Meet figurative artist Nikoleta Martjanova

Nikoleta Martjanova, Ready Meal, 2018, Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova, Ready Meal, 2018, Mike Din

“If you can’t share your experiences, laughs and sometimes get picked up when you are a complete wreck, then what is it all good for?”


Nikoleta Martjanova




Nikoleta Martjanova,Artist Portrait I,Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova,Artist Portrait I,Mike Din

Who are you? What do you do?

I’m a figurative artist getting my visions and weird obsession with bodies onto the canvas.

 Where are you from?

I am a Latvian born Russian, currently based in London.

Your style in 3 words?

Sensual, Humorous, Truthful

Your weakness? Your strength?

I get weak in my knees for cheese, (stray) cats, dogs, foxes and good company. My superpower is an ability to live on a shoestring budget. Can’t seem to think of any more strengths.

What makes you different?

Nothing at all, I’m afraid, not special in any way. Just developing my own voice and trying to be me and not like someone else.

When did you decide to become an artist?

I was still in college and it was time to choose what I wanted to do, it was between hairdressing and art. My Gran is a hairdresser, so I thought that somehow it may run in our blood, I did a week of work experience in a really posh Salon and hated it. So, art, it was. I am incredibly happy with my choice. I could not imagine I would have this room to grow creatively and as an individual, if I was doing hairdressing plus I’d be so rich, who wants money anyway? Haven’t had a haircut in about a year. But that’s more due to the fact, that I had a Paul McCartney haircut a while ago, well that’s for another interview…

What do you find most fascinating about your work?

The fact that I mostly work without any reference, once I get a vague idea about the composition and the subject, from there I’m trying to work out what looks right. It’s really fun working just from my head, but it does mean I don’t always get there. Sometimes it takes a year to get very pissed of with the painting, that isn’t taking me anywhere in order to stop being so precious about what I already have there and just take the risk or start over, make a different painting on top of it, that’s what happened with the ‘Woodland’. But ‘Woodland’ is one of the few paintings that did have a reference. I made a very quick drawing of Cezanne’s ‘Bathers’ in the National Gallery, it was a very quick sketch noting the placement of figures and tonal aspects of the work, I got surrounded by french students and became very self-concious and embarrassed, as they were all peering into my sketchbook, I was pretty sure they were going to make fun of me, but actually they were more than respectful, as soon as one of their peers would step between me and the work I was studying one of them would always tell them to get out of my way, which is incredibly nice, one asked me, if she could take a picture of my drawing, I wasn’t very keen but I couldn’t say no. I used the figures as a rough reference, but have arranged them in the painting in a different order, they were painted on top of a painting that did not work.

Nikoleta Martjanova, Proposal, 2018, Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova, Proposal, 2018, Mike Din

A few words about your favourite creation?

I am currently working on a piece called ‘Ready Meal’, it’s inspired by the recent Tesco Sex Scandal, which is the most hilarious thing in the world, there is a Tesco practically on my studio’s doorstep and my best mate works in Tesco in Edinburgh, so I get all the juicy parts, it’s not as mundane, as you would think. I had this painting in mind for awhile, but then got carried away by something else. But just had this vision of these two figures, it is really challenging and fun trying to anchor them in space. At one point there were so many lines, I painted around the figure to make it more discernable, stepping back, I realised I painted around the wrong part and this whole Frankenstein thing of a figure happened, I love moments like that, where I just lose control and something unpredictable happens.

Someone else’s work that inspired or inspires you…

Loads of incredibly talented people, Stefanie Heinze, Cecily Brown, De Kooning, Alice Neel, Lisa Yuskavage and Holly Froy, who just recently moved in the studio next door.

Nikoleta Martjanova, Woodland, 2018, Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova, Woodland, 2018, Mike Din

A new project coming up or an idea you want to work on?

I am working on a body of work called ‘L for Love’ which I am planning to show in the next year. A few group shows. I am also working on a self-initiated project ‘Conversations’ which I am using as a tool for starting a dialogue with artists, whose work I really admire. It’s a really productive way to think about my own and other artist’s practice and the medium in general. I am publishing the very first one of the series very soon, so keep an eye!

Finish the sentence „More important than my career is…“

Relationships with other humans. If you can’t share your experiences, laughs and sometimes get picked up when you are a complete wreck, then what is it all good for?

2018: Where are we going?

Hopefully towards a sustainable, greener world, and deeper present time appreciation for the delicate and more diverse wildlife, that is so rarely observed in the urban environment such as London.

Nikoleta Martjanova, Spoon, 2017, Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova, Spoon, 2017, Mike Din

When the going gets tough…

…the tough start crawling. They may have had a few by then and in my experience are mumbling something abusive towards you.

Your city’s favourite spots?

I absolutely adore Towpath Cafe on Regent’s Canal, its a few minutes walk from my studio and it’s such a fantastic place to ponder about life, in any weather with a wonderful view on the canal and the coffee is fabulous too! I also love visiting Kingsland basin nearby, there are boats with permanent mooring, gardens on the water and a flock of domestic ducks, they go out onto the canal for adventure now and again and comeback to their enclosure to be fed, feels like a little village.

Do you have a vision?

I’ll just say that, I have visions of very – very paintings…

What would you do if you could change the World?

If I had the magical power, I would make every human on the planet know, that their geography and circumstances don’t define them, that they can set their own potential and strive to become whatever they like. Make food corporations stop using plastic and come up with an alternative packaging.

Nikoleta Martjanova, Proposal II, 2018, Mike Din

Nikoleta Martjanova, Proposal II, 2018, Mike Din

Tell us about your future plans…

Although my current plans have firmly anchored me in the UK for a time being, I am considering travelling through Europe in a nearby future and perhaps heading to States for a short time to connect with some artists and do a couple of shows.

 Last but not least: what is your favourite Song?

‘Drawn to the Blood’ by Sufjan Stevens and ‘Baltimore’ by Nina Simone.

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