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Denis Milovanov, artist, furniture designer

Denis Milovanov

One could say the artist’s relationship with wood literally took shape when Denis witnessed a sanitation cutting of majestic oak trees while strolling one of Moscow’s parks. In a so-called artistic impulse, he decided to buy the wood. That was ten years ago. Now, Milovanov is a much-appreciated wood artist whose specific way of working is rooted in his travels to Arkhangelsk, and the Vologda region in northwest Russia.
  • wood table
  • wood table
  • wood table close up
  • wood joint
"If you use my objects in the right way, nothing will happen to them in a time period of at least two centuries. Therefore, I give a hundred-years guarantee on each piece."
Using a chainsaw, he creates primitive-style objects from solid oak blocks. By treating wood with linseed oil - an ancient Russian traditional method that gives the wood a specific finish - he emphasizes the wood’s texture, and protects it. Milovanov crafts with his left hand, which makes it nearly impossible to replicate his designs.

Over the past decade, Milovanov has gained worldwide recognition. The artist collaborated in projects with architect Zaha Hadid (2012) and Boris Vervoordt (2015), and his work is presented at important design and art fairs. We were fortunate enough to talk to him about his fascination for old oak, his love for Russian culture, and beauty.

Where does your relationship with wood come from, especially with old oak?

It happened rather by accident. I was walking my dog and witnessed a felling of old oaks. I was amazed by the enormous size of the logs, just lying there, on the grass. It was an unprecedented sight. I spent almost the entire day among these logs, presenting monumental forms in them. I ended up buying them at a reasonable price and transported the logs to my country house. That’s where my relation with the wood truly started.

Where do you find the oak trees?

I gather them in mountainous regions of the North Caucasus and in hard-to-reach swampy areas of the Mari El Republic in Central Russia. Transporting logs from isolated places may not seem logical, because of the high costs it implies. Yet, as an artist, it allows me to give these trees an afterlife, after they have died a natural dead.

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Giving trees a new life?

Imagine a log lying on a mountainside, or inside a rather inaccessible forest. Left untouched, after a certain amount of time the forest will absorb it, just like it does with the thousands of other fallen trees. I transfer the log to a new habitat, thus giving it a new, second life. A new physicality, shaped by man, and endowed with my personal emotions and experiences.

Could you tell something special about oak that most of us don't know?

When I make the first cutting with the chainsaw, I sometimes spot an ink-coloured spot, a thin line around the log. It means that there is an iron object in the barrel. Could be a bullet, maybe fired by a hunter many decades ago and stuck in the trunk tree when it was still young. Or maybe it’s a nail that was hammered in the trunk at some point — who knows? With the oak maturing over time, it gradually absorbed these objects in its thickness.

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Would you say that your design style carries out Russian aesthetics?

I’d rather say that what I do reflects my inner self, my emotions and experiences. Which altogether is based on my love for the Russian culture and its traditions.

Nowadays the words ‘authenticity’ and ‘craftsmanship’ are overused. What do these words mean to you?

For me, it's about belonging to a certain spirit and aesthetics, my own self and what I personally perceive as beauty. Doing so using only my chainsaw and chisels, no other tools.

Is your design aesthetic a timeless one?

The pieces that I bring to the world start living their own life in another dimension. In the same way as the old fallen trees gave birth to new life, through my creations.

ebonyandco petrified mud
ebonyandco petrified mud