Yelena Popova

Untitled (Two Moons), 2014

Mixed media on Linen

75 × 80 cm


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Artwork
Description

Transparency, materiality and alchemy are at the core of Yelena Popova’s paintings. The Russian-born artist transforms pigments and canvases into metaphysical dreamscapes in which blurred, faded shapes give way to sublime geometric compositions. With a nod towards the conventions of Russian Constructivism and Minimalism, Popova positions her work in a paradoxical situation in which the practice of painting becomes a political act that generates non-politicised paintings.

A gust of faded colours is subtly dispersed over surfaces, drawing harmonious shapes, lines and swirls onto her raw canvases. The recurrent outbreaks into ovular canvases and carefully bent wooden elements become surrogates of a wider, more complex network that relates to the world outside of Popova’s paintings. They circumnavigate a primary canvas like satellites sculpted out of the same material, sometimes in a rigidly symmetrical way, sometimes in the form of a docile, harmonious composition.

This network expands into the wider practices of the artist. In her installations one encounters a rich variety of numerous canvases that are at first accumulated and later dispersed into a precarious equilibrium, while her videos tell us of a world caught up in the atomic politics of the Cold War and the direct outcome of its unexpected demise.  Considered under this premise, what at first resembled a sinuous body of dancing lines and gentle shapes, becomes an imprint of the hazardous rays of history onto the canvas.

The visibility of things, the materiality they assume when they come into being and the transparency of their fluctuating existence all meet on Popova’s canvases as a radical meditation on the inevitable 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