Ekaterina Panikanova uses old books, school magazines and posters from different eras, found in flea markets in Europe to create little pieces of never before seen art.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, 39-year-old Ekaterina Panikanova currently lives in Rome, Italy, where she also displays her work. And, by the way, these book paintings were included in Panikanova’s second solo exhibition “Un, due, tre, fuoco“ presented at z2o Galleria earlier this year. Her work is said to evoke the long lost world of childhood, in a constant effort to find the deepest and most intimate feelings of every human being.
A graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts of St. Petersburg, she was one day walking through a flea market when she stumbled upon a 700-page manuscript. “I was struck by the difference between its original purpose and the way it became over time. I bought it and used it to make a painting“, the artist says. “Paper, card and books have a fundamental value in my work. I see them as a body of rules, dogmas, traditions, religious beliefs and scientific discoveries which, right or wrong for their time, human beings had simultaneously enclosed into cages. If Galileo Galilei hadn’t turned the pages of history, man’s blind belief in the theory that Earth was held up by a huge turtle would have eventually caused him to perish. I like working on old books: I like the way that underlines, notes and scribbles enable me to perceive the personalities of their former owners. In Russia, there is a difference between an icon which has been ‘prayed to’ and one which has not; a book that has been read acquires the same energy as an icon which has been worshiped.
My Soviet past takes form through objects, clothing and symbols; the Russian school of art influenced me too. However I continuously strive to widen my areas of interest. Since I moved to Italy, I have been able to study ‘the ‘European way of life’. The books that I use to make my paintings generally come from different countries of origin: this way the stories that I tell about the ‘education’ of mankind can be recognized as true for all of us, regardless of our culture and country of origin. Usually I read the texts and choose the illustrations by flipping throw the pages. Then I put the books together in a sort of jigsaw puzzle, according to the idea that I have on mind. Play and drama are equally important components of my work, which tells a story about the memory and development of the psychological side of an individual.
My work is, somehow, a suggestion about life: the text can’t be erased, but you can turn the page if you want to. I prefer not to fix my works in time and thus I always try to create works with movement. The everyday life is basically anchored to the past, therefore both our present and our future are strongly bound to our past experiences.
I use the metaphor of the antlers to convey the idea of animal instinct, the pie as a symbol of traditions (the rules of the home, education and any other element imposed to determine the compression of our psychology towards the eventual imprisonment of the being), the metaphor of the burning fire with limpid flames that symbolizes our ability to see, to warm up ourselves, to materialize a dense black smoke as a symbol of dictatorship, censorship and obscuration. The bicycle, the rocking horse, the pie with antlers are recurrent elements in my work”.
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