In the studio with Yanko Tihov
This week In The Studio, TAG Fine Arts speaks to Yanko Tihov. The Bulgarian-born, now London-based artist talks us through his creative process, what art means to him, and how important political context is to interpret his work. We will be exclusively launching his latest artwork at this year's London Art Fair, join us at Stand 16 at the Business Design Centre from January 16th-20th to see it!
How did your relationship with TAG Fine arts begin?
It all started off with an email from Hobby about a series of work I made at the time. Since then my relationship with TAG Fine Arts has been like working with friends. We've managed to complete and exhibit quite a few projects together and I hope there will be many more to come!
What is your background?
I was born in Burgas, a town on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. My parents moved to Sofia when I was 3 years old. I studied painting and then printmaking there at The National Academy of Arts graduating in 2001. Later on, in the same year, I moved to London where I still live and work.
Did you ever decide to be an artist?
Becoming an artist, for me, wasn’t necessarily a choice. It was a gradual entering into an awareness that brings life into focus, within that focus formed the need to create artworks. It's probably the only time when I feel time doesn’t exist! I go early in the morning into my studio, I play with a few sketches and drawings from the previous day, and then suddenly it's the evening.
Although studio time is sacrosanct, it is by no means the only place to encounter inspiration; that can occur walking down a street in Soho, or from being in conversation with the many people who are influential in my life.
In all things, it’s about striking the right balance.
A close up of the materials in Yanko's studio
What does art mean to you?
Art for me is undefinable, it’s appeal is as limitless as human experience allows.
Creating is a desire to share, similar in many ways to preparing a meal for many to partake of and enjoy. You rarely make a great meal just for yourself, the reason to create is so much sweeter and more essential when it is an act of giving.
Do you have any routine you follow when you’re creating?
Having deadlines makes me set certain routines that help me prioritise one project over another. Deadlines make me avoid long blocks and inspire me to discipline myself to get going.
Yanko Tihov at work on Europe 2019- Image courtesy of V. Kolev
How important are current affairs and sociohistorical events to your works?
Artworks have the ability to accumulate different meanings in line with today's affairs, but different affairs come and go, yet artworks remain. I made pieces which over time changed viewers perception and interpretation.
One such piece is a lenticular print Europe Cold War Contemporary, which was originally made to show the changing borders in a historical aspect, reflecting my childhood under Communism and the changes which lead to the expansion of the EU. However, it was recently seen in a Brexit context, as the piece also corresponds with more current affairs. In ten years time, I am sure it will be seen as something completely different as borders between countries soften and harden again.
In this context, I believe art is pushing boundaries and can even predict the future. My message, however, is one of hope and freedom. I lived through times when borders were hard and closed until they eventually softened up; the freedom to travel freely and be able to express one's ideas is crucial for creativity.
Do you think social media has impacted your career?
Yes, it has to a certain degree. I try to see it as a tool, not a lifestyle. I am not addicted to it, however, perhaps because I grew up before the existence of the internet and social media as we know it today.
The artist at work - Image courtesy of V. Kolev
Do you create your best work independently or when within a community?
Creatively, I prefer to work alone in the studio as having others around dilutes the experience for me. For certain elements, however, I find others' assistance useful, but this is more on the practical side of things.
What advice would you give to upcoming artists?
When I was an art student I quickly realized that there are many more artists than galleries or opportunities. So the best advice I can give to upcoming artists is to make themselves visible and create new opportunities by developing and improving upon what they really love doing.
Do you love what you do?
Yes. All of my projects relate to who I am and what I love. They are an inseparable part of my life.
Finishing touches - Image courtesy of V. Kolev
How would you describe your style?
I have been described as a pop-art-cartography artist. In general, this is a fair description, I know both are part of the same as I am interested in identity and social commentary which is locked into most of my work regardless definition of 'style'.
Do you collect art yourself?
Yes, on a very small scale. I collected some prints of my student inspiration Albin Brunovsky, and Christo and Jean Claude. I hope I can make a larger collection one day.
Each of Yanko's pieces is gilded by hand - Image courtesy of D. Vishwanathan
What inspires you to create?
Travel, people and the details of everyday life.
What artwork of yours would you like to be remembered for?
I hope I will be remembered for the positive questions I tried to raise in my work.
What is your quote to live by?
The hardest thing is to keep going, so I try to get going every day and do my best. It’s not really a quote, is more of a principle.
What are you working on at the moment?
I love working on several projects at the same time. Most of my work needs a lot of information, preparation and research before I even start painting, so it's good to have several projects running concurrently. I have just completed a large scale painting made out of all European passports which will be on show at the London Art Fair.