Yelena Popova

I had the privilege to spend this Monday just gone enjoying a painting workshop put on by Yelena Popova.  Before the workshop we had been told to prepare 3 images to show the group-

An image of your favourite painting before 20th century.

An image of your favourite painting after 20th century

An image of your own painting.

I found it quite a challenge to select each one; particularly the pre 20th century painting. On a course like mine, where art history is spoke little about, it was nice to think about it within my practice. I began thinking about all the great painters; Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet etc… Then William Turner sprang to mind! I have always admired his ability to create such incredible skies. I had a tab open with Gerhard Richter’s work up and I noticed how similar Turner’s work; his painting style, compares with Richter’s contemporary style.  It wasn’t a Richter painting I chose for my favourite 20th century image, although he came close, it was my all time favourite: George Shaw. I have always admired his skill and his ability to paint the human presence without using any figures in the painting. The one I chose of my own was the painting I feel has spurred my painting style to date. I remember my tutor at foundation first dripping the paint over my precious and carefully detailed image. I was mortified. I think that was one of the most important influences in my painting now!

At the workshop itself it was exciting to be discussing art history alongside contemporary. It allowed me to further ideas I’d been having regarding the reason why we paint when other methods can be carried out so much easier. We discussed the process of making paint, how that has developed throughout history. What paint is more suitable. When discussing the two images we brought in of our favourite paintings, we were asked to create a narrative between the two. It was interesting that Yelena pointed out that both my artist’s are considered great painters of British landscape. That obvious link hadn’t even crossed my mind. They represent their time. I had concerned myself with the two painters painting unpeopled images with the hint of their presence. I obviously enjoy great British landscape painters!

An important thing I took with me from the morning of the workshop was Yelena’s way in which she thought we should think about a painting. Giving us these questions to ask:

  • Year it was made?
  • Materials?
  • Size?
  • Who is it for?
  • Subject Matter?
  • Where it’s been installed?
  • Artist’s intention?
  • What is happening at that time when it was made?

It was interesting to think about these things. Especially what was happening when the work is made. It can have a huge impact in what the artist produces. Shaw and Turner are representing the time they live in.

We later began talking about Hybrids (A thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.) Yelena explained to us how she felt hybrids could be used in contemporary art by repainting old masters, like artists before us have, such as Picasso after Monet and stain glass painters Gilbert and George. An artist I was really interested in was Sigrid Holmwood. She paints traditional images but transforms them into contemporary images by using florescent colours! This is a really interesting way of working! I was also reminded of Hockney’s work I saw at the Guggenheim. His work looking at classic religious painting and transforming that into contemporary painting.

In the afternoon we were able to visit Yelena Popova’s studio space! It was amazing! Such a huge space to work in, so organised and reflected the artist herself so well. We saw her minimalistic paintings, whereby she uses diluted paints onto linen canvas. She explained that the linen provided a such nicer surface to work on in her opinion. Some things I noted down in the space: “Most organised artist I’ve ever seen,” “I’ve got this board.. That’s not a good way to work” and “It’s better to do 50 bad drawings instead of 50 bad paintings.” Yelena was very keen to draw before painting. In her minimalist paintings drawing is an important process. However when we began to draw, in preparation for a hybrid we wanted to produce, I found it a strange process for me to start with a drawing. It had been a long time since I drew a detailed image without just slapping the paint on. At the time I began to draw an image on my tea/dinner; relating to the ideas I’d been having earlier. I thought I would use the time to draw that. It turns out it’s quite a long process to draw pasta! I compared my hybrid to still life images of fruit bowls.