25/10/2013 08:39 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

In Conversation With... Dima Gorbunov


Dima Gorbunov is a young Russian artist making a name for himself in London's cultural landscape. Based in St. Petersburg, Dima has seen collectors take his creations across Europe, and his commissioned work become high in demand. Now the artist has imagined a beautiful story of paintings, that bring the cult of nightlife to canvas, at North London's C99 Art Project.

But before seeing his exhibition, Groundhog Night - which runs until October 31st - I got the chance to discover more about this rising star in the world of contemporary art.

What are you trying to convey through your art?

I don't try to convey a particular message through my works to the audience, as I don't believe that the message is the most vital goal, it is a confirmation that I objectively perceive the reality around me. I am not going to deny that the feeling of acceptance and being in demand is necessary for any artist, however it should not be the only motivation.

How do you come up with a theme for your works?

The theme for any work should come from within, it must come from experience, and it could be a single emotion or a thought which in return triggers the rest of the thinking process. After all, the image on the canvas is merely a form of embodiment of my experiences and thoughts which I acquired without my own consent and my duty is to convey this to my audience in a cultural, accessible language and include them into my thinking process. The state of mind that my paintings provoke is more important to me than the meaning of the image, as the meaning is only an auxiliary thread in perception of a product.

Talk about your latest series of works 'Groundhog Night'

A key theme in my latest works is the night life of the city, where a person tries to escape into their own romantic world of unconsciousness. In which, amongst countless lights, dark windows and neon signs of the inviting places of entertainment, they lose themselves in time and free themselves of their daily worries and torments, completely dissolving in this interval of the night. Under the fluorescent lamps you cannot see the suffering, confusion and their desperation to find love or just to satisfy their fantasies and desires. Perhaps only under the darkness of the night, one feels at peace, fooling themselves that what they are looking for at night is happiness, when it is just an illusion.

What are you hoping the audience will see in your works?

I am curious to see the reaction of people, because everyone sees and feels differently. This is the most valuable thing in art. This allows the works to live a life of their own, without my participation. I love that feeling. It feels like you're creating something the world didn't know about before.

Art is in your family, how do you compare?

Family plays a vital part in your development not only as an artist but as an individual. These are the people who are able to have a primary influence on you, introduce you to the world and teach you how to perceive it. My brother and I always kept a level of competitiveness going as it pushed us to achieve more in our works. We were always each other's best critics and set an example for each other. I also understand that our different view on life and the world around us is what sets us far apart in terms of our works.


Where did you study?

My artistic path began when I attended a small town art school in Toliati, my hometown. I then moved to St Petersburg and enrolled in Sculpture at the Russian Academy of Arts. I have never touched clay before and it was a great experience to learn the expression of art through the language if sculpture. After finishing my course, I studied restoration as it was always a great interest of mine to find out the secrets of the old masters. After a year, I was expelled as I spent most of my time focusing on fine arts as opposed to the core subject of the course, and enrolled in a new course of Fine Art, started painting with oil, however after studying for a year, I felt the need to expand my range and made the decision to leave the Academy, the product of which is my latest series of works.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

Art was a hobby of mine which grew into a career when I realised I wasn't doing anything else.

Which artists have a key influence on you?

The most key and prime example is set to me by the Old Italian masters such as Pierre De La Francesco, Giotto, De La Tour and other masters of the era. I always thought that in modern art, you can trace their influences and spot their methods.

What was the last work you saw that left you in awe?

The last piece which was a revelation to me is 'Conversion of Saul' of Michelangelo, currently displayed in Moscow. I was struck by the use of colour and magic shapes, the variety that is represented in the story, because first of all, the artist has a task of combining the story, before trying to communicate it in a visual way to his audience.


All photos by Dima Gorbunov