Georg Panov, graphic artist
I met up with Georg at a vernissage. Afterwards, on a rainy morning, we met again at his uncle’s studio. His uncle happens to be the artist Michail Molochnikov, and his studio happens to be his flat. School was cancelled and I felt very lucky to share this family moment with them. Georg and Michail were talking and showing their artworks while the children were playing and taking pictures around us in a very cosy atmosphere.
Since he showed me his work through the small screen of his phone, Georg’s work impacted me by its preciseness, the entwined patterns leading to a full universes. That morning, we talked for two hours. I left with the diffused feeling that I’d met someone special yet overwhelming. His will power is infinite. His determination knows no bounds. It may be scary for such a young person. Yet he displays his doubts and his fragility to the world in an assumed manner.
Though he may embody the figure of the lonely artist or of the mad scientist working with the minds, this fragility connects him to others in a very sensitive way.
Still at the beginning of his career, his aesthetic vocabulary might evolve and roll away from its current inspiration. Yet his cause is noble and might keep him busy for a lifetime.
Story of Georg, young artist of 25
How did it all begin? Here, in my uncle flat-studio. It was your secret place ?
It was the start. I came here and wanted to try out those felt pens. I started drawing. Afterwards I brought some of my artworks from my childhood and Uncle noticed the bugs I use to draw. He told me they have their stories to tell. So I started drawing nature and bugs. First the bugs are in the central picture and then I felt they needed somewhere to live, so there came plants.
I’ve been drawing all my life. Actually, drawing is the way I can speak for myself and deal with bad emotions. I spent 22 years of my life trying to find a language that everyone would understand, and right now I’m trying to carve my special language out of what I am.
For some time, I was into gaming. I was trying to know where I belong and thought maybe it was in game designing. Then I went to university. It was a turning point when I chose medicine because that allowed me to skip the army, to avoid a blank year in my life.
When I will finish I will be 28 yo and they can’t enroll me.
But it wasn’t the main point : Before finding psychiatry, I read a lot of books about the businesses one can attend. From those books I learned that, first, you need a job to feed you. Then, when you have this compromise in your life, you can use the money from your job to become something bigger. So I went to the faculty and said : “I’ll do the psychotherapy but I don’t want to use any medications. I want to clean the mind with words, and then I’m in”. It was a deal.
You are still doing your PHD in pediatric psychiatry. When and how do you work ?
Each morning I stand up at 6 o’clock and make one element in the picture. Afterwards I read the novels I want to read, then I go to my scientific work at the library or at the hospital. Then, in the afternoon, I go to social rehabilitation center and make money for my living. That’s the way I live.
Do you feel support from your family ?
Yes, finally. Actually they have been supporting me all my life because they allowed me to try and learn. I was lost. When I went to university, lots of people took me by the shoulders, slapped my face and said “What are you doing with yourself? You have a lot of talent, you can do a lot of things, you can bring a lot of joy into this world, can’t you see that ?” After that, I started searching for my meaning and discovered I can do a lot of things. For one year, I explored it all : I studied English, German, Spanish, I tried to learn medical science, tried to draw, tried to dance, tried to sing and I was tearing myself apart. Then I said “Stop! I can dedicate myself to only 3 things : Art, medicine, and something else.”
So right now I’m doing those 3 things. Art, medical science, and learning leadership and relationships.
How do you learn leadership ?
I read books and practice with teenagers at the medical center. They are very hard to tame. This is how I connect leadership and medicine together. I also connect medical and art together through my drawings. Now I’m thinking about how to merge everything in one. My idea would be to take care about the children who have diseases, help them interpret their feelings through creativity and teach them to be the leaders of their own life. I would like them to find their place in the world... this is the project.
For now, I am working on sundays in a autistic kindergarden as an art therapist. I learn a lot about how to give them tools and show them how to use those tools to be ready to go into the open world.
What is your goal ?
I love children and I want to help them. I also like to get inside of the mind. At first, I thought drawing could summarise scientific complex things. Afterwards it became more about revealing the life that people don’t really like or want to see. But I do believe it is like medicine : before going to surgery classes, you study the anatomy. When you know what is inside, anxiety goes down. Knowledge lessen anxiety and scare.
Art is a way to show that inner worlds of these children are not scary.
That is why I would like to create an art therapy group to open up children like I used to be by painting and make them find their own language so they can show their feelings.
Art of Georg
For two years you have been drawing a serie after your consultations, as some kind of diary. It also looks like an exploration of all the things you’ve heard. One can recognize the same elements in many drawing. Insectes, leaves... do they always have the same signification ?
Those elements are created by my brain, through my arm, and I am trying not to think too much about the symbolism. My body and mind work together to try to recreate everything it understood and make it visible. It’s like a traduction, it passes through me, through my mind and pencil.
The result is something much closer to graphic art than psychiatry. Psychiatry is an emotional material that I use. Graphic art is a medium I noticed people get. So I’m doing graphic art for people to understand me and to be introduced with my thinking.
Is it also a way for you to put things at a distance ?
There are 2 purposes :
The first one is to show, to communicate.
The second one is to put the story out of here (showing his head) and put it on the page. That’s my life’s practice. I put on paper the stories that are highly emotional. I’m very emotional and when I remember something, all the feeling I had at the moment goes through me again : fear, embarrassment. So it’s better to have it written down. This way, I can cope with it and talk about it, which brings us back to the first purpose.
When I do that, I am very focused. It is strange because I usually have trouble to, except for drawing, kids and psychotherapy. When I’m sitting at the table, listening to music or audiobooks, I can draw for 2 days without a break.)
There are different series of work according to where and with who I was working as a psychiatrist. Still is is like a special language which I created watching patients. I try to draw their behaviours and try to show the story I had with the patient in painting. Each piece is not a single story, it is more like a spectrum. Some pieces are done within a week, some need more time.
Firstly, I do some research and experimentation, like as any scientific work except it is drawings and graphic instead of notes and articles. Then when I feel it, I pick a format and gather my prework into a story. For now I explored various format such as small to bigger drawings, graphic novels, etc but I always draw with the same kind of rotating pen.
They are all a way to show some inner world. Sick kids minds are just another world and you can step into it. Then you’ll see that in there they are just “normal”. I see the fear of the people is much greater when they see sick children, because they do not know what to do. Children can’t straightly interpret and share their feelings, so people are much more scared. The crucial thing is to make people understand that this is not scary and it is very complex. That is why there is no point in trying to identify this and that element as psychological information in the drawing. For a better understanding you need to have the full picture and maybe my painting can make that happen.
Adults inspired work is much more scary.
"If we look at it psychiatrically, this one is paranoia. Tentacles are reaching for information, that can prove the bearer of the disease right about all of the insane ideas which he has for the person or the world in the paranoia state."
"This one is a dynamic picture of something happening. Maybe bad, maybe good. I always look at the things as good because change create new state. Maybe that’s why there are no teeth, no acute shapes, but the shape of the eye. The tentacles are not dangerous."
Do you feel you’re part of a generation of artists ?
I feel that if I find somebody who will share my ideas we would find a way to work together. For now I am working on a show. It takes more time than expected but the most important thing is that my hand is still with me and I can draw.
To know everything about Georg, it's here.
Credits : Marine Birot or courtesy of the artist.