”The normality is the daily, what the society accepts as a norm, the pattern every one follows by habit or tradition and the need to belong with a group or a system. Over time these norms are accepted as facts and reality. The normality has to be taken away from their daily life which I call the ordinary. They have become in a way synonymous. The ordinary is the life people live, the normality is what they accept as living.”(Edwige)
Normality as society sees it is not what Katerina Gorokhova has ever had to deal with. She has her vision of the world and that is what she is going to give us.
“...Katerina Gorokhova’s works are complex for ‘reading’ at ﬁrst sight. At a primary acquaintance they are perceived more likely as a complex pattern, with a decorative effect on the surface, color stains and contours of ﬁgures which create freakish forms. By more intent consideration, details, their internal connections, mu¬tual relations of subjects appear, and when the adapted sight gets used to a new kind of already familiar patterns one can discover a new embodiment, a conglomerate of complex metaphors and al¬legories: even laconic works with a minimum amount of details are ﬁlled with a complex ciphered implication.
It would be incorrect to create unequivocal treatments of Ekaterina’s works, after all, the artist develops such eternal themes as love, good and evil, the man and the woman; everyone can ﬁnd in them something individually personal.” (Veronica Uskova-Kahi, the curator of the Perplex show, 2008)
Born in Russia as the daughter of a musician, she thought that is what she wanted to be until she arrived in London and got her hands on some paint brushes. That changed everything. Eventu¬ally she attended the Byam Shaw School of Art in London, where she earned BA and Post-Graduate Diplomas (1998-2003). Currently she resides in Moscow, and her work can be found in collections in Russian, Germany and the UK.
Depending on who you are talking to the title of artist means some very different things. What does it mean for you to say that you are an artist?
I think an artist is like an inventor always develops new ways of seeing reality. An artist is someone who creates and uses a cer¬tain skill to convey an idea. He/she goes ahead of the majority, developing new ways of understanding and seeing the humanity, having ideas on the subject and knowing how to express ones own personal feelings and vision in order to create a visual im¬age.
Does it mean anything more or less these days to say your are an artist?
Well, this is probably can be connected to the overall regress we are experiencing in some aspects of our life.
Can we be called ‘humanity’ these days?
I suppose almost anyone can call oneself an artist these days, but time ﬁlters. There is always a certain criterion in the ﬁeld, though it may seem obscure at times.
Can you give me a couple of examples of how your feel hu¬mankind or society is degrading?
Mass media and idols we choose are our reﬂections. More and more people begin to feel estrangement and distrust towards each other as years go by. These are just few examples.
When you think about artists that went before, who are some of your greatest inspirations?
Some artists inspire me for what they do, some – for who they are. These are just some people, who I personally feel connected to on one level or the other: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Nicholas Poussin, Paula Rego, Patrick Caulﬁeld, Mark Chagall, Joseph Beuys, John Currin, Ray Caesar.
What were you taught in art school that would mark you as a success?
Although I had a lot of fun at the Byam Shaw, it was a ﬁght all the way. I was misunderstood by some tutors, by others not taken seriously. I always had my own ideas on what success is. I was developing these ideas; as a result I wrote a statement at the end of my Post-Graduate year, titled ‘What does it mean to be an artist’.
What in reality do you feel is what an artist should strive for?
I believe that an artist should develop his/her own understand¬ing and vision. We can not ignore the art history and we can be inﬂuenced by other artist’s work or mass media easily in one way or the other. Then we get criticized by some people around. Despite all this, an artist should still try to open up his own per¬sonal inner world, just as unique as each person is.
How does beauty ﬁgure into your paintings?
I make pictures, which to my personal opinion can appear sometimes beautiful. I also accept other people’s tastes and that they can be very different from mine. Often I investigate a concept of ‘deformed’ beauty that can be found in reality more often, than the fabricated ideals. Beauty is a very important aspect in every¬thing. As years go by, we change the concept of what considered beautiful. And that’s a part of the progress. I explore interesting and strange color combinations at time to time, because to me along with many other things - that’s beauty.
Oscar Wilde said “Life imitates art.” Do you agree with this, and as artist do you think we can really affect the quality of humankind?
I think art in no way can inﬂuence life. Life is so much bigger than art, where art can only try to be something like life. It happens that an artist can see something in life and reﬂect it, something that other people don’t see yet. The artist points out something which is already there, because he/she can be more sensitive than the majority. This is the reason for others to see it as though an artist invented or developed new ideas. As the matter of fact, he/she just saw something that was there waiting to be found. Art can affect people in some way, it can inspire, but I don’t think it can change the course of life.
The economic times we are in at present are affecting ev¬eryone or so it seems. How would you respond to the theory that economic prosperity as well as economic difﬁculty might actually inﬂuence the way artists represent their perception of reality? For instance might we see more surrealism now rather than abstract expressionism?
This is relevant for the majority of artists probably. Still, there are some artists that stay outside of these laws. When everything is good, like in the days of prosperity, people tend to search for fun, entertainment and particularly illusion. In hard times, they try to question what went wrong. Surrealism is a type of expression which questions many things, sometimes maybe even giving answers. Though, at times it can lead astray.
How are you describing the direction of your work these days?
My work has taken a shape of what could be called Surrealism. However, my approach is different. I create little ‘worlds’ from simply pasting all sorts of pictures together, like in collage. My aim is to have an unexpected result and in that matter to achieve something more than I could have ever hoped to get.
I am interested in the things you say about Kafka. Are we as artist more tempted in these days to begin to represent false truths?
People tend to lie; particularly one can lie more often to oneself, which is awfully damaging, by the way. The same with artists, it’s a way to escape one’s own problems. One can have a very strong intellect, which plays games and creates intrigues. For a more common person it can be hard to see the manipulation of a stronger mind. As the degradation grows, intellect becomes stronger and more perverted.
Is honesty really the best policy?
Honesty within makes us see things from the right angle. When a person is honest with others and particularly with him/herself, he/she sees the surrounding and him/herself within the sur¬rounding clearly. Many people live in an illusionary world that they built around themselves, because they are afraid or don’t want to face the truth. The longer one lives in a lie – the harder it is to face the truth. The concept of honesty I am talking about is to be honest with oneself and to see one’s own motivations in the right light. Only then one can see the reality the way it is and make something of it. Otherwise, one will be building an illusion. Probably, there’s nothing wrong with it – most people like to be deluded anyway. It is a personal choice...
Progression from one style of art to another by a single art¬ist is always a curious study. Can you talk about how your progression from portraiture to collage to the balloon-headed people?
Portraiture for me was the beginning of the whole process. I started it right after the graduation. My fascination for people has led me to this explorative process. At the same time, I’ve discovered Alex Katz, who became my inspiration. However, this ﬁeld of activity did not enable me to develop and convey thoughts or ideas completely and fully. A search proceeded.
At this point, I came back to Moscow, got married and gave a birth to a son. Meanwhile, I did some commissioned portraits, also I began doing all sorts of drawings, like ‘Russian Diva’, ‘On a bloody-red carpet’ and ‘No biz like show biz’. I had my computer, which I was quite good with. So, as an experiment I did a series of collages, as I felt that I needed to get quick results and sort of brainstorm in that way. I was experimenting by pasting all sorts of pictures together, sometimes combining the most unexpected subjects. I was getting interesting and spontaneous results. This experiment resulted in ‘Perplex’ show (2008).
I missed the painting process. So, I’ve decided to go back to drawing/painting. I started making little Biblical illustrations: ‘Appearance’, ‘Offer’, ‘Maria sees angels’. They came out in a naïve type of style, but in a bright and experimental color. Than I thought that I needed to develop a narration of my own. So, suddenly the idea of balloon-headed people came up. These people, I call them creature-like, have a spherical structure of head, which is inﬂated with envy, vanity and other gaseous substances, the essence of which being emptiness. They go through all sorts of metamorphoses, revealing their true character. Or maybe, it can be connected to my glob phobia (fear of balloons).
Really a fear of balloons?
It is a funny thing, but it is real. I am uneasy, when I’m in the same room, where for instance a child is playing with a baloon. It is probably the unexpected sound of a baloon exploding that makes me feel this way. Could it be that subconsciously I fear people?
Talk about narrative/concept versus composition/design?
My work is highly intuitive, so it is hard for me to talk about such things. For one thing, I can say is that the notion of uneasiness can be seen as the meeting point of concept and composition in most of my work.
What breathes soul into a painting?
I think something higher and bigger then we are. I hope that God controls my process of picture making and makes it better than I could have ever done. I hope that He breathes soul into my paintings. Also, life itself does. As if my work and the life around are in a constant organic cycle. Things that I see around get portrayed in my work, and things that happen in my work appear outside of it. Paintings feed of life and vice versa. They go together shoulder to shoulder happily, I’d say.
What are your work habits? Are you in the studio everyday?
I like working from the early morning till dusk, but it doesn’t
happen that often. There are always other things to take care of. So, whenever I can – I paint. Yes, I am in the studio everyday, except for Saturday, when I rest.
Describe a good day for you in the studio.
My good day in a studio is when I don’t have anything troubling my mind and I can give myself fully with peaceful mind to my work.
You have lived in more than a few different countries. Can you say that you have noticed that different countries have different artistic ﬂavors?
Yes, it is probably the tradition that most people choose to associate themselves with, for they fear to be different. I think that the most interesting artists are those who break the tradi¬tion and make something universal, something that appeals to many people from different cultures. However, the slight ﬂavor of a certain country may still appear.
Is it easier to be an artist today that it was 100 years ago?
No, it’s just different. I don’t think it is easier.
What chapter in the Book of Revelations inspires you visually?
I like the whole Book. Maybe I can mark out Chapter 4, because it is the shortest, but opens up the beautiful picture of God sitting on the throne and His surrounding. It is a magniﬁcent picture!
What responsibility do artists have for society?
Again, I think it is the personal choice of an artist to decide for himself/herself what it is that he/she wants to convey. I strongly believe, that irrespective of the intellectual message that an art¬ist wants to bring out to the public, the work should be entertain¬ing and of a good quality. If the work looks boring and unﬁt, no one would be interested in its message. To my mind it is a very important responsibility that an artist should consider. It is a way to show a respect for the audience.