Kukula Highlark


Painter Nataly Abramovitch, better known as Kukula, has made a name for herself through her peculiar style. Her paintings center around female figures drawn in this style—think Marie Antoinette as imagined by Tim Burton. Caught in the richly decorated spaces Kukula arranges for them, are as elegant as they are disturbing. Born in Israel and now working out of the U.S, her influences center around the fine, frayed balance between perception and reality, solidified by her own experiences and those of the people and places around her.

Kukula’s portfolio is a series of glimpses into fantastical private lives—a boudoir here, a courtyard there— made accessible through documentation and our own imaginations. It’s the fragile world of wealth, elegance, and youth, three components of life that can be taken away as quickly as they are given. Running through these decadent scenes of porcelain-hued girls lounging, strutting, and longing for something is a strain laced with envy and emptiness, and this is the tone for most of Kukula’s work.

Her girls all share the same deadpan expression: heavy lids and slightly parted lips practiced in front of ivory mirrors and unleashed on the unsuspecting. The main draw of Kukula’s art is her take on the intoxicating enigma of disaffected youth—that romantic exploitation of misfits with nothing to lose. The air of affluenza is heavy in Kukula’s scenes, but then again, it only taints the outside. The figures, no matter how frilly, perfectly-coiffed and stoic they seem, are dangerous in the way girls can be once they realize what they want and what they are owed. Those half-moon smiles and bunched-up gowns disclose deeper secrets, hidden in the artist’s subtle, almost silent, symbols.

Kukula Highlark
The Last Party

In terms of technique, Kukula’s use of texture is what really clues us into the state of the world her characters inhabit. She often makes her backgrounds vague and nondescript, highlighting the focal female of the piece as if she were on stage and the landscape behind her was merely a prop. Adding to this theatrical mood is the darkness reaching out of the corners— another staple of Kukula’s style, it combines with the subdued color palette to alluring effect, giving each piece a Poe-esqe aura.

Her paintings go beyond narrative, reaching a point where they become definition. Who, or what or when they’re defining is up to interpretation, but the viewer is sure to find themselves in a dream world of tea parties, Victorian scandal and Lolita wardrobe—Lewis Carrol’s idea of a good time, and Kukula’s too.


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