Another reality

Elle Decor Magazine, 2003

Georges Sand thought that simplicity is the hardest thing in the world, and only true professionals and geniuses can reach it. An exhibition of Katia Rozhkova was shown At the Artplay gallery. Rozhkova draws simple objects such as buckets, plates, typewriting machines, trees — objects we know since childhood, but in them is hiddent the entire universe.

Katia Rozhkova draws with an ordinary Koh-i-noor pencil. She takes her time, is thorough and meticulous. Every crack, every scratch and nick — the traces that time leaves on things… She likes to play with her pencil, to take pleasure in how the silvery lead follows the unattainable and yet extremely simple logic of the object being depicted. She likes to play on the surface of the paper with different shades of gray, black, and of the silvery metallic color. The objects of her pencil meditations are her personal mandalas.
She draws plates, buckets, sewing machines, telephones, old camerals, trying to use her obedient and diligent pencil to peek on the other side of the universe, where real everyday objects lose their connections with the world and become objects of meditations, mystical mirrors that reflect our daylight in a new way. The Artplay gallery showed Katia’s famous plates as part of her recent exhibit. “I like looking closely at old metal plates, such as those I found at the flea market in Beijing. If you turn them to the light, you see all sorts of scratches whose image forms a pattern. In Mongolia there were such sacrificial plates; they have a direct connection with the mandala.”

But first Katia prepares her base. She lays down the gesso and creates the texture to which pencil lead will later be applied; this greatly affects the final result. “Generally, this is very painstaking work; it takes a lot of time. It feels like work therapy. And I use a lot of pencils.” I think she knows first-hand what calligraphy is. She knows how to refuse herself and turn into an intrument, as did the ancient Japanese who wrote the same character hundreds of times. How to leave the earth and feel the tiny and yet enormous distance between the heel and the floor. And here’s how it happened. At some point Katia really ended up in Japan. After graduating from VGIK, she received the Monbuse Japanese grant, and spent two years at the Tokyo Academy of the Arts. “I think everyone should at some point go far away. Maybe for a long time. Leave your own, familiar things, try to adapt to a new culture; it’s good for you”, she says. But now it’s not her main concern. As the ancient Chinese used to say, “Days run by so fast that nothing remains unchanged.” And everything changed for Katia. “Yes, now I’m closer to the West.”

And still, when you google “Katia Rozhkova”, you always see references to the East. “That’s because my first exhibit had to do with the East, and the plates — the seven mandalas — were done specifically for the “East” project of the Kino gallery. The exhibit at the Manezh was called “Toward the Himalayas”. But Katia’s affair with the East began much earlier, long before Japan and the exhibit at the Manezh. She spent five years as a child in China together with her parents. “At some point this theme began to oppress me too much; I wanted to distance myself from it. But it’s an important part of my life, of my childhood that I spent in China. Everything there is like a hallucination. Those are unconscious years when you absorb everything with your skin, not understanding what’s going on around you, you’re just breathing in the air and taking it in.” Now Katia is working on a project called “The West”, also launched by the Kino gallery. “The subtitle there is ‘Time machine’. I was struggling what to do with it for a long time, and then I understood: I had to reproduce everything literally. Time machines for me are the old Underwood typewriter, the Singer sewing machine, the old camera, and so forth. And all of this will also be done with a Koh-i-noor. So my affair with the pencil continues.”

Tatyana Arziani, Tatyana Parfenova