The Mystery of the Familiar: Elena Zolotnitsky's domestic discoveries

Growing up an only child in Moscow, Elena Zolotnitsky occupied herself with a game she created folding silver chocolate wrappers into intricate silver designs and tucking them under amber colored beer bottles in a shallow grave of playground dirt for someone else to discover.

Elena still revels in that “first shock of discovery.” Noticing the time it takes to comprehend what you’re actually seeing is what she calls “…a mystery of the familiar… That simultaneous shift of reality, and the recognition of magic.”

We talked with Elena about her work, available on Artfinder, and think you’ll appreciate what she had to say:

1. Why do you make your work? 

Simple. It makes me happy.

2. How did you choose or land on the mediums you use now?

I have always painted with oils. I think it is the most versatile medium. But I like to use different surfaces: paper, canvas, panel, mylar, gold leaf. Each of them brings their own challenges. Choosing to work with or against them makes the whole process more interesting.

3. What are you presently inspired by?

Transformation - is what art and essentially life are about. Night into day, winter into spring, chrysalides into butterflies, "ugly ducklings" into beautiful swans, seed into flower, life into death, thought into an object of desire, inspiration into a work of art.

My new collection called "Extinct Series" is about transformation, evolving, growing, becoming. The whole collection started with a thought: "How to paint a chair without it looking like a chair, when the painting BECOMES something more than a piece of furniture"? 

I named the series "Extinct". It is a collection of semi-abstract characters. They are "portraits" of antique arm chairs, transformed into existence by my imagination. Each of them is "colored" into a certain emotion, dealing with time and space. The first one I painted refused to come to life till I laid the gold leaf application on its backing, reminiscent of vertebrae... That intuitive move transformed the object of an old chair into a species of extinction. The reference that gave the name to the first painting and to the series. I see this collection as a logical progression of my creative journey.

Over the past few years I have been more interested in the abstract qualities of the surface. Color becoming the essential means of expression. With the simplifying of shapes and composition and discovering a new complexity of color and paint application, I am not just painting a picture - I am experiencing one. The physical part of  "experience" involves a lot of scrapings, impasto, transparency, layering and palette knife applications, accidents and false starts - "working" the surface till it starts breathing on its own.

4. Other than your art practice, what other work do you do?

If you are asking about my day job, then nothing - art practice is my day job.

5. What are your current artistic influences?

Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Cezanne, Peter Bruegel, Rembrandt Van Rijn, and everybody else who I can learn from.

6. And finally, what's your least favorite color?

There is no such thing.


If you liked these glimpses of Elena’s work, you may also like the chair portraits we found in to Prague this past Summer or our interview with Tracy Piper, who creates imaginary portraits from ‘found body parts’.

Elena Zolotnitsky’s work is available on Artfinder along with Tracy Piper and a wide and growing selection of stARTup artists.

All stARTup artists are vetted by an independent jury for each fair to ensure that art collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals are discovering and purchasing works from today's top independent artists in the market.

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Find Elena on Instagram: @elenazolotnitsky



Q&A by Content Curator Mica England