A 2010 graduate of the V. Surikov Moscow State Academy Art Institute and currently a teacher at the Academy of Architecture and Arts of the Southern Federal University in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Ekaterina Lutokhina creates realistic paintings that frequently dwell upon the nature of change and the passage of time, sometimes evoking feelings of nostalgia and loss. Her work generally captures urban Russian environments – architecture both old and new, theatrical spaces, construction sites and areas that facilitate transportation. She is also involved in icon painting, mosaic decoration and mural restoration in Eastern Orthodox churches.
“I always wanted to be an artist,” says Ekaterina, “as far as I can remember. It was just a kind of inner need. I have been drawing since the age of two. I was absolutely conscious when I decided to enroll in art college. My mother was against it because an artist’s career does not promise an easy life…especially in Russia.
“I am inspired by different things. Beautiful architecture, people, nature, of course, but often it is the simplest everyday things that can communicate an interesting idea or deliver a solution. Such as…reflection in a puddle, trees, shadows, wire. I love considering the construction and structure of everything – power lines, the tangle of branches, buildings, even colours. I think an artist should be able to find beauty in everything, and his/her task is to convey that interest to the viewer.”
Ekaterina is a fan of Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Egon Schiele, Otto Dix, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Old masters like Michelangelo, Giotto and Rembrandt also influence her. Russian figures that she likes are Dionisius, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Deineka and Tahir Salahov.
“Influence of Russian culture in my work is undoubtedly great,” Ekaterina explains. “Any artist should not, and will never be able to forget their roots. Nationality is an integral component of the personality, whether we like it or not. I graduated from the Moscow State Academy Art Institute named after Vasily Surikov, which is considered one of the best in Russia. It has preserved the traditions of Russian realistic painting, but also values individuality and innovative method.”
“I find it difficult to name my style,” she continues. “All that is currently being done in the arts can be called postmodernism. I think mine is “expressive realism” plus a bit of “constructivism”. In every picture, I am primarily interested in the composition – the precise organisation in the canvas. My work is a vision of the world by a citizen of the city. I try to regulate the surrounding chaos. I try to find images that convey some emotional state and mood. I have a series of works depicting feelings – such as fear (“Night fears”), despair (“Despair”), fatigue (“Tiredness”), disgust (“Parts”).
“I can tell you the history of the artwork “Parts”. I saw a photo of a hunter with a wild boar that he had just killed. He was a fresh-faced smiling man with a little snub nose. And he was obviously very happy with his trophy. He explicitly boasted through this photo. The dead wild boar was a miserable, large animal killed for fun and the sake of bragging. I thought it was this man who was more like a pig than that boar. I could not get rid of this image. I felt a strong aversion to the idea of “murder for fun”. Gradually, in my image, the hunter was transformed into the body of butcher with a pig’s head before him – as if to make up one unit.”
Ekaterina thinks that the worst thing for any artist is “indifferent spectators”. “The artist needs to be honest with themselves and the audience,” she adds. “The viewer will respond emotionally if the artist is sincere. I remember a quote from the German filmmaker Werner Herzog: ‘If I find that one person walking out of a cinema of 300 people after watching one of my films does not feel alone any more, then I have achieved everything that I set out to achieve.’ I think that would be enough for me, too! What more can I ask?”