is controlled by the artist, including sound and environments for his digital sculptures, so every Zhestkov’s project is an immersive experience that erases the boundaries between architecture, 3D design, music, and cinematography.

One of many works that were featured in media like Wired, Highsnobiety, IGNANT, and The Verge and exhibited in museums and galleries across the world, Layers is published on April 12th as Zhestkov’s first NFT.

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