Hamburg artist, Darko Caramello Nikolic, is known for his colourful minimalist paintings, murals, sculptures and large-scale installations. Even as a teenager, he was renowned across Hamburg for his graffiti art and having studied and worked in illustration, he became a full time artist in 2016, where he has found creative fulfilment. Isabel Deimel, Fair Manager for the Affordable Art Fair Hamburg met Darko Caramello Nikolic in his studio to talk about his work and exhibition at the upcoming Hamburg fair.
MEET ARTIST DARKO CARAMELLO NIKOLIC
1. What made you decide to move away from your career in illustration and start working as an artist?
As an artist, I have the freedom to explore my creativity, my education in illustration and graphics had already given me creative theories and aesthetic studies - a basis for art practice itself - and I craved more time to explore this further. In my artwork I used abstract forms and language, I wanted to take the time to learn and become fluent in the language of abstract art and being an artist means I can inexhaustibly research and practice through my work. I get a lot of inspiration from philosophical writing which help me sort out my complex thoughts and bring them into focus. As a graphic designer, I didn’t have this freedom, and I enjoy the debate and creative monologue.
Wood is a material that is alive, unlike a white canvas, which is why I like working with it as the structure of the wood can shine through. I approach colour and shape separately and carry out studies into colour when developing work. It can be quite challenging to combine them, but that’s also exactly what makes the process so special.
2. Your ouvre of paintings and sculptures features multi-coloured geometric shapes. Where does your fascination with these designs come from?
For me, it's more about the basic forms. The cleanest composition with the simplest lines can be the most difficult to create. Any small mistake is immediately obvious and can’t be concealed. That's a challenge I like! For the past 7 years I have worked with squares, the rhombus and also the triangle and think that there are inexhaustible ways to represent and present them. I don’t think I'll ever go back to creating anything more complicated than these shapes, the complicated in the simplicity excites me the most.
3. Urban Art has been a popular art form since the 1970s, with artists like Jean Michel Basquiat and Banksy leading the way. Being one of the youngest art movements, how do you feel this art style translates to the gallery environment?
The nature of my work requires a contemplative mindset. While the urban space has its appeal, it doesn’t provide an atmosphere where viewers can concentrate and consider artwork. This makes the environments within art galleries, art associations and museums much better suited. Every style and medium of artwork has an ideal exhibition environment, if placed in the wrong environment that doesn’t support the artwork it could be considered as purely decorative – that’s terrible for an artwork, which has the heart and soul of an artist invested in it.
In my opinion, urban art does not belong in a gallery environment, because its original purpose has been removed – to be within and connecting to the city environment. The cause at the center of urban art is the democratization of public space. However, an urban artist can work with galleries and create good works which are suited to the gallery environment too – but the work must not a repetition of his street art, it must evolve according to the exhibition environment.
4. You have created lots of large-scale murals in cities, how challenging is this type of work?
Working in large and oversized spaces is really interesting to me, not every design works in small format and large formats, they can’t be increased arbitrarily. A dot in a small format piece becomes a circle in large formats – the effect changes completely. I also find the audience for my murals really exciting, it is a different audience to galleries and they react differently to artwork.
5. You have lived and worked in Gängeviertel since 2006, one of the most famous creative quarters in Germany, and you were one of the 200 artists who protested to preserve the neighbourhood. Does the environment and community in Gängeviertel influence and inspire you?
Gängeviertel is like a small village – everyone knows each other, loves each other and interacts with each other. It is a very politically motivated place, but also incredibly lively, this duality is a great inspiration for my work, as I am inspired by cultural structures.
6. Within your work the red dot symbolises Gängeviertel and can be found in the large mural you did in the village. Can you tell us more about this?
The graphic represents two specific powers with the red dot as the centre. One sucks and the other pumps, they interact with each other. You can understand the work metaphorically as representing Gängeviertel: the village with the power to attract and draw in while also radiating out.
7. Which artists inspire you?
The theoretical approaches of constructivists like Malewitsch and Kandinsky are very inspiring, although they don’t always appeal to me aesthetically. I’m drawn to both the theory and practice of artists like Joseph Albers, Frank Stella and Max Bill – I think of these artist as my predecessors more than my role models, and it is my pleasure to continue driving the art practice forward.
8. What do you have coming up over the next few months?
I have been nominated by Museum Messmer for the Andrew Evard Art Award for Constructive and Concrete Art, so I am really happy to be heading to south Germany for the ceremony. Then I will continue developing my work for my next exhibition, a duel exhibition with Björn Holzweg which will take place in the Monkey Fist Gallery. I’m also working on a 36-part series which represents a comparison system, with different forces playing against each other. Each painting measures 1.70 x 170 cm and he concept is inspired by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Poul Gernes and Frank Stella. This project is probably going to take me another two years to complete - so there is lots to do!
See Darko Caramello Nikolic's work at the upcoming Affordable Art Fair Hamburg (15 – 18 November) on the Affenfaust Galerie stand (E6).
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Gängeviertel.
Featured images from first to last:
Darko Caramello Nikolic, credit to photographer Franziska Holz.
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Two Energies, 2018, acrylic on wood, 70 x 170 cm.
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Abweg, 2017, wood and paint, 4 x 4 x 15 metres, Hannover.
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Sjiyh-7, 2017, acrylic on wood.
Close up of Darko Caramello Nikolic creating his mural in Gängeviertel.
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Gängeviertel.
Darko Caramello Nikolic, Many Truths, 2016, acrylic on wood, 150 x 150 cm.