Katerina Belkina - Not a Man's world
The Russian artist Katerina Belkina recently published the illustrated book “Katerina Belkina. My Work Is My Personal Theatre.” which includes almost all of her works of art. Through her pictures she wants to change the relationship between the genders in our society.
In your beautiful pictures you yourself are often the motive and you slip again and again into other roles. Which role do you like best and why?
It is always the current role that is in progress, because it is the newest one and it is a nice challenge to reach a higher level. I grow through my characters and try to be more and more open, not only to show aesthetically interesting sides of them, but also the background. I am who I am, my body is getting older (you know this stereotype about women who are over 40 years old, especially where I come from), but I think this is good and useful for my art! I can finally take on more serious roles and my body can now express twice as much.
“We all grow up with stereotypes about women”
Your illustrated book published on 15.10. is entitled “Katerina Belkina. My Work Is My Personal Theatre.” What will the reader expect? A stage-like staging of your own experiences or rather a “fictional play”?
This is a collection of almost all my artworks to date, together with texts in three languages. On the one hand I explain my most important conceptual thoughts, on the other hand there is a wonderful, lively interview and well-researched texts by art critics about my work. All this together shows how modern art can be and what different levels and meanings are hidden inside. I am grateful to my publisher Kocmoc for this opportunity and experience.
One of your picture series is called “Not a Man’s World”. Is this a political declaration of war with which you want to denounce gender justice in your country?
Yes, but not only in my country – worldwide. Women all over the world have just begun to change the gender balance in society and to change themselves. But this process is gaining momentum. It’s my oldest series (started in 2006), but I’ve really captured the beginning of this wave at this moment. As a basis I took various well-known fairy tale characters with all the stereotypes about women that exist – not only Russian ones, but also European ones and those that became popular through books and cartoons (Disney). We all grow up with them, and I personally carry our entire cultural heritage with me, but I have the feeling that when I read it or show it to my children, I have to clarify some points. The same goes for the viewer.
“I try to carefully change the balance between the sexes”
Do you see yourself as a feminist and if so, what does that mean for your art?
Yes, of course! I am a person who is very peaceful and who believes that through learning and artistic exchange of information we can gently change the balance between the sexes. This is exactly how I act in my artwork. I give the viewer an image that contains a code about what kind of private life or social problems, emotions and fears we all have. All of these things are not on the surface, but I hope that the images will make the viewer think and make important considerations. I am not a fan of encouraging and moralizing. I always try to take the focus off the gender of the characters. It is just one woman with all these feelings, but basically it could be anybody. I think the main message of my art is – “do not run away from yourself, be proud of your being, celebrate it, but not at the expense of others”.
When looking at your pictures, it is never quite clear which medium you are looking at – a photograph or a painting? How do you create this effect?
Normally I proceed in two steps: Photography and drawing. After the first step I have a break to choose the right photographic material and think about what is better for this work and how I can proceed. Drawing usually takes 3-4 weeks. So in this case I am not a big fan of speed. The work takes as much time as it needs. Of course I want to make every little detail perfect. When I say “draw”, I mean everything I do: first combine, add some details, retouch and only then paint digitally. I use semi-transparent brushes in Photoshop, which I arrange myself and with which I work with the same technique as with oil paintings – I apply a few strokes layer by layer, forming the shadows, lights, highlights, but try to keep the basic image.
“We can be strong and active in our actions instead of passive, waiting and fearful”
Have you always known that you wanted to become an artist?
From my first breath – I come from a family of artists. In the broadest sense I was already born as an artist, and of course the mentality of my parents helped me a lot.
When and where can we see your paintings next in an exhibition in Germany? Or did Corona put a spoke in your wheel then?
This is a difficult topic for all freelancers and especially for artists. The galleries are all closed or do without opening events, so there are hardly any sales. All our plans have collapsed, and now it is clear that we can’t plan anything. I mean, you can plan, but it will be 99% different. I believe that one day we will solve this pandemic. But right now I prefer not to be paralyzed – I’m active on the internet and I don’t exclude the creation of art. The last half year has pushed us to jump into the online world faster. I blog on various social media platforms about my daily creative life. I make a few 5-minute videos about how I advance my latest project day by day and share it on Instagram and on Youtube. This is my way as an artist to hold my ground, to keep the audience interested in my art and to show other artists – we can be strong and active in our actions instead of passive, waiting and fearful.
Katerina Belkina (born 1974) graduated from the Academy of Arts “Petrov-Vodkin” in Samara (Russia) in 1993. From 2000 to 2002 she studied photography at the photography school of Michael Musorin. Katerina Belkina has been awarded several prestigious prizes such as the Kandinsky Prize 2007, the International Lucas Cranach Prize 2015 and the Hasselblad Masters Award 2016. She lives and works in Werder (Havel), near Berlin.