Interview: George Alexandrakis
Katerina Belkina is not a conventional painter at all as she creates impressive paintings through her lens. She was born in Samara, in the European part of Russia and studied art at the Art Academy and later, at the school for Photography of Michael Musorin.
Her technical skills, light and frame are the secret ingredients of her pictorial photographs.
Belkina’s work has been exhibited solo or in group exhibitions in several galleries. Her work “The Sinner” won the Hasselblad Masters Award in 2016, in the category “Art”, whereas the “Revival” series won the Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA).
Currently, she is working for her exhibition in Kunstpalast Düsseldorf Museum and her work will be exhibited along with the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Is it necessary for a photographic collection to be accompanied by a description text, or do you think that the outcome should talk itself?
To my mind, nothing is “necessary” in photography and art in general. Only an artist himself chooses whether to consider words redundant and keep silence while presenting his works to viewers, or to produce an accompanying text. Many pieces of contemporary art do require such accompaniment. Words prepare the viewer for the perception of the piece and immerse him into the right atmosphere. I do not oppose explanations. In my practice, I prefer to give the audience a brief description, and if it is possible – after their acquaintance with the work. Thus, I hope to kill two birds with one stone: to give the viewers an opportunity to make their own interpretation, to provoke a dialogue, and to offer them my theory of what is happening, but without revealing details, just slightly lift the curtain. As for the obligation of an artwork to speak for itself, I believe any qualitative piece can fulfill this function, even if the message is not quite obvious at first glance.
While in the process of creating a photographic collection, are you able to foresee the final outcome or are you mainly interested in recreating accurately what you have already imagined?
In the creative process, as a rule, I know exactly the subject of my work and what I want to see, but in the end, I leave space for certain play of chance. It applies to composition, perspective, light, postures and facial expressions. At the stage of editing, I do not choose the shot, which seems to be the closest to the initial plan, but the one, which “happened” suddenly. Some small but important details make it different from all the others. The same is with post-processing – I give free rein to chance, I’m not afraid to experiment with color, composition and perspective (deliberately breaking the rules within the limits almost invisible at first glance).
Is there anything that you would never shoot or anything that you’d never want to include in a photo project of yours?
In Russian, there is a proverb: never say never. As an artist, I want to keep the right to experiment with any theme and in any field. On the other hand, there can be many things, in which I am not interested at the moment, or I feel lack of “vocabulary”, inability to deal with a topic, which excites me, but for which I’m not ready so far. What I definitely do not want to do, is to produce commonplace things, potboilers. To me the notion of producing potboilers implies superficial, shallow penetration into the subject and lack of skill. Yet, unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent ourselves from doing such things, because we are continually improving our skills, and today we want to be better than yesterday. Everything is relative. Taste is also important. Any work, any subject can be presented with taste and profoundness, or can be weak, tedious and dilettantish. The more replicated is the object, image or theme, the more complicated is the artist’s task.
How would you describe Russia, regarding the education of people on art issues? Are the artists given opportunities or are they forced to emigrate in order to feel more free and have better opportunities?
To this day, working conditions have always been difficult for artists in Russia, often preventing them from proceeding with their creative activity. It is difficult for an artist to survive economically in the country where there is no art market and promotion of culture runs counter to the interests of the government. One is obliged to have a job for money, carrying out the creative work, no matter how serious it is, as a hobby. Before leaving the country, I wondered, what was holding me back in spite of the world so big, open and interconnected through the Web? However, after the move, it became clear how much we (in Russia) lag behind the advanced countries and are separated from them due to certain territorial and historical circumstances. My life is not enough to narrow this gap considerably. For all that, I believe the younger generation to be luckier. I can already see the confirmation of my hopes. Despite all the obstacles, institutions appear in Russia ready to help, to develop, to give impetus and support. I admire their teams. For example, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has an extensive program for children and youth, as well as grants established for young artists. All of this is already functioning, in spite of everything! Small art centers do appear as well; and there are just people who are ready to charge the windmills if it is needed. It would be great if politicians also directed their efforts and aspirations forward to creative progress and not back to degradation and limitations.
Which is your biggest fear, if any, as an artist?
As an artist, I’m just a storage of fears and horrors! From the most primitive, associated with physiology, as the loss of vision or something like this, to more complicated, as the spontaneous loss of adequacy when you alone believe your works to be remarkable. Or for example, that there will be so much art in the world that it will lose all its meaning and weight, and become an unnecessary atavism. However, I am an optimist by nature, and I believe that even if this happens, it will lead humanity to an entirely new manifestation of art, hitherto unforeseen.