from Robin Cracknell, London 2007
Amongst the tens of thousands of artists displaying their work on the Saatchi online website, Ekaterina Ezhkova’s gallery is one of the very few that made me pause and linger and revisit again and again. As a theme, memory and nostalgia can be overplayed and there is certainly no shortage of artists out there mining this territory but Ezhkova has a way of ‘restaging’ certain family scenarios that are both comforting yet oddly unsettling as well; young children lined up in winter coats, the austere, formidable matriarch behind dark glasses, a young girl staring up at the camera, the photograph lifting her out of time and now revisited again as a painting. A mark of Ezhkova’s talent and her ability to connect with her audience is that, despite the fact that I am neither the age nor the nationality of her subject matter, I saw and felt my own childhood in her pictures. The poses of her figures are those of my own parents and grandparents in my family album and it is remarkable to me that she has captured the authenticity of age so well with her palette of subdued colour and economy of line. I love the way she leaves parts of the canvas bare and some figures completely painted while others merely sketches as though, like all memories, there is always something indistinct, something half-forgotten, a feeling that inevitably remains unresolved. There is so much feeling in Ezhkova’s paintings yet they are completely rinsed of any sort of obvious sentimentality. The faces are not conventionally beautiful and few are smiling but they are all imbued with the same sort of truth as the archtypal family snapshot and the figures not merely models but real people, loved, mourned, and remembered. Ezhkova’s narrative seems one of genuine affection but there is more than a hint of sadness here--a sadness of longing perhaps, for people and places she can never revisit except by painting them. Ezhkova’s technique--particularly in her newer work in which she paints over a coloured pattern, sometimes allowing that layer to show through--is quite accomplished for an artist who is still relatively young. Her subject matter is universal but her command of that subject is rare and I have seen precious few few artists that explore childhood and family relationships with such gravitas and truth yet still with such affection. Her work is confessional and obviously very personal but it is extraordinary in the way it seems to include us, the viewer, in her story. In every painting, there seems to be a story attached, as though we are only seeing a glimpse of a wider narrative and it is that glimpse, that curiosity for more detail, that makes these paintings so compelling. Like childhood itself, Ezhkova’s work is profound, inscrutable and quite unforgettable.