Wien Kunst

Interview. Margarita Merkulova

Born in 1996 in Volgograd, Russia, Margarita Merkulova moved to Vienna 9 years ago. She graduated from the Faculty of Art History, specializing in Modern Art and finished the school of art for analog photography at Friedl Kubelka. In the next semester, she will begin her studies at the Vienna Academy of Art. Currently, she works in a studio located in the 8th district of Vienna.
Portrait Margarita Merkulova. Photo: Nick Shandra
Portrait Margarita Merkulova. Photo: Nick Shandra

How are you? How was your day?
Thank you! The day was intense and busy as always. I have had 5 exhibitions in the last two months. So I am in my studio every day working hard.

What is your background? How did you get into art?
After graduating from high school at the age of 17, I moved from Russia to Austria, coming from a city where, unfortunately, there are few museums and galleries. However, upon relocating to Vienna, I immersed myself in the world of art, visiting numerous exhibitions and libraries, which eventually led me to enroll in the faculty of art history. My artistic journey began with an emphasis on theory. To be honest, I was always hesitant to start creating art myself, so for many years, I only focused on analyzing and writing about other artists. It was through photography that I consciously embarked on my path in art. The school of art analog photography Friedl Kubelka under the direction of Anja Manfredi was a big impulse in my development. It was there that I received the support I needed to explore my creative potential, gain confidence in my abilities and fully embrace myself as an artist. At the same time, I decided to try my hand at sculpture and chose clay as my medium. This decision was not by chance, as the firing kiln shares similarities with an analog camera and ceramic sculptures can be likened to film photographs. Similar to the development of photographs in the darkroom, the creation of clay figures is an unpredictable process, and the outcome is not foreseeable.

Why ceramics? What fascinates you about the material?
Ceramics for me is a very corporeal material, sensual and meditative, working with clay it is as if you are leaving your fingerprints on the sculptures for centuries. Ceramics is a huge field for experimentation, I also work with glass, or rather I melt broken glass vessels. When heated, the vessel changes its shape and when combined with ceramics it takes on new meanings and purposes.

Alles blau, 2023, photo von René Alexander Steyer
Alles blau, 2023, Photo: René Alexander Steyer

What inspires you?
I am mainly inspired by things in my life that I can express through the visual language of art. Almost always, my themes revolve around personal experiences, particularly focusing on the themes of loss and memory. But now I’m coming more from the unconscious. I believe that concepts are interconnected, and every creation is rooted in something else. Sometimes, new interpretations and deeper insights emerge even years after the artwork’s completion. Telling stories through objects and being open and sincere is my aim in art.

What role does chance play in the process of creating your artwork?
I sometimes make sketches before I start creating a sculpture, but the final object always turns out to be completely different. When making large objects, I create glaze samples to understand how the glazes interact and blend at different temperatures and holding times. However, ceramics, by and large, remains a very unpredictable material, and that’s what I like about it.

Geheimnis, 2023
Geheimnis, 2023

Describe the feeling when you take the finished piece out of the kiln.
Putting ceramic objects in the kiln feels like a sacred ritual. Every time, it becomes an exhilarating experience, and sometimes I have to wait for about a day while the kiln reaches its temperature of 1200 degrees. I am deeply fascinated by the numerous processes an object goes through before reaching its final form. As I take the still-hot objects out of the kiln, I do so with the curiosity of a child, and I gaze at them for a long time. At that moment, I feel absolute happiness when everything has succeeded.

Do you also offer workshops? Where can one sign up for them?
Workshops are held in my studio in small groups of up to 4 people. To register, you can message me on Instagram. I am very attentive to everyone, and together, we explore shapes and ideas. The workshop consists of two parts: in the first meeting, we sculpt with clay, and in the second, we glaze the sculptures. I also learn a lot during my workshops, especially from the children. It amazes me to see the shapes they discover and the colors they combine. I really enjoy experimenting together and teaching. I often buy different clay, glazes, and pigments. I also have my own kiln, which I treat as a full member of our studio.

Springseil, 2022
Springseil, 2022

What plans do you have for 2023?
I have a large number of plans for the coming year. I am eagerly looking forward to starting my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Additionally, I am planning to travel to China for inspiration, to experience the origins of ceramic art, and to learn from the old masters.

Margarita Merkulova –