Ekaterina Popova, an artist born in Vladimir, Russia, moved to the United States as a teenager in 2001. During this transition period, she fell in love with painting. At first, it developed as a means of “coping” with her relocation, but it later lead her to receive her BFA from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Now based in Pennsylvania, her work has been exhibited nationally at galleries including The Painting Centre in New York, The Trenton City Museum, Delaware Contemporary and Uforge Gallery. Her paintings have also graced the pages of multiple publications, including Aesthetica, The Jealous Curator, Professional Artist magazine and Studio Visit magazine.
Most poignant, is that Ekaterina turns to art as a means of escape. Growing up in Russia meant that she was constantly surrounded by art, theatre and ballet from a young age, with visual culture forming an essential part of her upbringing, “despite the poor economic conditions”. She initially took some introductory art classes while growing up, but what really inspired her was a high school teacher Wendy Hall, who encouraged her to pursue a degree in painting. “I’ve been practicing art wholeheartedly since then,” Ekaterina tells It’s Nice That.
Influenced by art history giants such as Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Henri Matisse and Mary Cassat, Ekaterina also takes cues from the impressionists and her local collection at the Barnes Foundation, “which I love to visit for a creative boost from time to time”. Colour, emotions, relationships, florals and textures also drive her practice visually, alongside the moments from small everyday occurrences. “I keep an open mind and try to pay attention to my surroundings,” she says. “You never know when inspiration will strike.”
In the studio – with Regina Spector and Noah Gunderson as her soundtrack – Ekaterina usually works on multiple pieces at once, “so it’s not unusual to find five or ten unfinished canvases,” she adds on the topic of her working methods. “I work loosely, switching between paintings if they aren’t working to avoid frustration.” As a whole, however, her process is more-or-less relaxed and unstructured, or “easy-going”, as Ekaterina puts it. Using traditional oil paint or acrylic, she makes sure to carry a watercolour pad for sketches while travelling or, more specifically, in case she visits a friend’s house and stumbles into a bedroom that catches her eye.
“I didn’t initially plan to paint the bedrooms,” she explains. “When I first started exploring interiors in my work, I tried to convey old Russian homes from my memories and experiences.” She recalls this methodology as one that involves digging deep into the archives of her mind, producing work that’s “very nostalgic”, but a process that ends up being somewhat limited “since [she] didn’t have access to many images.” She adds: “Over time, I started to get inspired by my current environment and painted my apartment, my friends’ rooms and other interior spaces that conveyed the emotions I was after.” Henceforth, the bedroom became a fitting subject for her paintings, in part due to the fact that it’s usually the most personal and emotive section of a house, but also because of the aesthetics.
“The bedroom itself became a favourite of mine over the past few years; the subject itself implies intimacy, sensuality, shelter, safety and romantic experiences,” she continues. In her work, you’ll stumble across Sylvie’s room, a tinder date’s room and many other suitably named bedroom interiors. “Ultimately, my work is about feelings that are hard to describe in words,” she says, “thank goodness we have art to help us communicate.”