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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Body Art Strikes a Pose in Moscow

It was naked bodies that lifted Igor Poznyakov from struggling artist to club scene Picasso.

Poznayakov, or "Pose," as he prefers to be called, paints nude male and female models for runway showings at Moscow nightclubs.

"I do not try to inspire sexual feelings in people," Pose said. "My models show themselves as pieces of art --through their movements they demonstrate freedom."

Neither freedom nor art, however, seemed to be on the minds of spectators at a recent body art show at Club Titanic.

Glistening with oily, primary colors that covered most of their legs, arms, torsos, backs, and faces, the models gyrated and writhed to the hyper-tempo of electronic trance-and-techno music. Their arms and hands spiraled in erratic flutters, their faces expressionless. The rapt audience of young trendies and suited mafiosi-types stood riveted, many obviously trying to figure out what the human canvases were or weren't wearing underneath the layers of paint.

The bodies moved in a blur of Chagall-like colors. At the end, the colors had run and smeared where dancers had brushed up against each other, creating Impressionist-like collages on the bodies. The audience erupted in applause with shouts of "yeshcho," or "more."

Pose acknowledges that his work may strike some as bizarre and decadent. "People are not used to seeing pictures that move. Our public is not used to strong art, which is what mine is." But, he was quick to add, "They understand that this is not striptease and not prostitution."

The artist uses not only professional dancers in his shows, but also actors, acrobats, gymnasts, and models, and he does the choreography. "With this medium, I am painter, director, and choreographer," Pose said. "I want the dancers to create an intellectual energy for the audience, rather than just what we see on the surface."

On average, Pose spends two hours painting each model, creating as he paints, rather than preparing a sketch beforehand. The medium is theatrical grease-paint, with a wax base. Cold-cream and oil-based makeup removers dissolve the pigment after a show. Pose said his wife, a model and actress, poses for his photo works, but is not one of the body-paint models in his shows.

Tall and slim, with a mop of black hair and large blue eyes, Pose is the son of an actress and ethnographer/photographer. Originally from the Siberian city of Barnaul, he came to Moscow to study philology at Moscow State University and acting and choreography at the Shchukin Institute of Drama. Painting was something he had simply done since he was a child.

Since 1990, Pose has developed a new project in various mediums for himself each year. In 1991 the theme was the Latin alphabet in oil intense paintings in bold, primary colors depicting cartoonish erotica in the forms of letters from A to Z. The next year was devoted to psychedelic ink-drawings of animals; 1993 to simple black ink portraits on paper. In his 1994 "Pictures," Pose colored portraits and photographs in with wooden pencils and ink, and with razor blades to smooth the finish, developed a type of photo-art similar to Warhol. The artist turned to body art in April.

Pose has had a hard time placing exhibitions at mainstream Moscow galleries, who consider his work too provocative, or even shocking, to display. But his concepts have gone over in the night club circuit, with Baker's Dozen, Manhattan Express and Zhar Ptitsa Club among the growing number of outlets for his creativity. Said Pose, "If galleries aren't ready to display my art, then I can earn my bread in this medium for now."