On view until December 10, 2023, Wang Guangyi’s Obscured Existence is the first Italian solo show of the Chinese artist. We talked to Wang...
Carlotta Mazzoli 26 October 2023
min Read22 March 2021
Igor Moritz (b. 1996) is a young Polish contemporary painter living in London. Primarily self-taught, Moritz creates intimate portraits of his friends and family saturated with explosive colors. His works are energetic and expressive, transforming the mundane into magic. Moritz’s candid reflections of daily life attest that the simple things are the most intriguing. We caught up with the artist to learn more about his work and inspirations.
MG: How would you describe your work?
IM: The emotional inner and outer landscapes of people (myself, friends and family) and places; the interaction between those two.
MG: Do you draw from memory or do you have people pose for you?
IM: The vast majority of the work is done in person. The colored pencil work is done without asking or arranging a pose; they’ll be a couple people hanging out in the living room so I will just sit down and start drawing and hope they won’t move. I might use that as a beginning composition or something. More recently, since I have a studio, I ask people to come by. It’s casual and not very serious we just hangout, talk, maybe have a beer or coffee. They’re not very still; I just I need their presence.
MG: What are you trying to convey with your subjects?
IM: A range of emotions. The emotions on the faces are rarely explicit.
MG: What are the differences and similarities between your drawings and paintings?
IM: The differences are the drawings are a bit more intimate and spontaneous. The very nature of how I make them; being able to get close to the subjects and it doesn’t disturb them. The paintings are more theatrical in a way. More planned, more built into place. The size of the work also varies. Similarities are it’s relatively the same subject matter and colorfulness.
MG: What motivates you to do work and how do you stay motivated?
IM: I know that when I don’t work, I don’t feel very good and I think that feeling enough is something that keeps me going. It definitely adds a whole meaning to my life something I can concentrate on. It occupies my head and I love that. The problem-solving aspects of it, where it’s like a repetition of a task that I do every day and I need to get out of my system. It’s also an embodiment of experience and meaning. Just simply living you see a lot of beautiful and interesting things, things that just go to the side and are easily forgotten.
I love what I do. It would be difficult to do this if I didn’t like it. Even when it’s terrible at times, I still prefer the terrible in painting than not doing it at all. It doesn’t feel like something I need to try and do. It’s the administration stuff that is treacherous. I’m so bad with replying to emails and messaging people back.
MG: Where do you make your work?
IM: Drawings can be done anywhere. Paintings are now made in the studio in Hackney Wick.
MG: Historically, which artists inspire you and why?
IM: People who I respect and I think use color in very admirable ways are Malevich and Sonia Delaunay, even lately Kandinsky, who I think did incredible things. Artists that I look at as some sort of starting point are the Post Impressionists like Gauguin, Cezanne, and even Van Gogh. German Expressionist artists are Ernst Ludwig Kirschner, Emil Nolde, and Max Beckmann. I also look a lot at Matisse and Picasso.
I really like Edward Dwurnik, especially his works from the 1970s like the Sportsmen series. I love how he would almost draw on top of the paintings with very thin brushes. I like Wojciech Fangor, at the end of his life he made these almost Rothkoesque paintings of round orbs that kind of blend into each other but his early figurative work is also brilliant. Mela Muter (Maria Melania Mutermilch) made beautiful work.
When I was a kid, I really liked Witkacy (Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz) his pastel portraits of people he created while under the influence of different substances. He would write on the drawing the substance he was on and I thought that was really interesting to see the actual effects of his altered states of mind on the work. I’m also a huge fan of Polish and Slavic folk art. It seems to not be made with the purpose of art in mind, it doesn’t try to fulfill the idea of being a good art work but represents a wedding or religious subject.
MG: Which contemporary, living artists inspire your work?
IM: I love Peter Doig. There’s always that slight weirdness to his work; a rather conventional subject with something going on in the background, something popping in and the variety of how he applies paint from very thin to thick with more closed in compositions. I’m a huge fan of Tal R. for his fantastic use of color and there’s a lot of freedom to how he works and his subject matter as well. I really like Kerry James Marshall, mostly for his compositions. I think Rose Wiley has some of the most ballsy work I have ever seen. It’s playful and direct, but also not very easy to digest. Henry Taylor’s continuous, unapologetic work is very honest and naive, but still looks sophisticated.
MG: What else inspires you?
IM: A big part is color in everyday life. It will usually be the thing that will make me want to work. If I see something like someone’s clothes on the background of the wall, something super simple, super banal like tearing paint with some broomstick on it. It’s a bit like electric, it could be someone’s face as well. It’s not always like that though, I’m not always tapped to color it just sometimes happens.
MG: Does living in London influence your work?
IM: It does a lot. My works are made from my daily experiences. Everything from the weather to the architecture, the light, the general ambience will somehow just flow into the work itself. Now, in the newest works, it’s in a more direct way with elements of streets or of the canal that goes behind my house. I paint a bit of London itself. I love the energy and I love that my friends live within walking distance. I can walk to the Tate and the National Gallery.
MG: Aside from art, what are your other interests?
IM: I love to skateboard. I like to go for walks, cook and hang out with my mates. I preferably like to combine everything at the same time.
MG: How do you decide on a color palette?
IM: I will have an idea at the beginning of a range of colors and they will find their own place in the work. Especially at the beginning, it’s pretty instinctual, quick, imprecise and the closer it comes to being finished, I will be looking for the right colors to express the right atmosphere and emotional feeling.
MG: Do you have a favorite color?
IM: I don’t, but maybe I will find out. Colors in isolation rarely interest me. I really like the combinations or the interactions between colors. That is when some sort of friction or play begins.
MG: What other mediums are you interested in exploring?
IM: I would definitely love to make woodcuts and sculptures in the future.
MG: Is your family supportive of you being a painter?
IM: I drew a lot as a child and was encouraged by my family. As a teenager, I was obsessively doing graffiti. Now they like it, me being an artist. Now that I’m making some money, it’s good. They’re very supportive. All of my grandparents are on Instagram and they make sure to like every picture and give me compliments.
MG: How do you challenge yourself?
IM: I’m always challenged. It’s difficult for me. There’s maybe an hour window in the day when I feel, Oh wow, it’s easy, but for the rest of the time, I’m just struggling. I don’t know if I’m ever going to succeed at anything. The challenge is just doing it.
MG: How do you seek out opportunities for getting your work in exhibitions?
IM: At this point, I don’t because I’ve noticed that it doesn’t help. I think people have to find you. I think that consistency in producing work is essential. If someone does come across my work on Instagram and see that there is a consistent practice, I think there’s a higher likelihood that they will message me. In the past, I applied to competitions. I’m from the generation of people where I think social media is the main tool for getting your work out there.
MG: What do you hope to achieve with your work?
IM: It would be amazing if I can make a memorable image, anytime in my life, that’s the dream. I’m hoping to make that; I know there’s no recipe, but I’m looking. I’d love to make something that sticks even if it’s just in my mind.
MG: Do you have any current or upcoming exhibitions?
IM: Since COVID is still happening, a lot of the physical shows are closed, but I currently have work in a group exhibition at Nil Gallery in Paris. I’m also doing an online show with Thierry Goldberg Gallery in New York at the end of February. After that, I’m going to have a solo show at A.MORE Gallery in Milan, if the pandemic allows it, and another solo show in October with Lundgren Gallery in Mallorca, Spain.
With his evolving carousel of colors and intuitive line work, Igor Moritz dazzles us with his charismatic portraiture. His work invites us to slow down and take a closer look at the world around us. As Igor continues to expand his creative repertoire, we look forward to seeing what unfolds for him in the near future.
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