An Interview with Nikita Pozdnyakov, Contemporary Artist
"Omsk is a dark place"
This interview was conducted in collaboration with Ryba Art. Nikita's work will be shown at the Fitzrovia Gallery from the 5th to the 25th of February.
Nikita Pozdnyakov, The Moonlight, Part of Good Weather for Bricklaying NowCuration Exhibition from February 5, 2020 - February 25, 2020 (Image: Nikita Pozdnyakov)
THEA: Can you tell me a little bit about Omsk?
NIKITA: Omsk is a dark place, but people are trying to resist. We have always been a rebellious city. My art reflects things everyone sees outside on their way to work, every day. If I feel empty and uninspired, I just get out on the street, walk around a little and come back with new material.
THEA: Why did you start painting prisons?
NIKITA: Initially, I started drawing them it because my friend got imprisoned. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the yard by his house with a big group of people. Policemen arrested him without explanation. He found out that it was for standing next to a girl who was under 18. He went there as a young man—when he is free, he will be forty. I include him in my artworks often. All of us could be in his shoes. This story caused a lot of ‘noise’ from the local activists, but of course, it didn't change anything. Omsk is surrounded by prisons—lots of people in this town have been imprisoned. We know all about ‘life behind bars’, but what can we change?
THEA: What was Omsk like when you were growing up? How has it changed?
NIKITA: During the early nineties, no -one had any money. I used to hang out with my father and his friends in the storage room behind his art classroom. They used to drink there but never had enough money for vodka. Once, they found a kiosk nearby without a signboard and made one for it them out of the materials they could find in the storeroom: linoleum, carton, fluorescent lighting. They made letters that said something like ‘newspaper and tobacco’ and brought it to the owner. He gave them just enough money to get drunk that day. Transitional period or not, we never really got to feel the freedom.
At the end of the 90s and the early 2000s, I used my studio as an exhibition space. There weren’t any rules back then. It was a great time in some ways.
But sometimes you look around and once again its the USSR. It is fascinating how some things haven’t changed at all. The Khrushchevka (1) of my childhood are still there. I paint them in Tea Leftovers. The area was so empty, so irrelevant. Good material for painting though.
THEA: How do you look back on the Soviet period in your work?
NIKITA: In my work Along the Burning Road, I thought I depicted Chapaev, but maybe it is not him. I named the silhouette Chapaev because it is similar to his postures, but it could be any public figure from the communist party of the time. All of them were seen as heroes, but they killed so many people. We were always choosing these rulers who were killing the nation.
THEA: How do you connect your work to the history of Russian painting?
NIKITA: Look at the icons by Andrey Rublev. His artworks are filled with spiritual beauty. Now all the beauty of Russian Orthodox Christianity comes in cheap angel sculptures. That is the pressure of contemporary Russian reality. I would call Mikhail Larionov the main influence on my work—I admire his primitivist style.
THEA: What is your most precious possession?
NIKITA: This pipe probably. Initially, it belonged to my dad.
(1) Nickname for the low-cost concrete or brick apartment blocks that were built as part of a mass construction project under Nikita Khrushchev