NEW YORK—After attending one art fair after another, sometimes the art becomes a blur. The sheer volume can be overwhelming. Given this, when the crush of works reveals an artist with a particularly compelling practice and point of view, the discovery is that much more striking. Ekaterina Panikanova is such an artist.
Here is how the Russian-born artist describes the inspiration and significance of her mixed-media watercolors on aged books:
“Some time ago I found a 700 pages manuscript and 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. 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.”
She continues: “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.”
Panikanova has transformed treasured symbols of the humanities—books—into works of fine art. Beautifully executed, the sometimes disjointed and meandering watercolor images beg explanation. Whatever she had in mind when she created them, the viewer is compelled to linger, dissect their meaning and invoke their own fascinating narrative. The exercise is indeed rewarding.
All photos © Arts Observer
View more examples of Panikanova’s work here.