I can’t remember how I stumbled on the work of Ekaterina Panikanova, but I am glad I found her stunning book page drawings. I’m no stranger to the delicacy and gentle touch needed to draw on aging book pages, so I can appreciate these even more.
A graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts of St. Petersburg, Panikanova was one day walking through a flea market when she stumbled upon a 700-page manuscript and “was struck by the difference between its original purpose and how it had ended up.” So, she bought it and used it as the base for a painting.
I like working on old books: I like the way the wear and tear, underlinings, notes and scribblings enable me to perceive the personalities of the people who have read them. In Russia, there is a difference between a icon which has been ‘prayed to’ and one which has not; a book which has been read has the same kind of energy as an icon which has been worshiped.
For each of her pieces, she reads the texts and chooses the illustrations from pages purposefully and intuitively, joining them together to express a collective idea. From drama to psychology, she expresses variations on the theme of movement and humanity: “the text is never erased but you can turn the page if you want to. I prefer not to fix my works in time and thus I always try to create works with movement. Everyday life is generally anchored in the past and thus both our present and our future are strongly bound to our past experience.”
Common visual themes that run through her work include the pie, antlers, bicycle and rocking horse, all of which have personal methaphorical meanings such as animal instinct, tradition and movement.