Igor Moritz initially resisted painting, wary that studying it formally in school might make it lose its magic. But he came around to it anyway, and now based in Lisbon where he shares a space with his girlfriend who is also an artist, he is discovering new ways of making work, as well as exploring new places to make it via residencies and exhibitions around the world.
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Lublin, a city in the east side of Poland. Like a lot of people in Poland in the beginning of the 20th century, my parents had trouble finding any work, so I immigrated at a young age to London. I ended up going back to Lublin to middle school and following that, art school. So of course I naturally decided to extend this ongoing cycle of my life by deciding to go to university in England.
The course I undertook was Industrial Design. I hated the idea of studying painting, as I was worried it might take all the magic way from it. To move things a bit closer to now, after finishing my second year, I failed to find any sort of internship in design required in my course, so I decided to move to Lisbon, Portugal with my girlfriend with very little money, and even less prospects of finding a job. Just about the time where financially speaking things started to get really bad, almost out of nowhere my art got some sort of attention. I got invited to take part in a show at Beers London, travelled Europe and just took part in an Art residency in Japan and Greece.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I was already in art school. Initially my intention of going there was to get some sort of socially respectful and financially-secure, art-related job. Becoming an architect or a designer seemed like the ideal ones for me at the time. Somewhere by the 3rd year I started to enjoy the painting classes more and more, and I was beginning to get better. At the end of that year, my class took a plein air trip in the countryside. I absolutely fell in love with whole days spent painting in nature, surrounded by my very close friends. During that stay there was also a fair amount of mind-altering substances that really cemented the need in me for that sort of lifestyle. After that stay, I began to notice colour a lot more, and looking became something I would take greater care of. I think shortly after I pretty much had decided making art is something I’m going to have to do.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Currently a big theme or sensation I get in my work is anticipation. I try to morph and compose the perspective, space and figures in a way, in order to create visual tension. Where if one thing were to disappear, the rest of things would fly out right at you. Colour is something that is always at the forefront for me, and more recently I’ve been looking at colour combination in regards to how it tastes, and working with it as a sort of dish. There are certain colour combinations that are more bitter, others sweet, or acidic. The key for me is to try and make something in the colour that contains a great amount of flavour and depth, and isn’t simply pretty and sweet.
The biggest change in the last couple of months was the use of coloured pencils. I found a technique where by priming the paper a specific way the coloured pencil created a sort of oil paint when it reaches the paper. This allowed me to create a lot more images. This also broadened my subject matter to things like cityscapes and landscapes, as well as still lifes. Before, they would seem to me as not as worthy of the canvas as the human figure.
What is your process like?
The research I usually make is purely visual. I look at things as much and thoroughly as I can. The idea of knowledge and experience in the way we see fascinates me. I pay a lot of my attention to noticing how much a face of a friend, a house, neighbourhood, or even teapot changes the way it looks, the better I know it. I usually start my work with some sort visual excitement, which nowadays I actively look for.
The works on paper in coloured pencil usually take me up to 3 hours, and I can make up to 3 a day. With them I find something that interests me and work directly with no pre-made sketches. For the oil paintings I make a lot of composition concentrated sketches and they take me way longer to complete, purely because I can re work them over and over again. So in the time I make one bigger painting I will usually make 40 works on paper. This makes it look like I work on them a lot more, but in fact I spend a similar amount of time on both of the mediums. I work listening to music, stand-up comedy, or some sort of educational podcast, to avoid overthinking.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Continue doing what you are doing. Heard this one a lot of times, from a lot of different people and it seems to work great.
What is your studio like?
I am currently working in a village just outside of Lisbon, where my girlfriend and I are sharing a house, and where we both have two rooms designated as our studios. It’s a perfect environment to concentrate, and work all day, as there is very little distraction. We borrow our Internet, so it only works in a tiny portion of the house, which has also turned out to be very helpful. I don’t have any source material, as I hate working from a 2-dimensional reference, so the only things that are scattered around the whole room are my art materials and used coffee cups.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Whether my work is currently going well or quite terribly, it influences how I feel about myself and everything else way too much.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Eerie, cramped, loud
What are you working on right now?
I just came back from a residency in Greece where I created two larger oil canvases, which will be on show in August. So for now I will be working on some smaller work with no specific goal or purpose.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have came across some very good work because of you. So, thank you.
Find more on Instagram @igor.moritz!