Ekaterina Stepanishcheva (Екатерина Степанищева) is a Ukrainian artist whose silk painting, fabric design, and illustrations become lyrical cartoons through a contemplative process of adding and taking away materials, color and shapes. This way of working achieves a sharpness of contrast. Ekaterina’s decorative style has a contemporary feel, lyrical, brightly colored, amusing, and full of stories.
Ekaterina Stepanishcheva Dialogue Silk Scarf
Attention to education and emphasis on hard work and discipline meant Ekaterina began to develop her technical skills early, a creativity growing under the instruction of drawing, textile design, and silk painting teachers. Ekaterina’s practice is part of an international artistic movement that continually changes, moving between classic decorative arts and modernism, based in part on shared techniques of traditional craft. This is a symbiotic creative sphere, connected by thread and paint to the world of fine art as well. Indeed, Ukraine’s folk-art is remarkably inventive with a long and complex history. This tradition is dear to Ekaterina, who spent time traveling throughout the country, visiting national museums, finding inspiration in the texture, embroidery, motif and traditional symbols.
“I was so impressed with the beauty of the costumes and realized that everyone should see this. There was also the worsening political situation in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. I wanted to invest all of my love to Ukrainian people and our wonderful country. Sending a postcard, people send part of their love to Ukraine. In this series, each Ukrainian woman on the post card is shown dressed in costume which from a particular region of Ukraine. I studied the history of Ukrainian dress and costume, it was a sort of ethnographic project.”
RB: Can you tell me more about your artistic approach and the mediums you use?
KS: I would consider anything and everything as part of my tool box. Why restrict yourself! For the most part I will create marks and textures and I consider an element of the random –of accidents and mistakes part of the process. Being able to be as loose and free as possible, almost child-like in the beginning is extremely important to me. It makes things exciting! I need that element of unknown and surprise to keep me interested. I will then try to contain these elements trapping them through cutout and collage, creating the people, flora, fauna and architecture needed for my narrative.
Cut out and collage is probably the most important thread through my work. Quite often on one side I will be mark-making and experimenting with texture, and on the other, cutting out the shapes needed, making sure as I go that I have no real clue as to how the two will coincide, keeping that spontaneity I crave. I scan the pieces into Photoshop and manipulate and collage them. After printing, I re-work with mixed media, back and forth until happy with the result.
RB: What draws you to lustration? What about this process of adding and subtracting elements and materials?
KS: My inner child leads me to this way of working. Collage pieces are just like building blocks which you can build up and take down as you please, this and the added mixed media lends itself well to that naivety I want to convey. It’s about coming up with a concept for a piece and then taking away until my idea is readable with as little as possible. Shape, color and composition play a part of the finished piece. I guess this comes from my time as an abstract painter. The idea is that I am bringing the two together some way.
RB: Silk Scarves or Dialogue is an interactive project, that allowed you to relinquish control, please tell me more about the conception and production?
KS: This was a live format in which a lot of strangers were involved. I knew that the result will be unpredictable! This project allowed me to let go and accept things as they are. The creation of the collection began with the question: “What is happiness for you?”
Answers came via social networks. I chose to illustrate the response of a woman named Valerilia: “To love and to be loved.”
The next question was asked by Valeriia. And so on, one by one, until the entire plane of the first scarf was filled. For the second scarf, a man named Konstantine asked “Who are we? I illustrated all the answers.
Learn more about the artist via Instagram | Art Step | My Silk Scarf