Roman Manikhin: West Coast

Roman Manikhin

Artworks Title: West Coast

Materials Used: Oil on canvas

Studio Based: Berlin

Manikhin, West coast, oil on canvas, 2023

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Usually I work in series, researching a certain topic that interests me. I try to meditate every morning, and in the process some image comes to me related to a certain theme. It is blurred, but sufficient to understand something about a potential plot. At this moment it is decided if that will be a single piece or a number of related works. At the sketch stage I clarify the composition, research colours and textures I might feel like using. Previously, I made sketches solely on the computer, but now I combine those with drawings on paper. After a sketch is transferred on canvas, I may add new details or swap characters. Even when I am not in the studio, my thinking about the subjects continues, so it is like a 24/7 process for me.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

I was spiritually dying before I started painting. So it is like an antithesis of death for me, some sort of salvation.

Could you share with us some insights on your painting “Shisha hostage”, (2023)? Is there any particular story behind this new work? Is it like a diptych painting depicting the same female figure in the same pose and background?

I actually prefer the alternative title for that one, maybe it reveals more: “West Coast”. For me, this is the image that attracted adventurers and daredevils to the coast of the Pacific ocean in North America, what we now know as California, one of the most desirable American states in popular culture. One of the symbols can be found in the background – the Golden Gate Bridge. The interior and the girl are, on the contrary, oriental. For me it speaks of how diverse, culturally rich that place is. The second painting was produced a bit later – that image of the Hookah lady was literally haunting me, I felt the urge to revisit it, sharpen some details. I have provided her with a companion, so that she would not feel so lonely in her world. I do not consider it as a diptych, just maybe you can’t have only one coast of something.

Your recent body of work reflects some summery and chill vibes; somehow themes such as celebrating life or enjoying our leisure time consist a source of inspiration on your canvases?

I have started developing this topic when my wife went without me for a sea vacation. Left alone in a suffocating, melting megapolis, I started a new series of paintings, creating the world where I wanted to teleport myself at that moment. To depict what one lacks, trying to get it – I thought there is an interesting dimension to this sincere and naive act. Also something magical about it – in a sense of a very ancient human practice, summoning the power of images to alter reality. I think there is something shamanic about this.

Do you have any intention being humorous and slightly provocative through your imagery?

Super serious or anti-esthetic art is not interesting to me at the moment. I don’t mind if my art makes you smile. There is already too much ugliness, sadness and evil in the world. The city where I was born, in addition to its inhuman size, stands out among other European cities due to the sadistic absurdity of urban design solutions and a particularly cynical disregard for aesthetics, especially in the 90s – so I have always felt a need to respond to that in some positive and optimistic manner, to introduce some joy to the surroundings.

Looking at your polychromatic paintings, it seems that you are applying a wide range of colours on your canvases. Which are the right conditions that lead you to choose the right colour combinations on each painting?

I have a certain palette that feels both comfortable and meaningful for me. Besides that, I treat colour as maybe a musician treats sounds – trying to achieve a full and balanced composition -whatever it takes.

Have specific artworks been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?

I think this can be related to my wooden sculptures when I utilise a chainsaw. My sketches are often two-dimensional, so this is an adventurous and risky enterprise for me. Such a brutal instrument wants to make everything itself – but I do my best trying to direct it towards my vision.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

I have a rather small studio, about 15 sq.m, located below a beauty salon. I am very thankful for it – a great location in Berlin Mitte, where the galleries are, and the owners are super nice. But my ideal studio, the one I dream about – would be in the countryside. I really need outdoor space where to develop large-scale sculptures, and where my chainsaw would sound less foreign.

Which are your plans for the near future?

I’m currently working on a new series of wooden sculptures. I meditate on topics of masculinity and guilt in modern society, but also I can not stay fully ignorant of the ongoing events in geopolitics.

Manikhin, Boy with Cucumbers, 140 x 100, 2023
Manikhin, Blue heels, 100 x 140, oil on canvas, 2023
Manikhin, Je m’appelle Adam, 4 parts, 165 x 450, 2023
Manikhin, Ivy, 120 x 85, oil on canvas, 2022
Manikhin, Time is running out, 100 х 70, 2023


All images courtesy of the artist

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.