Nikolay Morgunov was born in 1992 in Moscow. Nikolay entered an art school at the age of three, he also took private lessons. Nikolay remembers Afanasyeva Natalya Aleksandrovna as the most important teacher in his life, she was a senior professor of the drawing department of The Moscow Architectural Institute and a member of the Union of Artists located on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street. Nikolay planned to become an architect until 17 years old, however, right before applying to study at the faculty of architecture he changed his decision in favour of the Stroganov Moscow State Academy of Arts to study fine art. Two years later, dissatisfied by the teaching methods of the academy, he dropped out and concentrated on the career of an artist.
Morgunov works became part of many architectural and design projects and got published in major magazines. Nikolay moved to Europe (Spain, Barcelona) in 2017, where he still lives and works nowadays. His works pursue a minimalist style being controlled by grids and spontaneous chaotic graphic underlayers. The transparent grids are plotted on the surface like matrix, they manifest each stoke on the painting as opposed to hiding the image and imposing limitations.×
Nikolay Morgunov, artist from Barcelona, talking about his artistic milestones, work process and career path.
Q. You entered art school when you were a child and devoted all your life to painting. What is your career path?
A. From an early age I was fond of drawing which came to my parents’ attention who enrolled me in an art school. No one in my family ever insisted on me doing something else such as finding a “normal” job as is so often the case. An artist has two ways to progress his/her career, the first through commissions which I am categorically not able to do, the second by allowing paintings to be discovered by collectors who aspire to acquire them. The latter gives one more opportunities to focus on the development of a body of works.
Q. Which masterpieces influenced you the most as an artist in terms of milestones in your career?
A. In early days, I used to find something in other works that would influence me almost on a daily basis. This was reminiscent to the history of Art, from cave (childish) drawings to classical school, from gradual breaking of forms to abstraction. The artists I tended to follow were also from those movements. Perhaps, I could highlight Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko. I admired their work for a long time, and at some point I realised their works were affecting my own, to the degree that some of their features became easily recognisable in my paintings while my personality was fading away.
Q. You live in Barcelona at the moment, could you say your style has changed since moving to another city?
A. My style has not changed, I would say it has become sharper. Sometimes I come back to my earlier works and find the same details I use in my new paintings. It amazes me how these same elements form completely different puzzles.
Q. Spain is a very colourful country, bright colours are everywhere, while your works are black and white or monochrome, would you say you are in colour opposition with the surrounding environment?
A. My view of Barcelona is very different from what a tourist would usually have. I only see mountains, sea and blue sky from my window as I spend most of my time in my studio. Regarding colour, it is only temporary, I think it is not needed at the moment. The colour will come back if I feel the urge for it.
Q. Your paintings are three dimensional, they remind us about Italian artists who were one of the first to give volume to their paintings such as Turi Simeti, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani. Do you use their works as a reference point?
A. I think, at some point in their career every artist feels limited by the frame of a painting, so he tries to resist it. However, as soon as you’ve created a volume, the surface starts dictating what can be painted on it. As a result you often consider leaving it in monochrome colour keeping the play of shades intact. All artists that you have referred to followed this approach. All decisions are dependent on the form otherwise it looks like the painting of a sculpture.
Q. Some artists aim to express their point of view on social changes such as Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, others tend to explore hidden emotions like Mark Rothko. In your view, what is the main role of your works?
A. I prefer art with a hidden message that aims at the subconscious. Each artwork is a reflection of the current time but if the message is on a surface it risks to become outdated very soon due to the context. The benefit of it is an instant feedback thanks to the direct message.
Q. Could you tell more about your technique? Your studio is based in the Eixample district of Barcelona. How did you manage to find this space and what is so special about Eixample?
A. I think structure is paramount for every painting. Everything else falls apart if there is no structure. I don't rely on a perfect combination of lines, brush strokes or composition, I don’t see it as effective. There are endless possibilities. That’s why I always start with drawings and working on the form in the first instance, and allow improvisation only after that is done. I am not afraid to make mistakes when painting, I consider beneficial any traces of struggle with the canvas. That's why coal as a medium suits me perfectly, every line stays on the canvas, nothing is lost.