We like to think that we live in a crazy world, on fast forward. But this chaotic world is also a beautiful one, where we can communicate with great people even if there are thousand of kilometres between us. And in this world Natalia Paruz found me on twitter, after I wrote about Another Earth. She told me her beautiful story and somehow she connected me with another great artist whereof Natalia says she is a wonderful, positive person with a vision – Paola Minekov, a Bulgarian artist from London. Like in all the good stories, I found out that Paola’s parents met and fell in love in Romania, where they were studying Art. Sometimes, this big world seems to be a cozy neighborhood.
What is the role of the artist in our society? Is the artist a bohemian or an activist?
Sometimes I wonder if Bohemians still exist in the classical sense of the word. We live in such a fast paced, demanding reality. But yes, a bit of both I suppose. Art is about self expression so it’s very individual. For some people it’s about expressing their emotions and experiences in various ways, including through their lifestyle. For others, to draw attention to the causes they care about in a very conceptual and methodical way. Of course, the two often overlap. Artists naturally react to what’s happening in society and with their work they always seek to engage the public. I think a big part of the role of the artist is to show people a different way of seeing and make them question the things in life that are often taken for granted. If you take Banksy for example, his work is both expressive and activist.
Do you think that an artist could be a great cultural manager? Or the artist should create and the cultural manager should organize and manage art?
Depends on how you define a cultural manager. When it comes to developing curatorial ideas and concepts for festivals and events, I think artists can be amazing cultural managers. Some of the most interesting projects out there are developed by artists. In terms of organising the day to day details, in an ideal world, the artist would create and leave all the rest to a manager, agent or a gallery. Nowadays however it is essential and even expected that artists would acquire at least some marketing and management skills. This works really well for some people, but many still struggle with it. My personal experience is that I’ve really enjoyed organising and curating the occasional exhibit and it has given me valuable insight and understanding in what curators and art managers deal with on a day to day basis. I enjoy the curatorial side of things, as it allows me to bring my own art projects to life while retaining control over the artistic concept.
What is the most powerful image of your childhood?
Spending endless summers camping at the Black Sea coast. There’s something magical about the power of the sea, an energy that’s calming yet somehow larger than life. Water is, to this day, a big part of my art. It often features in my cityscapes.
How relevant was your father’s experience in the arts field for your passion and later, for your career choice?
I grew up surrounded by his sculptures. I believe it was critical but very very natural all the same. I’ve watched my father create pieces of art from scratch, his control over the material, the artwork taking shape… He would often take me to his studio. Whenever he was home, he would constantly sketch in his spare time, and teach me how to draw. Imagine paper, ink and pencils all over the place. The horse features in many of his works, so I learnt to draw horses very young! As I mentioned I have a thing about playing with water, so he used to carve me wooden toy boats for my dolls, or teach me how to cast plaster eggs for Easter so I could paint them. My mother is an artist as well, so later when I was old enough to really start learning, they both became my teachers. I have an art degree but most of what I know about drawing and painting, I know from my parents.
When did you understand that your father, the famous sculptor Ivan Minekov, is an appreciated artist?
My father is a very down to earth, social guy. He walks everywhere, has many friends and is very approachable. In a way he’s your typical bohemian artist. Him having exhibitions or working on large monuments was a normal part of life for me. I guess it was random little things like in Bulgaria they print the birthdays of famous people in the newspapers and his would be listed, or he would be featured in an art programme on TV. I must have been around 8-9 years old when they made a documentary about him. He must have been in his late 30’s. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the significance of it at the time though, other than ‘Hey, my dad’s on TV’.
I view my art as a visual diary of my life. To paint is my way of analysing and understanding the world –based on your artist statement, how do you choose your themes? Is there something more important than another thing in your daily life?
Life is unpredictable and it changes all the time. I find anything can inspire me, from experiences to something I read in a book or technical challenges and new materials. I have various interests and I normally don’t try to prioritise them, though that probably happens naturally. I prefer to let my feelings and instincts guide me and that’s a big part of the creative process for me. Typically I tend to work on a few thematically different pieces at the same time, rather than concentrate on just one topic. For me, the act of making art itself allows me to concentrate and think through whatever occupies my mind at a particular time. Sometimes, as it is with my Undercurrents series, the work may be inspired by the present as well as rooted in past personal experiences I may still be processing on a certain level.
I love your Dancers series, especially Midnight Dancers. Why did you choose to make a series of dancers? And why did you paint ballerinas in motion?
Thank you! There is something captivating about the motion and energy of dance. Like most little girls I went through a period where I wanted to be a ballerina and even went to ballet classes for a while. I find it fascinating how dancers can look so graceful yet be incredibly in control of their movements. I was very young when I started working on the Dancers Series. It was a time of explorations of the figure in motion, light and colour.
How did Paola the artist grow between her father’s studio, The Secondary Artistic School of Fine Arts (Sofia, Bulgaria), Avni Institute of Art (Tel Aviv, Israel), Willem de Kooning Academy (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and London?
I guess it’s the wanderer in me who for many years found it hard to settle down in one place. I’m fascinated by people and places, and in different places people behave differently. They live according to the light. Light can have such a profound effect on one’s mood and lifestyle. The light is also vital for each artwork I make and it’s interesting how my travels have affected my colour scheme.
In my research I found out that your father studied in Romania and that you made a cover for Claudia Moscovici, Romanian-American art critic and author. ☺What do you know about the Romanian culture?
Yes, in fact both my parents studied art in Romania. They met and fell in love there. I’m even named after a Romanian friend of my mother’s.
A few years ago I read Claudia Moscovici’s novel Velvet Totalitarianism and was amazed at how accurately it described the way I, and probably many others from my generation, have experienced the dramatic events of the end of the communist regime in our countries. The biographical style of the book resonated with me. I connected with Claudia on LinkedIn and we’ve been in touch ever since. I found that we share many of the same interests, one of them being the psychology of relationships. My painting The Seducer is inspired by her novel of the same name, though the novel was already printed when I painted it. Claudia has kindly reviewed my art and she also wrote the foreword to my father’s latest catalogue. She regularly writes about Romanian artists so that helps me keep up to date with the Romanian culture.
Bulgarian artist Paola Minekov has painted several major series, including the vibrant Dancers and Circus series, and dynamic Cityscapes. Her Undercurrents series explores the psychology of human relationships. Paola moved to London in early 2008. Since then she has been involved in numerous art projects and exhibitions including the Faberge Big Egg Hunt and the intu Elephant Parade. In 2014 she created a 12m2 mosaic mural in the Institute of Education.
You can browse Paola Minekov’s portfolio here: www.paolaminekov.com
photo source: (c) Suzanne Mitchell