Vladinsky is a one of the most exciting artists to emerge from Eastern Europe's vibrant and rapidly evolving contemporary art scene. The portrait painter, whose bright, swift, linear, bold work feels like a modern day riff on Picasso, has exhibited in both his native country and London, to great acclaim. As part of our emerging artists series, Candid Magazine sat down to him to find out what makes him tick.
Candid Magazine: How did you discover you wanted to be an artist ?
Vladinsky: I was fascinated with comic books when I was younger and since they were very hard to find in Romania at that time, I started drawing cartoon characters for myself. This is the memory I associate with my start as an artist even though I actually pursued it as a career years later. I’ve always felt like I couldn’t find my place anywhere and the need to express myself, either through music or drawing and that gave me the courage and motivation to take on the life-style of a painter full time, about 8 years ago. I started everything from zero, without looking back, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
CM: What is the infrastructure like for art students in Romania?
V: I didn’t study art at any of the universities in Romania, I’m what you call a self-made artist. I did meet a lot of art students at these universities in the recent years, who do not have a long-term plan and don’t know what they want to do after graduating, which I think it’s a reflection of a problem somewhere in the preparatory schools for the university.
I don’t pretend to know anything concrete but I'm convinced that no matter how talented you are and how incredible your skills are, it will not be enough. These days you need to know a lot more. No one will come to the door of your studio to say, “You’re very good, here is a golden brush as a gift and now life has become easy.”
Besides that, there’s also this misconception in society in general, that if you didn’t go to school for something you can’t be good in that particular field. Most of the time I have an exhibit in Romania, visitors always ask where I went to art school and when my answer is that I have not studied at any of them, everyone seems surprised and find it hard to believe you can achieve something without it.
I have absolutely no problem with this, just that I preferred to discover myself without going into a scoring system based on the fear of failure that can obstruct my vision.
CM: Why did you decide to work as a portrait artist?
V: Originally I started with abstract paintings, worked a for only a few years in this direction and then somewhere in 2013 I was contacted by a Hollywood decorating director who wanted to use one of my paintings in one of their films. I managed to send the picture but initially I didn't know what the film was going to be about. In 2014 the seventh season of Mad Men appeared and I was really excited to see that the painting was part of the film's decor.
Though really excited and grateful, I felt that this is not the direction I wanted to turn to and decided to start studying another portrait technique, having been fascinated by Andy Warhol's works. The attraction to the pop-art probably comes from the memories I have as a young boy of drawing cartoon characters.
After having reproduced some portraits based on photos, I decided to combine that technique with a series of abstract elements that could bring to the viewer an experience that he/she can’t associate it with anything directly. When I saw the final result, I was also surprised and knew that this is the direction I have to go on. Shame On You is the name of the first painting combining these two techniques, portrait and abstract, and is probably the most famous painting I've ever made.
CM: Where does the inspiration come from?
V: Inspiration comes first of all from people, we’re all so different and so alike at the same time. It's impossible not to find something that doesn’t catch my attention. Also, as Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working!”
CM: How long does a piece take to paint?
V: It depends. I do not have an exact time. It may take an hour, or maybe a few months until I feel like a painting is complete. Although I like to think that sometimes I leave myself on autopilot and try to be as spontaneous as I can, there are moments when I think long enough to choose a certain color to put on the canvas in the right place.
CM: What’s an average day like in your studio?
V: I spend 90% of my days in the studio. I like to organize myself the day before and rarely do anything other than what I've planned. Every morning around 8 o'clock I get to the studio and the first thing I do is read things that help me improve myself, while staying away from politics, news and Facebook.
After I’ve found some peace and balance I begin to tackle my to do list, pack a painting, send a series of prints, stretch a canvas on a chassis, arrange a frame, take pictures for a particular painting or have conversations with different people from galleries and art fairs. In other words, I try to take down my daily goals, but also keep in mind that I have some long-term goals. That's what I'm doing about 70 hours a week in my studio. I really love what I do and sometimes I feel that time is actually flowing through my fingers.
CM: What’s your proudest achievement to date?
V: In the last 4 years I have been able to give a series of paintings to a foundation dedicated to helping children with special needs. The paintings were sold in auctions and this year one of them was sold for close to 6000 euros – money that was donated directly to this cause. Beside that, the fact that I'm exhibiting for the third time this year in London, it's a very satisfying achievement for me.
CM: What is the 30 paintings series?
30 paintings in 30 days is a challenge I have been thinking of for a long time. Even though I work everyday towards my goals, I feel that sometimes I do not pay much attention and Mondays come along and it gets a bit chaotic. It basically started as a dare with myself, to prove that organizing brings more productivity.
I’ve planned in advance everything I have to do and after so long I'm not afraid that I can lose quality because I set my goals as realistic as possible and only try to exceed my limits. After these 30 days I will probably take a break of 7-10 days, after which I will try to challenge myself for 90 days.
The 30 idea is the following; I try to make a painting every day for 30 days, now I'm on day 15 and I feel really good. The paintings are available on the website, some of them were sent to the buyers but one of these paintings will also be given to someone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook. I really appreciate the community that supports me and I feel like they definitely deserve it. All they have to do is give a name to the painting posted on social media, and after 30 days, I will pick a winner.
CM: What would you like your future to hold?
V: For mid-long term I want to be able to build my own studio where I can express myself dailly and be able to exhibit my work all over the world. Also, being able to see a Vladinsky in every home I think it’s a fair life goal.
Words by Toby Mellors
You can see Vladinsky's work here and follow his 30 paintings in 30 days on Facebook and Instagram