Interview with artist Ekaterina Popchenko

Tell us about your career as an artist: when and how did it begin?


I draw since my childhood, for as long as I remember myself.  I always had sketchbooks, notebooks, paper, pencils, and paints that I used. In early childhood, like many children, I went to art school, then years later I went into an art workshop, that called Art-education school, which gave me basic knowledge in the fields of contemporary art, avant-garde, and many other directions. We had field art practices, and we spent a lot of time in museums such as Louvre in Paris or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. I graduated at the age of 15, and like many teenagers, I had a period of uncertainty in my life. I knew for sure that I wanted to connect my life with art, but it was unclear where to go next. After school, I didn't go to university and went to study at the British School of Design in Moscow. After a short period of time, I realized that this path was not for me and literally a couple of months later I decided that I wanted to get a basic academic education. And this education became Stroganov Academy, which I entered in the same year. Just in my student years, the conscious creation of projects and paintings, participation in exhibitions, and an artist's career have already begun.


Your works have their own style. How did you come to him?


I have many series of works that differ in styles and directions. I do not pursue monotony in my works and create them under the influence of the feelings, and emotions that I experience at one or another time in my life.

Speaking of the ROSE series, the biggest series I'm developing, it all started with the Meat Department canvas, which was a student assignment. The teacher gave us a task to create a picture on the theme of the store, and so, this canvas appeared. Subsequently, I began to develop this theme, add characters, branch the theme and create mini-series united mainly by the color and image of the characters.

In 2020, you graduated from the Stroganov Academy, and are currently studying at the Rodchenko School. How did your studies affect you as an artist? Does education help in shaping you as an artist, or vice versa restricts your freedom?


In Stroganov academy I was lucky with the teachers. They went against the conservative views of the other teachers of courses. They taught me a lot of the techniques that I own, for which I’m grateful. As for Rodchenko, I studied there for a year and a half instead of three. At the beginning of this year (2022), I decided to complete my studies because I just felt unfreedom. I was trying to push myself into a foreign environment. After a year of study, I realized that the institution was imposing its views and position on me as right. I can't work without thinking that no one needs painting unless it is an abstraction.

Personally, my education helped me, I was lucky with the workshop where I studied before university. The knowledge that I was given there, was developed at the university, again - because I was lucky with the teachers. Of course, further attempts to obtain additional education, at that time, I associate with a lack of understanding of further actions and self-doubt.


In your works there is a reference to the topic of the man in society. Why is this particular theme interesting to you?


I like to watch. Both for yourself and for others. I like unusual people and unusual situations. I like ordinary things that I could transfer to my sketchbook. I try to find interesting compositions in ordinary situations. After all, it is always interesting for us to learn and see something familiar and close.


Tell us from does a new work start?


Sometimes with notes on my phone. I have a lot of strange notes like: “nails take pictures of a glass” or “a plastic bag with a face”. Sometimes a small sketch on the back of a sketchbook is enough for me.

You were born in Moscow and still live in this city. Moscow is a megapolis in which all residents are constantly fussing, hurrying somewhere, the crazy rhythm of this city leaves its imprint on a person. Has Moscow influenced your inner world and the choice of subjects for your works?


I don’t know why, but Moscow is not so crazy for me. It is big, and thus for me, there is a sea of different characters on my canvases. Of course, my heroes almost all have prototypes, and I met almost all of them on the streets of Moscow. I don't copy from photos, but in notes, as a detective, I always write the signs that especially hooked me.


There is a certain color scheme in your works. Why did you choose these colors? Do you think these colors somehow affect the viewer and his perception of your works?


It would be strange to answer that I like pink. I really love it. The pink color is aggressive and attractive, enhancing the drama of the plot. The characters are almost purple, they are suffocating in a vacuum, in this frozen time in which they are. They are also deprived of air in the information flow, in any case, the pink color is associated with a lack of air and the aggressiveness of the environment.


You have participated in many exhibitions. How does the audience perceive your works?


Well, opinions vary, as do all artists. Of course, I get feedback. Both good and negative - one day a woman asked me “why do I make such evil pictures”.

Tell us about the latest projects and creative plans for the future?


For a while I moved away from the pink color, it seemed to me that the theme exhausted itself and was not interesting to anyone. I changed the themes, the last series of canvases and graphics was dedicated to religious subjects. Now I am continuing the ROSE series, it is very iconic for me. In particular, I continue on the topic of the meat department.


If you had to draw a picture about today, what would you draw?


Oh. Of course, I associate the canvases I am working on now, with today's events. I'll tell you a little about the future series: recently I was in St. Petersburg, and there on every butcher shop there are colorful neon signs with the image of cows, chickens, and text colorful signs. A solid holiday. I thought how much joy and celebration there is in places where death is essentially sold. Also, I see a connection between the camouflaged form and the texture of meat. I won't go into details, but future pictures about today would not be about a holiday at all.

Text: Lyubov Melnickowa @lumenicka