Bookmarks: Ekaterina Panikanova

artist book: a work of art realized in the form of a book.

The definition may sound simple, but the world of artist books can be a bewildering place. From the familiar pairing of images and text, to sculptures created out of paper and complicated bindings that create a performance each time the book is opened, nearly anything can be called an artist book if there is intention and consideration. This series showcases artists from different realms of the art world exploring the structure and meaning of the book.

Many wonderful stories are contained in books, waiting to be read. Using books as her canvas, Russian-born artist Ekaterina Panikanova creates densely layered paintings that look as though their stories have spilled out over the pages. The open books are arranged in irregular grids, incorporating elements of installation and collage into the three-dimensional works.

After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts of St. Petersburg, Russia, Panikanova visited a flea market where she found a 700-page manuscript at one of the booths. She was, “struck by the difference between its original purpose and how it had ended up.” She took it home and used it as the base for a painting. “Paper, card and books have a fundamental value in my work.” She says, “I see them as a body of rules, dogmas, traditions religious beliefs and scientific discoveries which, right or wrong for their time, human beings had simultaneously enclosed into cages…I like working on old books: I like the way that underlines, notes and scribbles enable me to perceive the personalities of their former owners. In Russia, there is a difference between an icon which has been ‘prayed to’ and one which has not; a book that has been read acquires the same energy as an icon which has been worshiped.”

Panikanova incorporates books of all genres, from psychology texts to plays to novels. She reads each text carefully, pairing them together to express a cohesive idea. The imagery ties in with the age of the books, taking on a vintage quality. In acrylic and ink, recurring visual themes such as woodland animals, baked goods, and children serve as Panikanova’s personal metaphors for animal instinct, tradition, and movement.

Panikanova now lives and works in Rome where she scourers markets for materials and is represented by Gallery Z20. 

Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures.