Drawing on the chromatic techniques of Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, in combination with the figurative compositions of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Edgar Degas, Lublin-born painter Igor Moritz creates expressionistic portraits of contemplative figures in contemporary domestic spaces. “I think the main themes I see in my work are uncertainty and anticipation,” says Igor. As he sees it, “The people in my paintings seem to always be equally stuck in the present environment as they are inside their heads.”
Having attended the Norwid’s Secondary School of Fine Art in Lublin, where his love of painting was ignited by an open air painting trip in the Polish countryside, Igor opted to study industrial design in his higher education. As he says: “I wanted to keep painting as something that’s very personal and develop it without the involvement of any higher institution.”
There is an instinctive quality to Igor’s work that displays his willingness, as an essentially self-taught artist, to pursue his own painterly impulses without the inhibitions of an institutional approach. His current practice is about pursuing that impulsive approach. He tells us: “I’m definitely loosening up and not trying to control the way things look as much. The forms of objects are becoming freer and colour is moving down from the surface, deeper into the image. The forms of people and things are also becoming more un-fastened.”
Igor’s intensely colourful interior scenes give the viewer the impression of having happened upon these sitters at a moment of introspection. Even when pictured in pairs or groups, the figures appear solitary, staring in opposite directions or else directly at the viewer. As Igor states: “The thing that seems to be at the essence of all my work is some sort of tension. I think it applies to both the formal aspects as well as the subject matter. By this, I mean that things are usually at odds with one another, a mix of something sweet and sour. This can be seen in my compositions and is probably most noticeable in my use of colour.”
In one scene, two figures sit together and yet somehow apart; one rests against the other’s legs but the pair seem disconnected – a disconnect heightened by the contrast between the cool blue tones used to paint the left-hand figure and the warm pink and orange tones of the right-hand figure. The chromatic juxtapositions throughout Igor’s paintings sustain this subtly jarring effect of “sweet and sour”. Pastel hues and muted shades are set against vivid block colours – neon yellows, bright pinks and searing blues.
Igor paints almost exclusively from life. He tells us that this method “enables me to work much more directly”. For him: “Everything has an infinite range of looks, and my eye does a much better job at picking up the representative essence in person, rather than from a photograph.” Igor employs a range of techniques in order to capture the multifaceted appearance of the things and people he perceives, alternating between oil paint and coloured pencil to achieve variations of texture and different levels of depth.
While Igor’s figures appear caught within themselves and their self-reflection, there remains a sense of intimacy between sitter and painter. As Igor says: “I have very close relationships with the people that I paint. I think knowledge plays a huge role in what we can actually see. I usually spend a big portion of the day with the person I paint, and make them food and drink in the breaks.”
There is also a perceptible intimacy between subject and viewer that arises from the nature of the environments; these are scenes of personal spaces that we recognise as part of contemporary domestic life – sitting in an armchair or desk chair, lying in bed wearing a hoodie and scrolling through your phone, reading on the sofa next to a pot of tea, sitting on the floor of your bedroom. This is paired with the timeless quality of Igor’s compositions to create paintings that are made up of the textures and colours of our inner lives, projected outwards onto our immediate surroundings.