The Romance with Art: The interview with one of the most interesting young artists of Ukraine Roman Mikhailov

The Romance with Art: The interview with one of the most interesting young artists of Ukraine Roman Mikhailov

22 November 2016

While drinking a cup of coffee me with Roman have discussed a lot, and all through the prism of art. We talked about the influence of art on the viewer and the absence ща framework for the creative person. And in between the artist admitted that when he was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts he did not imagine himself hanging a roofing material for his installation. But he already has such experience. About how the artists of the youngergeneration live – in the revelations of one of them.

Your works have been frequently exhibited lately, so now you are popular. Give us your personal theory of success.

Lately, there are really many proposals, but it's before time to talk about any success story. As for me success is the opportunity to realize all the boldest and most ambitious ideas, the ability to “talk” with the widest possible audience. There was still too little time to draw any conclusions. Especially for “success theory”. I’m more interested in creating new projects now.

Contemporary art is what happens today, what will happen tomorrow. It must be understood and felt. It’s a part of the culture we are living in.

Tell us about your current project.

I’ve made an installation called the “Worm-hole”. Creating and immersing this another space was completely new experience for me. The viewer becomes not just an observer, but part of the installation, interacting physically and psychologically with it. Worm-hole – that’s how a lot of scientists call the “black hole”. For its creation we hung a ton of roofing material and it formed a dark space inside resembling a tunnel with niches in which bowls filled with black bitumen are standing. The floor covered by a rough ruberoid makes each step sound. And the smell. It is an important element of the project. There is dark and stuffy inside. The viewer hears, smells, understands that space has changed. He or she finds themselves pulled an absorbed into work, like a Quantum of light into a black hole. This is exactly the effect I was striving for – to create the possibility of experiencing another space and another time.

The project is complex and not clear for everyone, but if you want to feel it, you can feel its pressure. I give viewer a chance to become a participant in the process – not detached contemplation, but interaction with my work.

Do you have any concepts or images that you focus on in your work?

For the last couple of years there have been a lot of projects where I was interested in socio-political issues. Both local and global: the annexation of the Crimea, the rights of the Crimean Tatar people, migration and the “burn”, that the society got in the last 3 years. Now I’m getting more and more into other issues. As for the events in Ukraine… I think the time to reflect has already passed, and the time to analyze has not yet come. It is quite impossible to analyze adequately what exactly is happening now. Reflections no longer work.

Is the idea of the project a point of reference or a hint of a future project? How does the work transform in the process of creation?

Initially an idea and a subject come, and then you explore it little by little, dig deeper, develop, think through different options, choose the only one and implement the project. But this is if you do not “go out”. Sometimes there is a great idea but time passes and I'm going out and understand this was just the first emotion.

Is this related to the lack of inspiration or the impossibility to implement the project for some reason?

The inspiration here has nothing to do with it. It is rather due to understanding that the project is not good
enough. The first emotion is often false. And I wait for a while to see if the original impression was deceptive or not.

And who decides if the project is good enough: you or someone else?

Only I. If I suppose that the project is not good enough, I will never show or give it up, even if someone convinces me otherwise. There are many works that I never show to the general public, it can be seen only in my studio.

What are you striving for as an artist?

For interaction with a viewer. I started to experiment with using of smell in my works recently. Smell was always important in the perception of works created with fire (“Shadows”, “Burn of the Real”, “Fragility”). And I started working with this tool consciously. For the “Icarus” installation that was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe a suffocating smell became a significant emphasis. And gain in the “Worm-hole” project there is a specific smell that viewers cannot ignore or try not to smell.

Is it important for you that your work is liked?

No, it doesn’t matter. It’s important that the viewer react. I like when a person’s emotions change. It’s bad if the viewer remains indifferent.

Should the artist have some lines that he or she cannot cross?

The artist as anyone else shouldn’t have any limits. Unfortunately, there are a lot of complexes, prejudices,
limitations today. For instance, our art education system. We must struggle, develop ability to be open-minded with our working, self-education, experiments. And only then you begin to understand gradually that all limitations, prohibitions are only in your mind. Actually, it doesn’t exist.

The Pinchuk Art Center is currently hosting the exhibition “PARCOMMUNE. Place. Community. Phenomenon”, in which the Research platform conducted a considerable work on the study of the sources, because so many people do not understand how contemporary Ukrainian art was born. Then, in the 90’s, there was a squat “Paris Commune”, and today is there a certain community of artists for communication and, exchanging your ideas?

There are some groups of artists who have their own circle of contacts – they communicate with each other,
organize exhibitions, but there is no such thing as the “Paris Commune” today. I am a loner-artist who finds to be alone extremely important at a certain moment. Although I’m much sociable, on the job I like to be on my own.

On the photos from the opening of exhibitions you can often be seen communicating with Alexander Roitburd. Do you think that young artists should take advice from masters or should everyone go their own way?

It’s not about advice, but about communication. When you communicate with the older generation, you get a colossal experience that you will not get anywhere else. During this communication, you can endure something very valuable for yourself.

You do visit the exhibition openings. Do you have a favorite art institution in Kiev?

I try to attend a lot but we do not have many institutions. I like Pinchuk Art Center. Although now it’s a bit
“dispirited” because of the crisis. But the quality has always been there. Also IZOLYATSIA Platform for Cultural Initiatives, Arsenal, of course. But due to lack of the systematicity it's not clear what is happening in Ukraine today and what it will all lead to.

What is art for you personally?

This is magic. Art starts where there is a little bit of magic. How else can you turn a ton of roofing material into art?!

Why should people go to exhibitions and watch the work of contemporary artists?

When Art Basel goes, every taxi driver must visit it, because he has nothing to talk with the passengers – everyone talks about it, everyone is interested in it. In our country we have a quite different situation, people react aggressively to contemporary art. It will pass when people relax a little and want to see. Because now they are watching, but they do not see.

Contemporary art is what’s happening today, what will happen tomorrow. This must be understood and felt. This is part of the culture that we live in. We must understand who we are today. And contemporary art can help to do such. The more a person sees, to perceive becomes easier, and it will be easier to distinguish good piece from bad one. The main thing is to want. And then contemporary art will become understandable and interesting.

Dasha Bilenko