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Thumbnail Sketches: Yuri Kaplunovich

‘Part of the flow, behind or in front of the canvas’

Spring (16.5x11) by Yuri Kaplunovich
Spring (16.5×11) by Yuri Kaplunovich

A new member to Headwaters Arts in 2020, Yuri Kaplunovich is a searcher and artist with much to share. Self-admittedly, he ‘requires a big story-telling to show who is behind the canvas,’ and I would add, behind the mixed-media, ink portraitures, and his incredible sculptural pieces. His drive to create is part of what he experiences in the creative process as the work of art must then be seen and shared; to have work exhibited is part of the flow, to inhale and exhale. 

Living now in Caledon, via Scarborough, Israel, Belarus, and the Ukraine, where he was born and part of the Soviet Union’s eastern bloc, Yuri Kaplunovich describes himself as immersed in art from the beginning of his life. He grew up as a bystander, listening to his father and brother, both artists, and their ‘long discussions on colour, composition.’ His father and brother were textiles designers, his father weaving pieces three by four metres, destined for museums. While they were, of necessity in those days, influenced by war or the political rhetoric, their overall beauty and message were of strong colours and design to represent simple people with the harvest, dance, and way of life.

Yuri’s formative years were very rich, with his schooling from age seven to 16 years being in a school that supported the development of creative expressive abilities with ceramics, carving, and graphic arts. This prepared him for entrance to Belarussian University, now Academy of Design, at 17 years, where he studied Art & Design for five years, also meeting his wife there. Following graduation, they worked in a plant doing textile design in styles ranging from classic to modern. As his first job out of university, Yuri shared that “it was amazing to dive into the world of design outside of the classroom.”

Their move to Israel in the mid-1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union introduced them to a society with such a different mentality and mix of three major religions. “The very stones breathed history,” he said with much wonder and awe. “There were 500 galleries in a nation of seven million people!” So OMANUT, the word for art in Hebrew, became, even more, a part of Yuri Kaplunovich and his wife’s lives with his teaching, his wife’s studies and work in graphic design, their own ongoing artistic practices with silk painting, drawing, painting, and soon, sculpture for Yuri.

Grateful for the opportunities that opened up to him, Yuri Kaplunovich found himself with a “blessing from the sky” when he found work in an art foundry! His learning continued with exposure to bronze, power tools, wax and silicone moulds, 3-D printing, and the techniques to bring out fully the facets of such a beautiful metal. While in Israel, he had three exhibitions, one in 1998 with ten pieces in metal.

City In Colour (24x12) by Yuri Kaplunovich
City In Colour (24×12) by Yuri Kaplunovich

Newly immigrated to Canada in 1999, Yuri Kaplunovich and his family settled in Scarborough, where he obtained work as a welder with the Forklifts company while his wife worked as a graphic designer. With fortune smiling on him once again, he obtained work at Art Cast in Georgetown, another art foundry, where he has happily worked for 20 years.

His voice lights up with enthusiasm as he describes the opportunities he has had for learning about working with different metals and techniques. Their work is unique, for one-of-a-kind pieces, largely in bronze, and with other materials such as aluminum and stainless steel.

While in Israel, he learned new ways of approaching metal, the various treatments, and finishing. Now he is focusing on what is happening to the metal during the various processes. Yuri’s constant thirst to immerse himself in learning about the materials themselves brought him to observe what happened as the molten metals spilled on the floor, onto sand, and to wonder about that significance in the creative cycle. Likewise, with treatments of welding and chemicals, the fusion of metals and patinas began to fascinate him, as well.

From each of these “spills by nature,” all of the small pieces, Yuri felt them as being ‘frozen in time, each with their own life and already existing.’ He fabricates and welds, sculpting with his torch, applying or removing, then moves on to finishing techniques, such as using burs, sandpapers, polish, and compounds. He works reverently with these spills and other metal pieces and has fashioned several new collections of work.

In 2008 in Oakville’s Towne Square Gallery, he had a solo show with five different metalwork collections, over 60 pieces in total. His work from this impressive exhibition may still be viewed here. He spent three years preparing for this show.

Our discussion moved into the other graphic arts areas he worked in and explored, such as inks. It was fascinating to hear how he regarded metalwork as being akin to this medium in that they both flowed, the inks when on the prepared wet paper. He experienced both media similarly in that the “images almost scream … that they pre-exist” and that your ability through knowledge and technique is “learning not to overwork or to kill what already exists.”

Looking ahead, Yuri Kaplunovich is working on a new collection now but cannot discuss it during its seminal stages. So, our conversation turns back to the exhibitions and to what he observed and learned with the Oakville show. There he became more attuned to how people interacted with his pieces, coming back to examine different pieces and yet again to re-examine them. Their comments led him to realize there would be the initial impression, then new images they would discover in pieces, other stories.

The focus shifted again as we both considered the role of art, both to the creator who learned to work with the media and to respect its qualities, and to the viewers who saw with fresh eyes what feeling, image, message, or impression the artist hoped to convey. This exchange, the “inhale and exhale” Yuri Kaplunovich had earlier talked about, was all about giving space to created pieces, so they were released into their own life as something “brand new” apart from their creator.

Yuri Kaplunovich's Website

Whether with the artist and his materials, the interactivity of creation to finished works of art and the viewer, and artists with each other when they comprise a like-minded community for mutual inspiration is the very flow of life. This flow needs to be uninterrupted to come to its full fruition; in Yuri Kaplunovich’s words, “it is like water, I need to become one with it, to let it find its own way, and not try to control it.”

The complete absorption in creating and loss of self, losing track of time, and intense focus which Yuri experiences is a literal flow that Hungarian American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi* has studied and discussed in his work. This flow, “a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity,” is an apt description of Yuri Kaplunovich’s life.

While Yuri Kaplunovich also has dealt with the challenges of 2020, he has had work in three exhibitions this year; the Propeller Gallery in downtown Toronto, four mixed media pieces in the Headwaters Arts on-line show, In the MIX!, and currently two pieces in an online show with the Colour and Form Society.

In keeping with the reciprocal and cyclical nature of creativity, you are invited to enjoy virtually Yuri Kaplunovich’s body of work here. Remember, from the creator’s process to the launch of a piece into the public’s eye, it is inhale and exhale because we are all part of that flow.

*More on flow, intense absorption at here.

Thumbnail Sketches …© is a column Connie Munson, local photographer, artist, and writer, has developed to share an inside look at an artist’s creative practice and process.  She is a director on the board of Headwaters Arts, which has their gallery in the Alton Mill Arts Centre in Caledon, a member of several other arts organizations, and may be reached at

References – Thumbnail Sketches: Yuri Kaplunovich

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