The figurative paintings of the emerging artist Nichola Koshkosh juxtapose various narratives exploring his surrounding environment, socio-cultural references and more intimate stories through an expressive and prolific visual format. The sources of his inspiration do not only rely on fine arts movements or themes, but also on music, fashion or politics. Dealing with figurative forms of representation executed in a remarkably unaffected painterly manner, Koshkosh captures his heroes based on the attributes of graffiti and rendered in a child-like pattern. His paintings are mainly vivid oil and spray on canvas artworks using bold colours. Vague stories, colour-expressive arrangements and ordinary themes incite the artist’s contemporary faux naïf imagery. An aesthetic compilation of everyday objects, Christian and folklore symbols, tiny and smiley signs like painted emoticons, animals, anthropomorphic figures, short memorable phrases as well as leading brands, like Coca-Cola or DHL, dynamically construct essential reoccurring motifs in Koshkosh’s recent body of work forming unexpected pairings on canvas.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Koshkosh’s figurative paintings offer a visual study to the human culture and nature; men, women or other humanoid figures, who dominate the artist’s world, retain a sort of unemotional style and attitude on canvas. Exploring reality through the depiction of daily situations and habits, such as riding horses or playing musical instruments, almost all figures are seemingly close-mouthed and only release mute facial expressions. On the contrary, the position of the bodies demonstrate motion and flexibility, but in a clumsy arrangement. Facial and bodily expressions look contradictory and intensive while equally meaningful and childlike.
Koshkosh’s paintings embody an important number of cultural ephemera and visual stories. His artwork presents a rich language of figurative forms and shapes that are usually rendered in abstract arrangements creating a vague storyline on canvas. Polychromatic smudges, thin-lined scribbles, and bleached marks enhance the abstract aesthetics of the painting and bring up an ongoing battle between figuration and representation. Complete painterly compositions coexist with fuzzy stains that fade the clearly figurative elements away and semi-dismantle the final portraiture iconography. With characters derived from wide sources, this artistic approach opens up the dialogue about his paintings and shapes a contradictory narrative that is easily absorbed yet remains obscure and uncertain.
Born in 1995 in Mariupol, Ukraine, Nichola Koshkosh lives and works in Moscow, Russia. The emerging painter has mainly exhibited in Moscow-based galleries including: High Note, at Zdes na Taganke gallery, Moscow (2020), 11.11, at the hybrid space Richter, Moscow (2019), Red Squre, Contemporary Art Museum Art4, Moscow (2018). He is currently having an online exhibition named Hyperborea which is accessible via Instagram augmented reality filters.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I usually start with a pencil sketch, and trying to refer and build on it in the beginning. Then the process of creating a painting completely absorbs me and it turns out into something new, quite different. After, I try to come to what I had planned earlier, but in the end I finish with an absolutely different ‘new’ artwork.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Figurative painting with abstract elements.
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Henry Taylor, Katherine Bernhardt.
You recently launched your first fully online solo exhibition named Hyperborea which is accessible via Instagram augmented reality filters. Could you provide some more details about this new exhibition?
The idea for this show came to me naturally during the Covid-19 lockdown, when I found myself confined within my studio, without any freedom. I discovered the tales of Hyperborea – a land far in time and space symbolizing perfection, known since the times of the classical Greek poet Pindar. I wanted to share new artworks with my audience and with the help from my curator Artur Semenov @art_roam and digital creators @wearerealheroes, I have launched Hyperborea – my first virtual solo exhibition, which you can visit with your mobile device and Instagram: it’s an installation of 15 new paintings in three different augmented reality rooms, most of them created during the lockdown in Moscow, pioneering the Instagram AR exhibition format.
[You can see the show directly from the Instagram profile @nicholakoshkosh by clicking on the smiley face icon and then visit https://nicholakoshkosh.com/hyperborea to get more information about the paintings.]
Comparing your latest paintings to previous ones, would you say that you came up with new techniques or painting themes in this new body of work? Is there any change in your style or aesthetics?
Yes, I started using more spray and also printmaking. The subject of my art is constantly changing, but at the same time it’s all very biographical to me. In the last few years I’ve learned a lot of drawing techniques, it helps me in painting. And in my art I try to find new forms, I’m attracted to movement and colour, and in the latest works I try to combine this.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
It is that feeling when I can no longer add anything. Then if the painting satisfies me from all sides there comes the feeling of finishing. But I don’t think I’ll ever have a complete finish in my paintings.
Do you believe people are getting more familiar with paintings made based on digital techniques or aesthetics?
Nowadays it is both, and I’m happy about it.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
I’m renting a studio in Moscow, where I live and work on my paintings. It is rather nice with two spacious rooms and a good daylight. There’s a police station just across the street, which can be noisy sometimes, but I’m quietly working here on the big size artworks as well as my sketches.
What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
I hope they’re getting a new philosophy for themselves.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Rather the latter.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Of course it’s half full.
Which are your plans for the near future?
I plan to come to Copenhagen and paint a mural for one of my Danish collectors. At the end of this year I have a personal exhibition in Rome that I’m preparing for. I’m also planning to move to Europe at some point.
© All images are courtesy of the artist & Artur Semenov