Are we capable of knowing reality in its true nature? What is reality, if not a projection of ourselves? So, are we able to know ourselves and others to the fullest, until we reach that pulsing wave that is the human subconscious? Or are we perhaps victims of a passive sleep, in which everything happens by letting existence itself flow?
In an intimate and infinite journey, Ekaterina Berestova digs into her own unconscious, revealing its depths to herself first. The search for the infinite and the pursuit of primordial instinct allow her, through the medium of photography, to give a glimpse of what exists in her subconscious, a glimpse correlated only to the moment in which the photograph is captured. It is therefore important to specify that here we are talking about nothing but space and time: space is interior and the need is for introspection; but all this can only be revealed in the natural and personal time of the ego, a time that goes beyond seconds, minutes, hours. But of this time, we can only grasp very brief moments.
These instants are symbols and, therefore, brief extracts and allegories of an impression, a fear or a desire. We enter into this personal flow and we seem to almost reach a dimension of deep sleep, where the light is the projection of the unconscious itself and is, as she says, everything.
I’ll leave you with the interview, adding that, for me, Ekaterina Berestova’s work is a slow process towards disillusionment, a pachydermic disintegration and a monumental tearing of flesh as a function of another truth, in the hope of discovering a Beyond that, perhaps, is meant to move us forward without ever being reached. All of this, to me, sounds like Mer De Revs II by How to Disappear Completely.
Hi Katia, I’m glad you are taking the time to answer my questions. First of all, I can see in the bio on your website that you started photographing around 2010. Also, it is written that in 2017 you started “to shoot consciously, to develop directions that can be characterized as psychedelic photography, expressionism, the embodiment of subconscious images through reality.” Could you tell us about your path? How did you get in touch with photography? What raised the need to use photography in order to express yourself? What process led you to develop a photographic consciousness that revealed itself in 2017? Is it all directly connected with your painting work?
Hello, thank you for the invitation and your wonderful questions, I will try to answer you as constructively as possible, Matteo.
Yes, these dates are indicated in the biography. I started photographing at school, the first camera was FED 2, my grandfather’s camera, a Soviet analogue of Leica. Also I have been drawing from early childhood, and my path was immediately decided – I am an artist.
Probably because of this I paid little attention to photography. I photographed some stages of life. It wasn’t creative work.
But at the same time, I changed cameras, digital and other film ones, but the whole process was somehow not conscious.
But something happened in 2017. And within one day I saw what I was shooting. Somehow I realized. Further, I did not let go of the camera. I began to call models, to work a lot in the city and in nature.
Your work seems to be deeply inspired by your own personal and introspective search. Other than these, is there any photographer or artist that inspired you in the beginning?
It is interesting that I was completely far from the field of photography, did not know the history at all and did not even imagine that this is a whole industry. I really, as you noticed, at that time, was deeply immersed in my introspection.
But at the same time, my vision developed. I studied artists a lot, and of course I came across photographic works, but this became a discovery later.
As soon as I started shooting, like-minded people appeared in my life. In St. Petersburg, there are a number of unique authors. And I got to know them. But I cannot say that someone personally had an influence on me. The city itself had more influence. St. Petersburg has an amazingly strong image. Very deep. And every poet becomes his servant.
So it was in the beginning. Now I certainly have a number of names in art and photography. People who influenced me, I can probably list them.
Art: Pavel Filonov, Chaim Soutine, Edvard Munch, Van Gogh, Kazimir Malevich, Alfred Kubin, Dürer, Chelishchev, Chekrygin and there are still more.
Photography: Of course, these are Julia Margaret Cameron, Witkin, Hans Balmer, Deborah Turbeville, Irina Ionesco, Ellen Rogers and of course many more authors, even from documentary photography I adore Koudelka and Mario Giacomelli, etc.
Of course, in every field there are many names that I love.
Taking a look at your work, seems like you are taking us through a dreaming path, walking between your own dreams. The images are raw, distorted and I perceive them almost tactfully, like I can almost touch them and feel their texture. Is it possible that images have these singular characteristics because they arise from something as unknowable, distant and incommunicable as human soul and nature and, in this case, yours?
Yes, you are right, the figurative language in which I speak comes from the depths. I seek space without time, the nature of deep primordial sleep. Identity and originality. But of course that feeling of strong love and sadness at the same time. Some kind of harmonious general and particular and universal.
Like Bergson’s time of the ego, in your work everything seems to travel according to a subjective time, an unquantifiable time in which the Being manifests itself to the viewer and the passage of time is determined only by this factor. All this seems to follow the path of the search for a truth in an indefinite beyond and allows us to take steps in an almost dreamlike dimension, accompanied in the understanding of your truth, but in the search for ours. Do you agree with these statements? Do you believe that your personal process can influence the viewer in order to search for their own nature?
The definition that you gave is slightly deformed by the translation and the general thread of the essence is lost. But I seem to agree. The space that my art creates is different from the general flow. This is the third dimension that is created due to the interaction between me and the object (human/nature/city/object, etc.), a totality appears between us, this is no longer me and not an object, but a common child. 50% percent me and 50% object.
Yes, I think such a creative method can be considered the language of gaining knowledge for the disclosure of human nature. But here are rather touched the questions of the eternal, in our temporary world.
Two series in particular have caught my attention from certain points of view: they are the series of nudes and Ism Cloud. Both works have the visual characteristic of looking like faded memories, as if to sanction a distance that increases over the course of time and that inevitably create a feeling of mystery. Could you tell us about these two works? What idea stands behind the nudes series and the making of Ism Cloud? Is there a direct link between your poetics and the feeling of distance that I just mentioned?
The series you are talking about. Yes, there is such a feeling, thanks to the old film, noise, almost dissolved image, in this there are hints of memories, maybe not even your own, dreams, emerging dreams like mirages. Yes, I like this kind of image.
About the nude series.
I love to portray the model nude, but it has a certain methodology. Asexualization of nature.
Those. although the model is naked, but rather she is naked spiritually. Bare. In these photographs there is no sexual desire to possess, to take a body. At least I hope for this effect.
Streamlining of the soul.
About the series IZ MY. This is a medium format story, I probably continue it. In principle, I do not shoot a series, my thoughts are within the framework of one work. But along the way I collect and combine common ideas. I remember those shots, there is again a sense of freedom. Scale and dream, yes these topics are very important to me. This is a kind of journey of Don Quixote.
Let’s talk about light. The immediate impression one gets looking at your shots is the very strong symbolic component linked to light. The nature of the light seems to be without a physical source, like it is a projection of a divine being in your subconscious. At this point I begin to think that all the work is a conscious projection of the subconscious itself, a controlled instinct that catches what it is possible to collect from the subconscious and “demosaicizes” the information by returning what it is possible to process. That said, what is your opinion on the concept expressed with light in your shots? What role do you think the subconscious can play in this situation? Is there a point when this process becomes conscious? If yes, how?
You have very interesting questions! Yes, light, this is very important, in fact everything is light.
And yes, my perception, or rather my work reminds me of Plato’s cave. Where there is a crack and light comes out of it and there is a need to convey information from outside to others.
But it’s all subjective, After all, I’m like a hostage to my own skull.
Of course the unconscious is half of me. It seems to me that the poet is half torn off, and the other half is completely merged with everyone. And he feels a general need. And the thinker in this case knows how to cure it.
Religious feeling is very similar to art. For me, they are really one source. Prayer and process are very similar.
Beauty in its absolute liberates and draws nearer to God.
The work seems to be expressed and to express a hidden language, a silence behind which lies the failure of trying to communicate and connect, an extreme result that was never achieved and, due to this, we are forced to feel the need to understand ourselves through other means, not the mere words. A slight sense of despair makes its way and is perceptible in the images. In this case, The lost children is the work that in my opinion refers the most to these concepts just expressed. Can you tell us about this work? Do you agree with the concepts expressed in the question? How was The lost children born? What is the meaning or, if you prefer, the necessity behind this work?
I agree with the definition if the translation is correct. But the need to be common, united, to be whole with the outside, I feel it vividly.
The series “Lost Children” is more about my personal experience, maybe even about my friends.
But the topic is quite broad and applicable on several levels.
Specifically in my case, this is a story about people whom I have lost. At the moment of a certain transitional period. During the period of the formation of the personality, search for their own boundaries of morality, not everyone can cope with the experience of knowing oneself. Many give up and leave. They cannot cope with the pressure of civilization, they cannot cope with the power of their own habits and emotions. Can’t get out of their own labyrinth and see it and accept it. I guess this is a series about it.
Furthermore, The lost children seems to speak of a lived time, an achieved disillusionment that has left traces of the past in the present. At this point it is clear that time has never been a linear flow but a continuous intersection of timelines outside the present. It seems that all your work, not only The lost children, is a huge love letter towards the experience and the reality of the sensations and emotions that pervaded it, a hymn to them which however precludes the possibility of continuing to understand them as deeply. Do you think this point of view of the work can have its own truthfulness? What is your idea on the subject of disillusionment?
You very sensitively and deeply perceived and understood my work. It is a joy for me to hear such clear thoughts, to hear my work. Thank you.
Yes, in a series are prints on the walls, some random but very imaginative. Yes, perhaps my manifesto is about time.
I love time. And in art it is sometimes more important. Looking at the paintings in the museum, I prefer cracks and yellowed oil. Looking at the sculptures I love the departed nose and lost hands.
I like to watch the creativity of time. During its work with cities, with living beings, it is like an instrument, like a brush of life.
The translator translates your question to me like this: “How do you feel about disappointment”?
Of course this state, this feeling takes place in the general spectrum. But on the whole, it is probably palpable, a note in my works. Such sadness of nostalgia, a kind of pause and a huge empty space. There is probably cold in my works too. Probably I consider this state to be truthful – what means truthful, it is harmonious. It is not happy and not, some kind of golden mean – but this is not indifference, there is awareness and respect for the common event, so to speak. I mean existence.
Speaking about love letters, your series on St. Petersburg looks like a big love letter to your hometown, an intimate portrait of the city according to your emotional and sometimes almost critical perception. Can you tell me more about this? What is St. Petersburg for you and what did you want to express with this series?
Yes, you correctly noticed my love and my relationship. And I already even in the last question managed to touch on this topic.
The city is amazing. And by the way, it is somewhat similar to Rome, only such a little inversion. I managed to visit Rome in 2010, I was still young and had little knowledge, but I felt the general spirit, the architects managed to keep it. It was very easy to navigate the city.
So, Petersburg is like a person. For example, the ancient Siberians believed that the earth is God and they walk on it. There is such a feeling in the city.
But the city is gloomy, and only not long ago I realized, having lived for 4 years in Moscow, that I cannot live in St. Petersburg. I feel bad there. There is some abyss there. And a very heavy background.
A lot of human destinies and they all seem to remain there, their stories seem to not be erased.
An even greater role is in the appearance of the city, because this is the real history of the arts of Europe, which was conditionally placed on a foggy and cold swamp.
This cocktail is very inebriant.
Your work deserves a little digression on the more manual side of paintings and drawings. I can’t help but notice that here your visual freedom explodes in its whole being, whether it is the image in black and white or in color, sometimes carefully selected and sometimes mixed in large numbers. But here too there is that chaotic, free and personal side and, here too, there is the same relationship with the time of the ego. There is a great deal of experimentation in shapes, spaces and lines and there is great freedom of expression. But perhaps it is precisely here that we almost get to know the Beyond, everything that goes beyond the sight and that lies at the end of the research we have talked about. Can you tell me what it means for you to create these objects manually? How long have you been creating them? Is the nature of these works similar to the nature of your photographs or is it part of another parallel need? What are you looking for when you make these paintings and drawings?
Yes, photography freed painting from the shackles of the shaped world. Thanks to this, I have a huge field for the study of what is beyond the surface.
I had a large series “external / internal self-portrait”. I painted myself, my face. And the second picture was about what is happening inside. My state, my ideas, fears, dreams, desires, etc., what is covered by the wall.
I’ve always wondered what’s going on inside.
Therefore, I consider academic art to be a kind of licking of form.
Pictural art can be great, it can turn a person outward, decompose it into atoms, create a difference between them, and in general, all this can take place not in the usual course of time, but in principle simultaneously.
I draw a lot, you can say I live in a workshop, it is at my house. I have been drawing all the time probably since 2016, and in general – of course, since early childhood.
But my work is not only from my head, I also love nature, I go to plein air. Drawing is a very important activity and it is different from photography. Here the image is built from zero. Grows out of a white sheet.
And with photography, I’m more like a fisherman. I don’t need to weave a fabric of fish atoms to have something to catch.
We are almost at the end and now the question that spontaneously comes to mind is: is it possible that all your work is nothing more than a search for your personal truth? Are you asking us to follow you on this journey, to be active participants in the research or are you asking us to observe and accept all that we can see as part of a completely free nature? And taking it a step further, can we say that all of this is connected to the past, as if it is a large archive of memories from which you try to “re-export” a truth once known?
You have a very clear eye. You really feel what I do and it surprises me.
There is a rootstock, of course, I am very connected with everything that was in civilization, and also with those who expressed and created against this background, with artists
I am not asking to be a spectator or a participant. I ask to be in three states at the same time.
Participant, spectator and external observer of this spectacle.
Spectacle is a rough word for life, but some philosophers use it. Yes, this method is applicable. After all, work is a certain segment of life that, demonstrating, with a stopped moment, keeping an idea / thought – like a pause: I propose to analyze it, feel it, understand it and participate, probably this is a reaction.
There is an irony in this act/display of a work of art.
I fully reveal my own nature, tell about myself and about what was revealed to me about others, about life. I know.
This is some kind of invitation – that’s welcome to my home!
But when a guest arrives, he gets to himself.
We have reached the end of the interview, and before thanking you I want to ask you: are there any particular projects you are working on at the moment and you would like to talk about? What are your plans for the future?
Thank you Matteo for preparing such a large and deep interview!
I don’t think in terms of projects at all. I am very impulsive and give myself to the moment, intuition and impulse.
I keep taking pictures of people. Myself and the world around.
It’s hard to say about the future. External events are absolutely insane.
Of course I want to continue to work / learn.
I want to be able to express IT.
And get closer.
Thank you very much for your work. I hope there will be opportunity to work more.
Sincerely, Katya Berestova
I want to thank you, Katya, for taking the time to answer my questions, I’m really glad you enjoyed them and it was a pleasure to talk to you analyzing your wonderful work.
Matteo Nisticò, co-founder