A few months ago I had my first encounter with a Berlin based painter, Paul Kormashov. I went to a group show gallery opening where he was showing some of his paintings. While I was doing a tour through the gallery with two of the most influential women in my life, one of them stopped me to pay special attention to one of his paintings. After that I considered asking Paul if he would like to do an interview for my project. The organizer of this event introduced me to him and we have been in touch for a while since then. I was waiting for the right moment to do this interview. Finally we met at his home studio and had an interesting chat about his background, influences and the life of a contemporary artist in the German capital city.
Cristina Benzi: You’re coming from an old artistic family in Tallinn, Estonia. How do you remember your first steps into painting?
Paul Kormashov: My family definitely played a big role in my development as a painter. My grandfather and uncle were both painters and that influenced me a lot when I was growing up. Seeing their studios and going to their exhibitions was very exciting for me. Being surrounded by art was natural and I wanted to try creating something myself. In a way I’ve always practiced art but I started painting more seriously in 2004 when I was about 15 years old. My first paintings were quite traditional, mostly landscapes and portraits. At that time I often felt that my work is not good enough so after high school I decided to study painting in the Pallas University of Applied Sciences in Tartu, Estonia. After finishing my studies I realised that I had been doing the same kind of works for a long time and felt that I needed to change something. That’s when my style started to get more abstract. Mixing different themes and using strong colours I developed the technique that I’m working with now.
CB: After looking at your series of paintings one of my first impressions was that I could see a collection of classical music scores but also geometric figures. It’s like an experience in itself. What do you actually want to express in your paintings?
PK: Above all I want to express contrasts. Something that is very lively and energetic but at the same time a bit cold. Looking at a painting is a peaceful experience but it should also give the viewer a fresh emotion. There is always a reason why I’ve done a painting but actually the most important thing for me is the connection between the viewer and the artwork. For example this painting is about night thoughts when you are trying to sleep but can’t and you start getting all these crazy thoughts in your head. I would say that the dark background represents the night, and all these colourful lines and symbols are the thoughts. But another person might see something entirely different in this painting and I find that very interesting.
CB: What made you come to Berlin and why did you decide to stay?
PK: I first came to Berlin in April 2015 because my brother was living here and I got the impression that this is an environment that I would enjoy. My original plan was to stay for about a year but later it became more permanent. To me personally this city is an endless source of ideas, thoughts and inspiration and I think it is an interesting place for any creative person. It’s a city of contrasts – loud and lively but at the same time calm and cosy. This has also influenced the way I paint now. Sometimes it can be a tough and intense environment to live in because there is a lot of competition but I think it’s worth it in the end. Though it might not work like this for everyone.
CB: How do you approach venues to show your work?
PK: During my first months here I made a huge research about established local galleries and hoped they would like to work with me. So I just contacted them with the intention of showing my work. I got rejected from all of them and decided to take a step back. Now I think that it’s important to first develop a strong style that is very characteristic and personal and then start applying to smaller venues. These days most of my sales are happening online. In general my current strategy is to produce good work, let people know that it exists and only then something can grow out of this.