Ilya Nikkolai

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Ilya Nikkolai
Born25 September 1939
Kiev, Ukraine
EducationEarly Auto-CAD developer, largely self taught
Known forVisual music

Ilya Nikkolai (born 25 September 1939 in Kiev, Ukraine) is an Australian visual music artist and architectural designer currently residing in Perth, Western Australia. Ilya Nikkolai calls his visual music Liquid Music to distinguish it from that of other practitioners. Liquid Music has been broadcast in Australia (Channel 31 (Australia), Melbourne and Perth and CTV Perth) and America (Harmony Channel) and on Floating Worlds [1], a channel featured on Joost.

George Borzyskowski,[1] pioneering and award-winning experimental computer filmmaker and Head of the School of Design at Curtin University, Western Australia, wrote of Ilya’s work:

“His energy and dedication, together with his unique and consistent investigative methodology, applied to the exploration of acoustic and visual phenomena within the context of contemporary time based audio visual media technologies, has resulted in a remarkable and highly significant body of creative production.

From my own experience I see direct evolutionary relevance in his work to that of previous experimental media artists such as abstract expressionist film maker Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, some of the work of Norman McLaren, Jordan Belson and others. Ilya Nikkolai’s work in moving forward is informed by an awareness of current research in allied fields together with an appreciation of the demands of today’s critical audiences, as well as his responsibility as an artist to challenge those demands with new experiences and insights.”

[2][citation needed]

In the Sunday Times, Perth, an article described Ilya's artistic practice thus:

"Working with music and powerful multi-media computers, Nikkolai's creation puts visual sequences to music in much the same way as Walt Disney created Fantasia, although many of the images are abstract."


Life and work[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

He was born into an artistic family since his father was the renowned Ukrainian painter Vladimir Kostetsky[4] [2] and his mother, Valentina Kutjunsky, was a film student (under Dovzhenko), painter and an engineer. His parents' circle of acquaintance included Nikita Khrushchev, director Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Dovzhenko and the violinist David Oistrakh. He showed an early aptitude for science and music and in 1948 was accepted into the Vienna Boys' Choir on the recommendation of composer Franz Lehár after his family, minus his father, fled to Austria during the Second World War.

In 1951 Nikkolai migrated to Australia under the International Refugee Scheme of the UN with his grandmother, mother, brother and sister. In 1958 he matriculated in Melbourne University with First Class Honours in Physics and Maths and was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship. Around this time his IQ was tested at Melbourne University and he was found to have an IQ of 192. From 1961 to 1964, whilst employed by the Architectural Department of the Victorian Public Works Department, Ilya studied part-time, completing all subjects but final year design, of a six-year Architecture Course at RMIT University. During this time Ilya designed and produced working drawings and specifications for numerous suburban and country police stations. He also designed and remodelled the Turana Youth Remand and Classification Centre, introducing laminated tempered glass in galvanized high tensile steel frames, solving long standing security and maintenance problems. Ilya also designed the dwelling (now part of a Heritage Site), for Rikket’s sanctuary in the Dandenong Ranges (Rikket was a prominent sculptor of mystical aboriginal themes).

From 1964 to 1966 Ilya was employed as Architectural Design Draftsman by Godfrey Spowers Hughes Mewton and Lobb,[5] a prominent architectural firm. He worked with teams for The Age Newspaper Building and the Dallas Brookes Hall, which until the completion of the Melbourne Concert Hall, served as Melbourne’s premier concert venue.

After this Ilya worked as a private designer/builder and in 1991 he designed a concept house for Dickson and Curnock, prominent south west builders. The house was awarded a MBA House of The Year in the top price range. Ilya also designed and constructed a home theatre room and the interior design of the house built for Rick Ardon, a well known news reader on Channel Seven.

Liquid Music[edit]

Liquid Music is a form of visual music. It is characterized by flowing, organic shapes and patterns and the movement is never uni-directional but layered and complex, with movement, counter-movement and subsidiary movement all occurring simultaneously. It is also spatial and can be viewed as both macro and micro dimensional, evoking both vast stretches of outer or deep space, to "inner" space of a type familiar to visionary experience described by the early mystics, through psychedelic vision to the lights and movement associated with near-death experiences. Ilya had a near-death experience in the mid 1990s, characterized by a dissolution of self-hood and a blissful expansion of feeling. John G. Gammack, of Griffith University, has written regarding Ilya Nikkolai that he has:

"studied what it is about images, movement, colour and shapes which appeals to people and holds their attention, and has advanced that certain configurations of these elements are "hard wired" in the brain. When visual elements conform to these requirements, and in their correct combination with music, blissful relaxation is claimed to result. His work Liquid Music creates synaesthetic experience equivalents, putting abstract visual elements to music, and has latterly been inspired by an attempt to recreate a near-death experience he had. He notes a focus and certainty to his work since that time that was not there before"


Liquid music has been used in therapeutic settings including at a psychiatric practice, a drug rehab centre and by the Cancer Support Association of Western Australia.

In 1992 Ilya commenced work on Liquid Music, which he described as

“a quest to find the fundamental relationship of Music (or sound), Light and Movement, and the mechanisms that link them to Emotions (Aesthetic Experience, rather than Conceptual Constructs and Frameworks)”.

In 1994 Liquid Music was broadcast on Melbourne’s Channel 31 and was regularly broadcast till 2000. In 1996 Ilya became a founding Producer Member of Community Television Perth and in 1997 Liquid Music was the first programme broadcast by CTV Perth.

In 1999 7 minutes of Liquid Music were projected in David Prudham’s Australian Dancers Company production of "Broken Angels" at the Playhouse Theatre, Perth. Liquid Music was also the first program broadcast after the official opening of Channel 31 Perth Access 31. Over 400 hours of "Sounds West to Me", are broadcast daily, featuring a wide range of the Music of West Australian Musicians with Liquid Music. From 2000 to 2005 Ilya experiments with live video direct projection on performers, with the Dian Booth Sound and Colour Music Healing Group, and Robert Boyd, Music Therapist. Liquid Music is an integral part of Sunset Meditations with Dian Booth and Robert Boyd at Kings Park, Araluen and Queen’s Park, attracting an audience of over 2000 people.

Ilya Nikkolai became an honorary member of "The B Movie Heroes" rock band, projecting Liquid Music at live concerts. The B Movie Heroes won the 2001 WAMI awards for "Most Popular Acoustic Band" and "Most Popular Folk Rock Group". B Movie Heroes regularly are the feature band at the Sunset Cinema King’s Park. Liquid Music is projected on a backdrop before audiences of up to 2500 people. At this time Liquid Music was also regularly screened at the Metro, The Clink, The G Spot and other Night Clubs around Perth, Western Australia.

In 2003 a 1-hour Goddess Walk Liquid Music Film, projected on a large screen at the base of the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt, as the finale to a ten-day tour of the Chakra Temples of the Nile, is attended by the tour members and hundreds of other tourists and locals.

In 2003 Ilya Nikkolai was Artistic Director of the "Holy Melbourne Annual Multi-faith Concert 2003" at the Melbourne Concert Hall at The Arts Centre (Melbourne), reputed to be the largest non denominational Sacred Music Concert in Australia, screens Liquid Music as Backdrop to performance, including the St Francis Choir of Melbourne, Australia’s oldest choir. In 2004 Ilya was Artistic Director for Bob Randall’s "It’s Time" Concert, at The Arena, Joondalup, feature event of the City of Joondalup’s participation in NAIDOC week.[7] Liquid Music was used as backdrop for the concert. (Bob Randall is "The Song Man", Custodial Elder of Uluru). Bob Randall performed an additional verse of his finale song to lyrics written for him by Ilya Nikkolai. Ilya Nikkolai has a standing invitation to visit Bob Randall and talk to local artists about integrating traditional art into Liquid Music.

Liquid Music is a backdrop for the Launch Concert of the Conscious Living Expo Perth in 2005 and to The World Peace event in the Supreme Court Gardens in Perth. The event was organised by Della Morrison of the indigenous Yowarlini Singers and yiri yakin theatre group.

In 2006 7 hours of Liquid Music was licensed to (Harmony Channel) in the USA. Harmony Channel was broadcast by Comcast, the largest TV cable provider in the USA, for six months. In a Soft launch of Harmony Channel, from 1 August 2006 Liquid Music was available in 9 million homes in Standard-definition television. Liquid Music is resolution independent and is now mastered and produced in High Definition in the 1080i format.

Ilya has said of Liquid Music that he feels

"as if I have landed on a new and unexplored Continent full of exciting possibilities. The Continent is within. The language is not of The Word and Ideas and Beliefs, but that of Light, Colour and the Eternal Movement of Creation."[8]


  1. ^ "George Borzyskowski".
  2. ^ George Borzyskowski, Head of School of Design, Curtin University, in that capacity, in a formal letter of recommendation to the Arts Council of Australia, 2001
  3. ^ Sunday Times, Perth. 9 November 1997.
  4. ^ Володимир Миколайович Костецький
  5. ^ "Employmeny".
  6. ^ John G. Gammack. Paul Mc Kevitt, Seán Ó Nualláin, Conn Mulvihill, eds. "Synaesthesia and Knowing" in "Language, Vision, and Music".
  7. ^ Joondalup Community Newspaper. 8 July 2004, page 4
  8. ^ Harmony Channel web site, Featured Artist's profiles

External links[edit]