A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Igor Moritz
Thierry Goldberg: Your practice is primarily portrait-based. Why do you gravitate towards portraits in your work?
Igor Moritz: By painting the other we get direct access to the spectrum of emotions that confront us with what it is to be human. We are faced with joy, fear, love, doubt, desire, uncertainty, anticipation as well the unpreventable passing of time.
TG: Who are the people you portray in your portraits?
IM: They are my friends, family, my girlfriend as well as myself. If I spend enough time with anyone, there is a very good chance they will end up in my work. I almost treat it like a diary, marking people, time, and place.
TG: Do you paint from memory, from photographs, or from life?
IM: I draw and paint from life, or at least I always begin like that. I need someone's presence much more than just an image. I like to be able to see something from multiple angles, moving, with changing light.
The coloured pencil drawings are made in very intimate, domestic settings, I can work quietly without disturbing the current ambience of the people and place.
It's important for me to try and recreate this atmosphere when people come to sit for me in the studio. I want them to forget they are being painted, come to talk, have a drink.
TG: You have included one self-portrait in the show. Can you tell me how this one relates to your other portraits and how self-portraits factor into your practice?
IM: I think the self-portrait is a perfect way to depict time. I have also always loved how in the work of Rembrandt or Picasso, it was possible to map out their whole life, changes in self-perception, and painting technique using their self-portraits.
TG: It is compelling how you cycle back to the same subjects (and yourself in your self-portraits). How do you think this impacts your work?
IM: I am really fascinated by the constantly changing nature of peoples faces. Not only by emotion or aging, but also by the mere knowledge of them. I think by painting people over and over again, we get to explore the relationship between time, knowledge and perception.
TG: Do your works contribute to the way you view those around you and even yourself? Both physically and emotionally?
IM: The first visual impression we have of someone, tends to end up as a bland caricature of what we get to see after years of looking at someone's face. Emotionally, it helps me to ground certain ephemeral moments into a set place, in ways to separate them from time.
TG: What are the settings your portraits are in? Are they real life settings or imagined worlds?
IM: Some of the paintings are set outdoors some indoors, but all the places are in some way connected to reality. I'm interested in the identities of places, and the interaction between that and the people who find themselves in them. How the inner and outer world interact and collide.
A couple of paintings are set in by Regents Canal in East London. Which interests me for its free yet moody atmosphere full of visual contrasts. A place puzzled with Narrowboats painted in the most vivid and joyful colours in the ‘Roses and Castles’ folk style, set off against the rather bleak industrial architecture of Hackney Wick.
TG: Do you think your color choice reflects your subjects and settings, and if so, how?
IM: The combinations of colours I use are all soaked up from my surrounding environments. Therefore the light, architecture, fashion, and even the billboards all play a huge role in my colour choices. So in that way paintings made in the winter in England will feel very different to the ones I made in the south of France this spring. However, I don't select them for their intrinsic emotional qualities or even by the symbolism of any particular colour. My main goal is to create an inner drama of harmony and tension, that would make sure the painting has the right soul.
TG: Do you think Covid-19 has impacted your choice of colors and your practice?
IM: I think all the things happening in my life, usually find a way to leak into the work. The figures find themselves in empty streets or isolated in rooms. However, I think more banal things, like what I’m wearing, play a bigger role for my colour choices, much more than what's currently happening in the world.