Interview by Mark Tamer
Siméon Artamonov is a London-based artist and web designer. He works mostly with oil paint, and his bright depictions of everyday surroundings and abstract landscapes have been exhibited both in person and online. IMA got to find out what he’s been up to during lockdown and how he is managing his practice during these difficult times.
© Siméon Artamonov
Can you tell us about yourself and what it is you do?
I’m a French artist, currently based in London. I work principally with oil paint, mixed media and digital techniques. I have been exhibiting my work since 2016.
My paintings feature bold colours and geometric shapes, whether I’m working on a portrait, an imaginary landscape, or simply an abstract piece. I grew up with musician parents who really encouraged my creativity; the energy and movement I conjure up through shapes and colour is my way of recalling this musical, rhythmic quality.
I'm always playing with colours and patterns, exploring how I can use them for intricate details or a much more abstract scene.
You recently hosted two online exhibitions: a solo show (Reminiscence) in October 2020 and a group show (Online Winter Show) over the festive period. Can you tell us about this experience of online exhibitions? How was it? Was this in response to Covid restrictions? Any pros and cons you can share?
Sure! Reminiscence was a first for me. It was a great opportunity to combine my digital design skills with my painted work, and I'm still really pleased with how it came out and the interest it generated. I designed the online art viewing platform "view.artsime.com" [link below] myself.
I wanted to avoid a ‘cold’ website, so instead I focused on a simple online experience that provided a more personal approach to the show. Beyond just viewing the works on screen, I wanted people to really ‘feel’ the exhibition and have that same physical experience you get walking into a gallery. It was a project I was really invested in; I also did artist tours via Zoom and offered private visits for my collectors, for instance. I was keen that the show was oriented towards people, and I think that’s the reason it’s worked so well.
Reminiscence online show © Siméon Artamanov
I hosted the show online as a response to the current situation. The pros are that you're fully in control of your show. The cons are you need to generate traffic by yourself; it’s not always easy and is a lot of extra, time-consuming work.
Then in December I organised the Online Winter Show, which was an online group exhibition of paintings and drawings by seven UK-based artists (myself included). The fact it was a group show required a much more in-depth organisation; for instance doing the open call and selecting the artists was a different experience.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this show was being able to give the artists visibility, and increasing the likelihood of more sales that way by getting more people to see their work. I also loved the experience of working together as a team of artists; we worked as a collective, without the hierarchy of one person getting a say over everyone else, for instance.
It’s not to say this was always easy and simple. Doing all the marketing around the exhibition required a lot of work and organisation, and for a big part relied on social media posts and making the most of each artist’s own connections. We also hosted several online events like I did for Reminiscence. But you can’t be part of an ambitious project like that and not show up -- you owe it both to yourself and the other artists. Everyone is invested. It was also a great chance to reuse the digital support that was built for Reminiscence, and to find a way to make it work for more than just me.
Then in December I also was part of a real-life, physical show in Angel at the Candid Art Trust, that is now cut in half because of lockdown. This will hopefully resume once the lockdown is over.
What are you working on next?
Recently I’ve noticed what seems like a new trend, where artists are making small works and working from a smaller space. With lockdown they are limited by the lack of access to their studio, and this new approach has been really inspiring. So I’ve found myself exploring this new angle, and making new works on paper that I present to my audience via email and Instagram.
I’ve also been working on my new website and putting the finishing touches. It will launch in the next few days at artsime.com. [Links below]
How do you find balancing your roles as both an artist and a digital designer?
I believe balance is achieved by counterbalance, and that the idea of stability is misperceived. As long as everything is on track, sometimes you need to accept that some things are up in the air and not worry about how they’re going to land. For me, it's important to curate the chaos, rather than start with a fixed, stationary idea of balance. Let everything run wild, go crazy within set boundaries. It’s important to learn through this experience, and to invest the learning into new projects.
As you said, as well as being an artist I’m a digital designer. Interestingly I’ve always found that my design job and my painting practice complement each other really well. Painting is a dirty job, it's a natural need and it's also something that I can keep hidden: I invite very few people into my studio, and only if I'm happy with a particular piece. Design, on the other hand, is a work where I can solve problems, design digital projects like websites and apps. I really enjoy having those different activities, and going from one to the other.
"sometimes you need to accept that some things are up in the air and not worry about how they're going to land."
© Siméon Artamanov
You have an account with Saatchi Art and Patreon. How have you found these types of platforms?
Those platforms are popular for a good reason, and I think they can be very valuable. They bring non-negligible visibility to our work, and that can really help promote what we create.
Selling art, or getting financial support is a big part of the job description as an artist. For this reason, I think multiplying your own presence through those platforms increases the chances of being discovered, even if the platforms themselves don’t always bring in a big financial contribution.
One drawback is that the platforms act as intermediaries, which means you can’t speak directly to the people who interact with your art. It’s important to build and get to know your collector base; ideally, you want to nurture those relationships, get feedback from them and keep them informed of the new work you’re producing. But the platforms don’t allow direct contact with buyers, and galleries don’t tell you who has bought this or that piece. As a result, if sales happen, they are often a one-off occurrence.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for artists in the near future?
Oh, that’s an interesting question. I think artists face a lot of challenges, but the essence of the job is to be challenged constantly.
Art doesn't thrive in a difficult economy, and with the current health and economic crises, it's important to brace yourself and learn from that experience. Go for a walk, or look after your own mental health any way you can. Of course, money is a problem in a crisis, but it’s worth keeping in mind it’s not the only problem we need to address.
I always think of what artists have done during other crises like wars, plagues or even difficult personal circumstances. It may sound cheesy, but I really think we artists are survivors -- and in the near future, we’re going to need more than ever to think outside the box. Questions like ‘What else, what's obvious that I don't see? Who can I ask for help, and who can I help?’ are some of the things we need to keep in mind.
"money is always a problem in a crisis, but it's worth keeping in mind it's not the only problem [artists] need to address."