When paintings escape: Evgenia Ermilova on sculpture painting

Two hands move with dexterity over a piece of plywood, painted grey. A palette knife heavy with cream-coloured decorative plaster gently scours the surface, creating a coarse backdrop over the wood.

Russian artist Evgenia Ermilova, currently in the city for a workshop, is hailed as one of the few artists who has mastered the difficult art of sculpture painting, a technique that combines both sculpture making and painting. She also has her own line of material, which she supplies to different parts of the world — including India.

As she works, petals — of various colours and shapes — take form. The knife gently scoops up plaster and spreads it on to the surface to form a voluminous flower.

The flowers are so full of life; they seem to jump out of the circular base, and into the real world. The nuances in their texture invites one to feel them. Then linger.

Evgenia plays with decorative plaster (mixed with fibreglass) and a palette knife to create a form. Thanks to the sheer texture of the material, the process is incredibly satisfying to watch.

Organiser of the workshop, Thaseen Khalid, founder of Crafts with Love, explains, “In this technique, an experienced artist takes only 20 minutes to finish a piece. The same work, on the other hand, would require at least eight hours of a beginner’s time.”

Evgenia says her tryst with this technique began four years ago. “When I started out I used palette knives and oil paints — but I thought it would make more sense to use plaster of Paris, instead of oil paintings to show the volume on canvas,” she says.

She adds that the idea was to make the flowers (a common motif in this art form) appear as real and massive as possible — to achieve this, she experimented with materials. Her own kits, which includes tinted plasters optimised for DIY — also came into the market in this way.

“In a painting, you can change the colours even as you work on it. That isn’t the case here. It’s a sculpture so we can’t redo colours or forms if anything goes wrong,” explains the artist, “I have tried to make butterflies and birds too, but I think flowers have many elements to them that make them look more artistic.”

Though usually done on plywood and framed later to be hung on walls, she says the artform is now adapting to everyday objects as well, like on a vase or a pen stand.

Most of her work waltzes around pastel shades, rarely tip toeing into a dark blue or pink. The reason may be geographical, she says. “In Russia, we have six long months of winter and our eyes are accustomed to the grey weather and its various shades. Pastels rule Nature at that time.”

The artist, who has an impressive following on Instagram, where she has 140 thousand followers, has started online masterclass sessions in Russia. The catch is, however, that it has not yet been translated to English.

This isn’t the first time Evgenia is coming to India: her earlier workshops in Delhi and Mumbai had gained a lot of traction.

“One of the students from Delhi made an exact replica of my work. It was so good that nobody could recognise which one was mine,” Evgenia says with a smile.

Needless to say, her expectations from Chennai, too are along the same lines.

The sculpture painting masterclasses by Evgenia Ermilova are underway at the newly opened Ivy Room, Chennai Citi Centre till May 5.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 8:49:49 AM |

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