The works of Katerina Belkina
Russian artist Katerina Belkina proposes a new heroine rising above the rules and clichés, limits and expectations of the current reality often shaped by materialistic values. Each series shows a new identity, multiple masks, costumes and references from the art world and everyday life in an urbanized and artificial environment are chosen to enforce a message of spiritual recovery and focus on the self, but not in a narcissistic way. Perhaps that is why most of the characters, usually portrayed by the artist herself, have their features simplified, because essential to the theme of each work is not the body, what matters is the concept, the whole.
Apart from her opposing the standardized condition of both woman and woman artist in society and contemporary art, Katerina analyzes the causes, tensions and effects of gender inequalities, oppression, boundaries, frustrations, as well as the holders of power and authority and those who are the hunted in this regard.
In the series defined as “neo-renaissance in everyday life”, the artist projects the return to what she considers to be the vital need of personal spiritual growth by escaping the imposed consumerism and materialism of today’s society. The spiritual evolution of man has been deeply affected by the false promises of a society which has neglected and abandoned faith in favor of feeding individuals with exclusively material desires and dreams, thus generating the deceiving pursuit of an illusion.
Although the pregnant woman is a key-image in “Revival”, the works are not about motherhood, but a symbol of spiritual growth and retrieval of a lost or forgotten higher meaning. Using the expectant mother as central figure, she highlights the contrast between the two worlds, one experienced in the present, the other of a new possible future through the idea of a child, which is physically absent, not yet tangible, non-material and purely spiritual, the sinless soul and hope for liberation and a life outside the pressure and limits of materialism.
THE SINNER (2014)
LIGHT AND HEAVY
Samara, the artist’s hometown, is the subject of the following series, described by Katerina as “a racy city, which nevertheless seems faceless. From time to time, something is created there and something is destroyed. It is messy and full of contrasts, being simultaneously heavy and light, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly. It is the quintessence of the most common city in the world. It has everything and nothing.”
However, no opportunities exist for women here: “You are constantly confronted with races, showing off and stress of competitions. A woman is supposed to keep level with men, she is a consumer, but at the same time, she is a commodity too. Under the pressure of society and especially of her own, she lives in a constant state of market competition for a place next to the man.” Although men do not appear in the series, the image of the women seems created according to the standards and stereotypes of a male-driven society, and also in a hunter-prey relation. The empty streets with women running in their underthings and wearing high-heels contribute to the powerful visual impact of the works and to a paradoxically frozen dynamism.
THE RACE (2014)
The city offers no home, it does not connect but isolate individuals. It is sterile and artificial and makes its dwellers empty inside, generating loneliness and anxiety. The bigger the city, the greater the human loss. The artist reflects this by choosing the Moscow metropolis as reference, a place she has lived and worked in for many years, an environment of suffocating skyscrapers, towers, chimneys and trains.
It is interesting that in the series the main character is depicted in front of a window, a fragile delimitation between the exterior – the urban landscape – and the inner world, which bears the marks of the city.
THE FLIGHT. POEZD (2010)
HIEROGLYPH OF MY BODY
Perhaps one of her most arresting works, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, it shows the fragmented body of the artist herself: “This is my body. I accept it the way it is. My appearance is a key to my destiny. While changing our appearance, we change our essence. Our perception of the parts of our bodies is biased. We see them separately, as fragments. Each fragment has its mission, but we forget that they represent a single whole. The same is true about us. Each of us, fulfilling his own mission, belongs to the entity of the Universe. My hieroglyph is a key to the discovery of a new vision, expressed in the acceptance of our external code rather than in fighting it. My autograph.”
HIEROGLYPH OF MY BODY (2008)
Cleaning, cooking, washing and sewing leave less time for art. The condition and challenges of the woman artist and social status of women in general are ironically brought into discussion in a series which uses themes from works by Malevich, Hirst, Warhol, Murakami and the Chapman brothers in the context of domestic chores.
NOT A MAN’S WORLD
In this series of reflection on the way the worlds of men and women interact, the artist undergoes a transformation in the roles of fairy tale characters, revealing the unsettling struggles, fears and uncertainties of women in the post-modern society: “Transforming into them, I put on different costumes and masks, following the ancient universal practice of women bound to take on different roles each day of their life. Those of a wife or a mistress, a mother or a daughter. As a woman, I can be vicious and innocent, strong and weak, aggressive and gentle – and that is all right. Each of the roles represents one of our feelings: jealousy, envy, sinking or disappointment.”
SLEEPING BEAUTY. SECRET DESIRES (2009)
ROSE-RED. ENVY (2008)
ODETTE. SLAVERY (2007)
All images © Katerina Belkina