We are pleased to introduce you to our Manc of the Month for October, Olga Mun. Olga is a contemporary British painter whose body of works draws heavily upon abstraction and figuration to explore, give name and voice to the conflicted spaces we currently inhabit. Interestingly, her visual vocabulary does not necessarily come from watching art. Rather, it takes a lot from architecture, design, theatre and nature.
Cotton On Manchester: Please introduce yourself to the Cotton On MCR readers.
Olga Mun: ‘I am a visual artist based in Manchester, my works focus on painting for the most part. I was born in Russia, and I had extensive experience in the art world. Memory, solidarity, migration and society are some of the topics that I explore within my experience as an artist.’
COM: You recently graduated from Salford University, how was your time there?
OM: ‘I studied in Art School in my hometown, Vladivostok, Far East of Russia; the approach there was very academic and at some point became too narrow for me. Then when I switched to Fine Art at the University of Salford, I found it difficult to adapt to extreme freedom in the art field. During these studies I outlined my plans to “transform” the world to better places, and in the summer of 2022 I received my Bachelor of Art degree, now I’m doing my master in Contemporary Fine Art .
I am lucky to have tried completely different academic systems; this diversity helped me to stay focused on my own thing. Once I’ve been told that attentiveness makes you an artist. So I’m attentive to half shades, feelings, the world around me and also something not so clear what is ‘flowing in the air’.’
COM: How have you found life after University?
OM: ‘After University, I got a chance to visit my friends and family in my home countries. I took the knowledge University taught me and continued on painting and posting my artwork on social media. My art style changed during and after university because it taught me to be diverse and make my paintings abstract and not stuck to one art style. Thanks to University, I also had the chance to meet some incredible people from the UK and learnt about the different artistic communities.’
COM: What is your painting process?
OM: ‘All my daily life is built around studio practice. I realized many paintings, even if I decided to keep the original medium-large size, they helped me a lot to face my fears and make sure that I didn’t let myself go to despair. I do a lot of study colours and painting theory, but also to try new art techniques and painting supports.
Currently I am working from home, here I have all the facilities needed for my work and research. It does definitely feel like a prominent positive development and I really enjoy working there, still if I feel like I need to work, I will start to do it on a kitchen table no matter what.
The artists I always find something to learn from are good examples of our classics. So for me now it is especially important to see what is happening in the contemporary context around me. I really enjoy watching online galleries. My visual vocabulary does not necessarily come from watching art; it takes a lot from architecture, design, theatre and nature. I believe in a concept of a certain eternity: everything is connected and flows into one another. I watch a lot and this is part of my daily routine. I take a lot from contemporary painters and early modernism practices. For example, currently I’m rediscovering architectural jewels of the former Soviet scape.’
COM: You use a lot of colours within your work, can you tell us more about that?
OM: ‘It was a very challenging time when I studied at University with all COVID-19 impact on us, but somehow exactly because of this I could come back to my inner structure and reflect on what my themes are, why I do what I do and which methods are applicable for my targets. In the first I developed a completely new body of work for me just because I want colours . My inner recall fascinated and memory of being inspired by colour as a child. Also my fascination with the symbolism and psychology of colours grew up. At the same time I started my artistic research towards Russian Cosmism and Eastern European perspective on the space, ecology and environment, somehow exactly fluidly in working and controlled at the end materials as canvas and oil helped me to embody and to decode this conceptual infrastructure which I was working with. So, for my practice, that vibrant of colours was definitely a manifestation of artistic freedom.’
COM: Do you have a favourite piece/one you are most proud of?
OM: ‘Not really, I’m in with tenderness and love when I paint them. The real purpose of painting is to give a pleasure. That’s really the main thing that it is about. There can be the story, there can be a lot of history behind it, but you don’t have to know all to get tuned, as you don’t need to know nots. It’s also helped me to see something that I wouldn’t be able to see in reality. It is so exciting and informative to follow activities such as painting. I like to think that my artistic research is somewhat between words and visual images. I like to combine my stream of consciousness with my painting and to symbolism. They are two different dimensions that merge into my imaginary, I define this as possibilistic narration.’
COM: We are huge fans of this piece (above), what is this called? Can you tell us more about this work?
OM: ‘The title of artwork is “Watermelon man” The whole idea behind the painting is war as I painted something that emerges directly from me and that comes out naturally gives the feeling that it is something truly natural, not rationalized, which appears through instinct and which does not always measure the consequences it can generate.
On first glance when you look at the painting, you may think that theological description of the world was an obstacle for me and the complete impossibility of creating works according to the usual rule, news about Russian Ukrainian wars such a powerful blow to my consciousness as hole my life experience of being woman, suddenly led me into a wandering, almost shattered my consciousness, as a result, forcing me to wander at the very borders of the invisible worlds, in the world of dreams, where time flows in the opposite direction. But I did not possess the skills of power to actively delve into this or that world, I created denser dreams on canvas. Provocative blended interrogation of whatever I value and what I want to do with life. I want to embrace the magical beauty of the world. The rainbows are spectacular natural phenomenons. Desperately wanted beauty, love, wealth, happiness and an interrogation about.’
COM: You have a very interesting past, can you tell the reader about your life before you came to England?
OM: ‘I don’t think that I have an interesting past, the only thing I can say is that I was very brave and in order to find a better life I have had to move from one country to another since my youth. At the age of 23, I moved to Korea and worked there, some time after that, I moved to live in Iran, since I married an Iranian man and after almost 10 years, my husband and I moved to England, even though every time I came from one country to another, I had to learn the language of the traditions of countries culture, history, it was certainly very exciting, but at the same time, I missed my own country more and more. With my past, a huge number of cultures in which I lived in left a special imprint on my paintings.’
COM: Do you have any career goals?
OM: ‘Art is a dynamic model and it is unstable.
So I need to keep the meaning moving, let it be fragile, thin and tired of individual return, personal experience and the chaos of the big world of relation, to come to objects, failures, erroneous and used up. Art is a point where you can procrastinate , but which you can also skip.’
COM: If you could live in any artwork, what would it be and why?
OM: ‘I don’t know, and then I realize that I really don’t know. I love De Kooning’s work. I love how you don’t now if it’s human, what is in the surroundings. I love the colours. You can get lost in his work.’