Religion(s), Eclecticism, Folklore and Positivity Intertwine in the Art of Ekaterina Abramova
Where and when were you born? I was born February of 1979 in the Soviet Union, in the small town of Hotkovo, 70km from Moscow. I grew up surrounded by nature, rivers, forests, and a lot of churches. The priest of one of the churches in my town became a kind of spiritual father to me, and from there I started following my spiritual path. I was 12 when I found myself in the Russian Federation and at the same time I lost my father in a fire that took our house. Where and what art studies did you do? When my father passed away, I promised myself and God to become an artist like him. He was a wood carving artist. So after studying art in school, I went to study the same subjects and at the same college of art as my father did not far from my home in Abramzevo - a very famous college of art named by Vasnetzov, the Russian artist. There I found a very good private teacher, Alexand Velichko, who had recently opened a private studio. He taught me about the business of art, the philosophy of art, the attitude of an artist, and had me read lots of books about personal development and art business. It was a very beautiful and important time in my life. I learned a lot from him, and started to sell my paintings and live as a full-time artist and painter. The next major milestone for me was attending I.E. Repin State Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2007. I choose to be a theatre artist and study with the most important theatre artist in Russia, Eduard Stepanovich Kochergin. It was not an easy time in my life but one of the most important for sure. At graduation I was nominated for the gold medal of my class, best artist. That moment was amazing, the culmination of all my prior efforts, standing on the stage of Art Academy with my 4 children and family nearby. But soon after, I lost one of my sons to an illness, and decided to leave Russia. I went to India with my 3 children to recover from my loss and start a new life. I was in India from 2008 until 2014
Tantric Geometry: Femininity
Acrylic, gold leaf and gold and silver ink on canvas. Tibetan silk. 2020 - 15,5 x 23” / 39 x 58,5 cm
courtesy by the Artist
When did you decide to move to New York? In 2014, I met my now ex-partner. I was absolutely happy in India, but to be with the person I loved I needed to move to the USA, to New York City. So I asked God for guidance and decided to apply for a Green Card as an Extraordinary Person, Artist. And yes, a miracle happens! I was in the US on a tourist visa, visiting the country. While there, barely 4 months after my application for the green card, I received the news that I was approved. I immediately began the long process of immigration for my children. Why New York? New York is very multicultural, and I felt at home. I had lived in many different countries and I loved the diversity. And even more, it's the center of the art world. Maybe it will sound strange, but many years ago I was meditating and talking with God, and I asked to be living in the center of art world — even though I didn’t know where that was. At the time I thought actually it was in Europe, and never had any ideas about New York! But life has a plan for us, and so here I am. Your art contains Russian, Indian, and Western symbols and techniques. What are the mythological readings and life experiences that led you to this choice? My wood carving background and college in Abramzevo were dedicated to folk art, crafts, and culture. From there I completely fell in love with symbols, fairy tales, and mythology. Having spent many years in India and Russia, I incorporated those cultures into my art. When I started my life in India, I immediately went to see different museums and galleries., and learned about their crafts and mythology. I had millions of questions, why is this, why is that?? And for each of my questions, I got an amazing explanation with a beautiful story. It completely fascinated me. My process is this - just observe everything that is around you, and ask why? Where does it come from? What is the reason behind it? For example, in India you eat by hand. I needed to know why everyone is eating this way? And the answer is amazing, first of all, you need to try yourself, you will find it delicious and second because when you touch food by hand, you can feel the temperature. The stomach needs food the same temperature as your body. So by eating with hands, you are taking care of your body and health by avoiding eating food that is too cold or too hot. The wisdom of old culture has always fascinated me, and continues to do so. I find many similarities with the folk arts and crafts of different cultures and countries! The more you know about different symbols the more you understand the primordial philosophy of life. I love things that stand the test of time, and so I use all of the knowledge I can find in old cultures. Here in the USA, it's the Native Americans who have this knowledge. It's such a powerful culture and philosophy. I believe it should be taught in each and every school throughout the country! This would teach a new generation about respect for each other and help them become wise. Only those who know their past history, culture, and traditions can be wise. Only after knowing your past can you go wisely into the future and develop your present moment.
Acrylic, gold leaf, and gold and silver ink on canvas. 2017 - 72 × 76″ / 183×193 cm courtesy by the Artist
Your body of work also includes Christian icons. How much religion has influenced your artistic style and that of life? Religion has been very important to me throughout my life. When I lost my father at 12 years old, the Church became my home and my priest replaced my father. Each weekend I was in Sunday school learning the Bible and medieval Russian language. I was also a singer in the choir which traveled a lot, many children and our priest. Then I grew up, visited different countries and different temples, and started learning different religions. Once I knew these religions, I decided to not follow one particular religion but respect all and be with God who is inside me. My love for God goes beyond any and all religions on Earth. In the Orthodox Church, I was surrounded by a lot of religious iconography and I always adored the artwork. For me, icons are one of the most powerful art forms that exist on earth. Orthodox icons represent stories from the Bible, portraits of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary, other holy people, or angels. And the iconography is full of beautiful faces. In India I spent time living in Kashmir with a beautiful community who became my Muslim spiritual family. This very old and amazing culture was so different from all that I knew before about Muslim traditions, and I learned so much. And here is one example of each religion’s uniqueness and contrasts, because in Islam it is not appropriate to have faces in religious art. So I wanted to synthesize these two religions and unite people together, showing respect for each other’s uniqueness, cultural differences and religions. With that as my goal, I created a series of paintings called “Abstract Icons” right after my time living there. I created icons that don't have faces but same time are full of spiritual, holy energy. My inspiration was that these icons can be used for many churches and temples, for any religion in any country!
Kalpavriksha – Wish Fulfilling Tree
Gold leaf, gold and silver ink and acrylic on canvas. 2013-2020 - 40 × 41,5” / 100 x 105 cm
courtesy by the Artist
Among the neo-expressionists of this present, which artists are in elective dialogue with your works? I love folk art as I said before. All traditional crafts fascinate me as much as well-known and famous artists. I love the artists Pablo Amaringo from Peru, Georgia O’Keeffe from USA, Frida Kahlo from Mexico, and several artists from India including Jaminy Roy, Krishen Khanna, and Gulam Rasool Santosh’s Tantric art. In Russia, the artists who inspire me include Vasiliy Kandinsky, Arestarc Lentulov, Marc Shagall and one of my favorites, Nikolai Fechin of course. I can't say they are all neo-expressionists, but they inspired me a lot. You visited and you have shown in India several times. What Indian spiritual ornamental techniques have you chosen to implement in your art and why? I love all Indian folk art, but for me Madhubani Paintings are my inspiration - so pure and so primordial, and I see in them such simplicity and wisdom. Warli paintings as well are an inspiration - they have dark backgrounds with light paint in the foreground. Traditionally, it’s created with rice paste on mud walls. And beyond paintings, traditional Indian sculptures in the temples have always blown my mind! I had a chance to teach and learn at Tibetan University in India, so Tibetan art and culture has also been a very important influences on my art. I painted my first Thangka painting with the help of my Tibetan teacher from the university. Truly there are so many things I can share about Indian art and culture that it could be a book! Maybe one day I will write my first book, about my search for wisdom across all cultures as an artist. Could you describe your art residency at Mana Contemporary Art Complex in Jersey City, NJ? I got the art residency in Mana Contemporary very soon after I got my green card in 2015, followed by a second residency in 2016. I remember when I first met Eileen Kaminsky, I felt such power within her! Actually, she didn’t like the project that I submitted the first time. But she took me around, showed me how the other artists were working and she said to me “Come back, dear, when I will see your stomach on the canvas, when I will see you and not the others who influenced you!” It was so important for me to hear! I went home and cried, but I came up with new ideas after that and several months later I returned and she accepted me! I call her my art mom! She threw me from my comfort zone and pushed me to search deeper inside myself. I loved my experience in both residencies. The first time, I did my graphics series - smaller gold and silver stories because I went through cancer and couldn’t paint big canvases. In 2016, after recovering, my residency was absolutely amazing. I found myself and my voice in art. I now have a beautiful art family with all the people who work and support the artists there. I felt held and loved.
Acrylic, gold leaf and gold and silver ink on canvas. 2020 - 24 x 47,5” / 61 x 122 cm - one panel 2 panels together 48 x 48” / 122 x 122cm
courtesy by the Artist
Your works are in the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation Permanent Collection, New York, NY and please add two other museums and private collections. My works are in two museums in India. One is the Goa Chitra Museum in Goa, and the director and founder of the museum is my art collector as well. He has some of my paintings and he was also my art dealer for some time. His name Victor Hugo Gomes, if one day you will visit Goa please go and see his museums. They are amazing! The other is in Varanasi, Bharat Kala Museum of Arts. There I had a big solo show and met my Indian art father who was such a great support and help in my art life. I can’t even find the right words to express it! Professor Ajay Singh is truly one of the best. He is the one who introduced me to Tibetan University where I ended up working. And after my solo show, he also put me in touch with my current Indian art dealer in New Delhi, R. N. Singh. Then, just before the quarantine started this year, I was back in India because Mr. R. N. Singh and his gallery Progressive Art Gallery held a big solo show of my paintings in the Habitat Center of New Delhi. I also have my private collectors in Russia, London, and across Europe as well but I can’t name them publicly. What do you think will happen to the art market at the end of this pandemic period? I think the art business will be more online, which it has already started to be. It will create a lot of new possibilities, reduce galleries and artists expenses, but at the same time you can’t have real feelings with art online, you need to feel it in the flesh! Let’s see what new technology can give us soon! Maybe soon we will travel with our phone to 5D and will be able to touch and feel things online! Art will be always important and people will be always in need of art and artists. But my concern about the art market is how many people will be able to spend money on art? For sure we need to stay positive, and create new possibilities with art and the art market. The forced quarantine period we are experiencing has been more or less prolific for you. Creatively, did it have a positive and negative impact? The quarantine period was amazing for me as an artist and as a mother. I was with my kids, and I finally had time to teach them yoga and meditation and spend quiet time together, thinking and creating. I finished some paintings that had been unfinished for a very long time, and I feel so good about it! It makes me feel that I resolved some of my art karma! Liberation! Then I started absolutely new things for me. I started teaching online, Art and Personal Development at ”White Clouds” - a Russian Spiritual Center in Moscow, as well as a center in Brooklyn with the Light Keepers. Also, I started 2 new series of works: Women's Meditation Cards and one series of drawings ”Quarantine Connection”. I felt connected to everyone even though we were all separated in our homes. What are the artistic projects you have in mind once the planet earth returns to normal? Such a beautiful feeling I have when I think about reopening, hopefully to a new world. The world that existed before the pandemic was so artificial - too busy for humans and very aggressive. It was going to change anyway, with our willpower and intention or not. First thing this fall I will find a new place to live. I need nature, I am not a city girl. I want to create my own art and personal development center together with my art studio. I want to create a cultural and spiritual place where people can come, stay, learn, share their talents together - a holistic approach, with meditation being a central element. I had this kind of spiritual center in India, in Goa. It was named Skaska, which in the Russian language means fairytale. So I have experience already with running a large spiritual center. But I think this time it will be more focused on art, culture, and health. This is my dream for a while, and I feel the time is coming.
Sacred Mother Turtle
Acrylic, gold leaf and gold and silver ink on canvas. 2020 - Diameter 36” / 91cm
courtesy by the Artist