Yelena Popova

Untitled, 2014

Mixed media on Linen

160 × 120 cm


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Artwork
Description

Russian-born artist Yelena Popova’s paintings tap into the unconscious of the viewer’s dreams. In her paintings she skilfully merges the coarseness of the canvas and the thin, watery hues of her palette from which indefinite shadows bloom into geometrical forms. The reference to Russian Constructivism and Minimalism in her work is subtle, but unequivocal: the act of painting emerges as a clearly political act that is expressed through a non political subject.

Popova’s paintings often escape from the boundaries of one single canvas: they expand into space by bending the framework or even sprouting smaller elements that surround the main piece. The artist’s delicate brushwork spans across the canvases and intertwines the different pieces, harmonising the composition. The disposition of the ‘satellites’ around the main painting  vary: on some occasions one finds it symmetrical, while on others evenness is not a concern and they are arranged more freely on the wall.

The balance and tension created by the different elements in Popova’s works is emblematic of her oeuvre: this is achieved by initially gathering the elements close together and then rather diluting them. Popova’s video practice too is part of such interplay of delicate balances and expanding networks. Permeated by the theme of Cold War threats, these videos illuminate Popova’s paintings with new meaning: the flurries of dusty and smoky pigment reveal themselves as vestiges of history.

These paintings are intensely meditative works, that silently reflect on humanity’s condition: they are a poignant and yet delicate metaphor for the necessary passing of time.

About
the artist

Yelena Popova (b. 1978, Urals, Russia) lives and works in Nottingham. She studied at Moscow Art Theatre School and Byam Shaw at Central St Martins before graduating from MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in July 2011.

Popova is an artist who works across a wide range of media, including painting, video and installation. Reflecting her upbringing in the Urals, she is influenced by the tenets of Russian Constructivism, while often seeking to discuss the constant development of industrialism and the landscape of contemporary Capitalism. There is an important stress placed upon the theme of balance within her work, whether this is political, aesthetic or metaphysical.

Popova’s work consists of contrasts between latent and manifest meanings, shape and content, form and material. Her documentary films, such as Particulate Matter, provide a relatively concrete exploration of the universal relationship between Capitalism and Industrialisation, across cultural intersections. The documentary’s aesthetic is evocative of Russian Constructivism and Soviet Montage.

Complementing the more supraliminal documentaries, her linen panels consist of ethereal forms, reminiscent of the opalescent smog so often spawned by the industrialised city. They are an abstraction of the tangible, while maintaining a robust tactility; the images are suggestive of Turner, however her practice more accurately aligns with tenets of Russian Modernism. There is an intrinsic sense of balance encapsulated in the fluid contours, cut short by the restrictive rectangular canvas, and then recaptured by round supplementary satellite panels. This produces a symbolic contrast between the eternity of the circle and the finitude of the rectangle. Materiality is also explored rigorously; the use of linen, overlaid with pale washes, creates tactility, while the aqueous ethereality of the washes seems virtually nonexistent.

Yelena Popova primarily focuses upon matter and materiality, using a wide variety of media to open up discourses to her audience. She creates discussions based upon the systematic relationship between objects in Industrial and Capitalist cultures, which is reinforced by the powerful contrasts present in her work and the equilibrium they manage to maintain.


Popova’s work consists of contrasts between latent and manifest meanings, shape and content, form and material. Her documentary films, such as Particulate Matter, provide a relatively concrete exploration of the universal relationship between Capitalism and Industrialisation, across cultural intersections. The documentary’s aesthetic is evocative of Russian Constructivism and Soviet Montage.

Yelena Popova primarily focuses upon matter and materiality, using a wide variety of media to open up discourses to her audience. She creates discussions based upon the systematic relationship between objects in Industrial and Capitalist cultures, which is reinforced by the powerful contrasts present in her work and the equilibrium they manage to maintain.


Yelena Popova
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition

December 8th, 2014 until
February 25th, 2015
Curated by Kirsty Ogg