31 October 2018

An interview with Elia Nedkov: walls become pages on which you can tell a story

Behind the catalogs similar to art books and the scenographic settings that characterize Viero Paints there is the personality of Elia Nedkov, a talented art director who has been taking care of the brand image for years.

Nedkov, in fact, is a bit like the ‘soul’ of the aesthetic of Viero Paints: since 2008 passionately follows the whole image that is around the collection of decorative elements, from the choice of paper for catalogs to graphics, from logos to sets for inspiring photo shoots.

«The idea – he tells us about the birth of the philosophy that drives the brand – has always been to project the aesthetics of the wall into a strongly architectural and contemporary dimension».

Born in Bulgaria in 1971, after a period as a young painter and a diploma in mathematics (“it was a forced choice – he admits, smiling – but essential in forging my somewhat rebellious character”) Elia studied fashion in Vienna and architecture at the Polytechnic of Graz, where he worked for a long time before opening a studio in Milan. Winner of the “Polydecor Design Award” and of the “DuPont Corian competition for a food & coffee bar”, today he lives between Bulgaria and Italy but, in reality, he feels a bit like a citizen of the world, always looking for suggestions and beautiful stories to tell, even through a wall.

Elia, how was your relationship with Viero Paints born?

“The first approach was in 2008. It all started in a fairly naive way: I had been called to make a layout to an existing catalog. Actually, the pre-existing approach seemed to me very simple and so I proposed something totally different. My idea was to create an unconventional catalog, with an extremely sophisticated vision, able not only to speak to the applicators’ target and the building market, but also to architects and the world of culture. This is how the Architect Book was born: a catalog-book dedicated to the architect’s world, designed to inspire it and give it a vision. I must say that we were the first to take decoration and put it in an architectural context: many companies later took a lot of cues from our way of taking pictures, from our approach, from our aesthetic philosophy ».

How do you build images, settings and catalogs? In particular, what are you interested in transmitting through Viero Paints products?

“Clearly in all these works there is a great deal of me; many of the images I produce take inspiration from my daily life, from my interest in fashion, architecture, painting … To achieve these moods I take care of the architecture projects, the styles, the images, the choice of paper, the graphics and I surround myself with a team of people who have the same sensitivity and with whom I can speak a common language. After all, everything that happens in the photos of the catalogs is the expression of a particular language, which needs to have an intellectual, calm and sophisticated approach to the wall.

This idea of ​​mine, in fact, goes beyond the classical concept of decoration. A wall for me should not be embellished but must rather be presented so it tells a story.

Sometimes I see a beautiful woman, then I talk to her and I discover that she is clever, she has personality, it can surprise me: it is the moment that I find fascinating.

Here, the same thing happens for a wall. The catalogs of Viero Paints are not simply catalogs of products but are catalogs of possible worlds, with their own personality and intelligence. To browse a Viero Paints catalog for me is a bit like suggesting the viewer to change the frequency. I like the idea of ​​making people think through images just as you do when you listen to classical music ».

What is your aesthetic vision?

“I do not like “wow ” effects. I find that the “wow” line is like a big shot that falls short. Instead of this I am interested in the most dreamy, distant, calm things. In my opinion, in general, this is the right approach to architecture because architecture can not be born today and die tomorrow but must exist for very long periods. To achieve this I aim at absolute values ​​and I let go of the effects: the effects are on the surface but if you want to start producing substance you have to go deep. That’s why if you’re insensitive, maybe the wow effects can shake you, but if you’re delicate, they hurt because you can already feel every little vibration. ”

How would you define your style?

“The problem of giving definitions is that now everything runs too fast. If I talked about minimalism ten years ago, today this is a too abused word, just like “design”. For me, in general, the fundamental thing is not to lose the primary and experimental vision of my work. This is why I am inspired by ancient visions, which do not change with time. I like to create emotions that are far from everyday life, full of small irritations.

More than a definition, therefore, to describe my style, I would speak of an oxymoron in which sophisticated, intelligent, surprising, calm, avant-garde and wise adjectives coexist ».

What is a wall for you?

«I like to think of the wall as an orchestra that serves as the background of a soloist, who can be an object but also the personality itself of those who inhabit the surrounding space.

For me, the wall is the witness of a story, of many stories. And it is precisely for this reason that, every time, I try to create the right wall to adequately tell that story in particular. To intensify this narrative in all the photos of Viero, I like to put elements, design objects that live and surprise us a little, in front of every wall, because they are unexpected.

For example, in a photo I wanted to put a basket full of fruit with a toy car inside. I find all this very stimulating. I think it gives the viewer the opportunity to look at the company in a different way, not trivialized “.

What are the materials produced by Viero Paints with which, in general, you work more willingly?

“I’m very interested in products that are not too shiny, not too ornate, without too many effects. In particular I am very fascinated by the Marmorini, Cementi and the whole line of Hydro, a lime-based product with a natural look that can be applied in the bathroom, even in the shower. Mostly I think that Hydro is fantastic because I do not like having the interruption of the tiles in the bathroom. For example, you can think of some images of Morocco, with the walls a bit rough: they are beautiful. Getting this result even in areas that are not so hot is a challenge, even from a technical point of view. And this also fascinates me about this product: the fact that it is a constantly evolving line, where we always work for continuous improvement, both technical and aesthetic. It is a highly technological product but it also has an important craft aspect.

In general, however, I think all the materials are interesting. One of my fundamental principles is that there are no wrong materials. At most there is a wrong way to use them. I go back to my comparison with music: is there a wrong agreement? The answer is obviously not.

However, you could incorrectly combine two chords and the result would be dissonance, or you could use and combine chords to create harmony, beautiful music. Here, the same is with the materials in architecture ».

What role do colors have for you?

«For me the colors must always be pastels, sober and calm. I rarely put strong colors on the walls and when it happens I do it only to give an accent. I often compare rooms and walls to an orchestra. When you go to a concert, if you listen to a soloist and the orchestra is in the background everything is fine, but if at a certain point you listen to five, ten, twenty soloists … Then there is the risk of not understanding anything anymore. In the same way, I find that a decorator or even an architect falls into error when he persists in producing too many effects on the walls of an environment. Creating too many accents, too many soloists. Instead, I set a new background and calibrate the accent well. When I insert it I want it to make sense, it has to say something. Sometimes it happens that the accent is not a color but the person who lives in space, ourselves. Often in space I want to be the one that has the possibility to develop. This is why I find that a beige or white or gray wall, in reality, can in many cases be much more significant than a red one ».

How important is it for you to consider space-time coordinates before intervening on the walls of a house, a building, a room or a facade?

“This is a fundamental aspect. Tuscany, New York, Bulgaria, Paris… A wall depending on the place and time when it is raised, has inevitably a different character, a story to be respected. For example, I think of an architect like the Mexican Luis Ramiro Barragàn Morfìn, who made houses painted pink, blue and yellow. They are beautiful but they can only live in Mexico, with that light. If I took a work by Barragan and moved it to Germany, for example, it would lose its meaning, its soul. Equally it is necessary to take inspiration from the history of a building: if you decide to interfere, it must be clear, evident, the intention must be understood. It must not be camouflaged. Even in architecture I would like everyone to be transparent and sincere, a bit like Giacomo di Cristallo by Gianni Rodari. ”

Alice Barontini