Ilya entered the department of monumental painting of the St. Petersburg Stieglitz Academy. During his studies, Gaponov won a grant that provided him with an internship in France. Graduated from the Paris National School of Fine Arts in 2004. Together with his friends, Gaponov organized the art community "The Unconquered". Representatives of the association are actively involved in exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and participate in international projects.
Since 2006 he has been working mainly in tandem with Kirill Koteshov. To depict mining themes, industrial landscapes and workers, artists use Kuzbasslak: a
bitumen-based varnish made from coal mined in the Kuzbass.