Biography and Artist statement
Elena Popkova (born in 1971) is a Volgograd-based artist, photographer, sculptor and Doctor of Economics. Her work attempts to reframe the human gaze onto nature, reinstating the power of nature to adapt, evolve and weather even the most turbulent storms.
Inhabiting the border between science and art, Elena Popkova’s work offers up glimpses of the natural world. But these presentations aren’t the usual celebration of ephemerality. Instead Elena Popkova casts nature in the bold light of Antifragility, also the title of her ongoing series, which seeks to rewrite nature’s most delicate beings as those who can weather and withstand global change.
The ideals found within Popkova’s art root themselves in her work in the sciences, as a Doctor of Economics. Combining her interests in crises, both economic and natural, and time. The latter of which has seen her draw great inspiration from the writings of astrophysicist Nikolai Kozyrev, whose doctrine explains time as a physical property with cause and effect.
Harboring this interest in time and the real, Russian Artist Elena Popkova naturally selected photography as her medium of choice. Beginning the series of Antifragility with the subheading Life of Roses, turning perhaps the most archetypally delicate flower into an icon of nature’s ability to overcome natural hardship while retaining its astonishing natural beauty.
Life of Roses was quickly followed up by Life of Trees, which takes these themes further towards the starkly contrasting realities of life and death brought on by the march of time. Solidifying time, change and weathering hardship as key themes in her work to date.
Certainly, these themes can be taken back to her beginnings in economics, a societally crafted form of reality which shifts, morphs and self-destructs with time. However, as we all witness in our daily lives, the overall stability of economic models allows society to continue functioning like a well-oiled machine. Bringing the Antifragility series’ themes back to the human level, implicitly discussing the adaptability and resilience of human behaviour and activity.
Both instalments in the Antifragility series (Life of Roses and Life of Trees) have, so far, seen public exhibition and publication. With Life of Roses being brought to viewers in Cologne, Germany, and Life of Trees finding home in Popkova’s resident city of Volgograd, Russia. With the series’ books displaying glorious colour prints.
Today, the Antifragility series appears far from over. In the summer of 2020, as Life of Roses and Life of Trees were being presented for the first time, Popkova happened upon the topic of geology. Locating some unusual stones which left a profound mark on her psyche, aesthetically and thematically. Forcing her to shift her key themes of duration and adaptability onto inorganic matter. When she realised these inorganic materials added heaps to the conversation, she was hooked.
As such, Elena Popkova is currently preparing a large-scale installation focused on these inorganic rocks which is sure to inject yet another shade of variation to the series which spans time and nature, while reaching out into very human themes.
While Popkova may be a latecomer to the art world, she has clearly found a voice. Having learnt to absorb and analyse the powers of the world around her, she has demonstrated an ability to synthesize complex worldly ideas into simple, minimalist photographs.
If anything, this multifaceted approach of incorporating her scientific career into her artistic endeavors resonates within her work. With Antifragile exclaiming how nature’s beauties are malleable, despite their striking beauty. In such a way, Popkova adopts a clear stance on art; to persist and not fear resistance. To push forwards with one’s own ideas in order to share them with the world.
If nothing else, there is definitely something we can all draw from these rich, grounded ideals.
Antifragility: Life of Trees – Institute of Scientific Communications, Volgograd, RU
Antifragility: Life of Roses – Richas Digest, Cologne, DE
ISC mascots come back – Pyatigorsk University, Pyatigorsk, RU
ISC mascots – Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk, RU