Sergey Karev: Connections and Courage

“I’m not a rock star. I grew weak and got married. That’s my cognac.” Sergey jokes when I ask about all the people he’s mentioned during our conversation. They rarely take center stage; he is very much doing his own thing. But they are always present in his explanations, on the periphery of his words and thoughts.

He mentions his teachers (“I haven’t had many teachers. I never learned to monetize everything I do, to go from creating the piece to selling postcards or cups or pins”), friends and relatives (“they have my back and make sure I have the freedom to work even when life happens”), the viewer (“I try to make sure the viewer doesn’t see the sweat and effort that go into my pieces”, “I want people to stop for a piece, and to think about it for a while”), his children (“they make sure I get out of the tunnel sometimes. It is easy to get stuck and burn out, as happens to so many of us”), his wife (see above). The list goes on. These connections ground him, center him, give him purpose.


They also inspire him. Everything can be inspiration, a work of art of any genre, something he sees around him, a conversation, an incident witnessed on the street in passing. Anything he dwells on longer than he would have expected to. In the beginning, he would examine an idea and work on it once before moving to the next topic. But with client requests starting to come in, Sergey had to work in their wishes and expectations – which quite naturally often center around the part of his oeuvre they have seen. He now returns to certain ideas time and again, taking them up where he left off. These thoughts and ideas are neatly filed away in a notebook (“I don’t want to sound like an advert, but there are really great ones”) to be considered, examined, reflected upon later.

From idea to finished piece

When looking for something to explore for a new piece, he then goes through his notes and quick sketches. This also helps when he’s stuck, particularly when he doesn’t spend to much time on elaborately drafting his ideas but tries to bring them into being quickly. His objects then start to take shape. After a quick check whether someone has already done something similar (“this rarely happens, I believe I’m quite original”) Sergey talks it through with someone to see if it could work out. “Once an idea is confirmed, I see an object in front of me. But I can never be sure it will work out. In that way, every piece is an experiment. It takes courage to take an idea to the workshop and start working on it, to try and see whether it will work and turn out the way I want it to. And again, when I put it

out there for people to see.” The latter has gotten easier over the years, with his taste, style and ideas developing, clarifying, refining.

Working metal

In his work, Sergey explores the possibilities and limits of his favorite material: metal. It is the defining element of his work. “I am comfortable working with metals, know how to work metal and how to use it to bring my ideas and thoughts to life.” It lends structure and solidity, both to the final piece and to the process. But the choice of metal also depends on external factors like using stainless steel for outdoor pieces or price and availability. Working on trace of the worm, he ascended to a higher level: the piece allowed Sergey to understand that metal is not purely a functional choice but has its own aesthetic. An aesthetic that can be much more than cold, functional, and angular. In his hands, metals come alive, his objects are organic, vibrant, warm, and gracefully elegant. Or harsh and expressive when he wants them to.


It also allows him to continue exploring space. After relatively flat and two-dimensional beginnings, his pieces now conquer the third dimension. They can stand alone and reign over any space they are in. They cannot be pushed into a corner but become independent entities that can continue to exist without their creator. 

Function follows form

“Today, making art is more than a craft.” The message is important, but in the end, for Sergey aesthetic and form take precedence. The timing matters, too. Sergey’s work is topical, up to date. “I do a lot of contract work, or I have an upcoming exhibition. My pieces are large and expensive, I need to generate an income. There are always constraints I have to work around.” But only to a certain extent. Sometimes you need to stop caring about external factors to preserve effortlessness, playfulness, levity. Again, this takes courage.

“But it is difficult to make a living this way. There are so many great artists out there. I’m not necessarily better than them, I was simply very lucky. Incredible people have helped me get where I am today. At a certain point, something took shape around me that allows me to take a step back from everything and to get down to work. Thank you for that.”

written by Ulla Struck

Keep up to date with Sergey’s work on his website and his instagram. As a International resident, his work can be seen in the upcoming PK events.


Moving surreal curiosity
PK & Friends potluck plus open studio

Fri 27 May
7-10PM PK & Friends
8PM anverso performance

Sat 28 May
4-8PM open studio
6PM anverso
7PM Eugene Buldyk 

Dark Hope Respite

Sat 18 June

19-22 June

PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Str 9