By Euletha Dukes
Taking a tour of Russian-born artist Ekaterina Abramova’s paintings is akin to taking a tour through a lush world of cultures, realms, and even galaxies. As Abramova takes us on a personal tour of her collection currently showing at ZAVO Restaurant at 1011 Third Ave. in Manhattan, we delve deeper into the rich symbolism she uses in her work. Spirals that represent parallel universes. Fish that represent shared knowledge and the sea of humanity. Moons, gods, and goddesses. Rich blues, greens, and gold. The experience is like stargazing through a telescope when nearby stars inspire us to peer further into the universe. Zoom in on one detail of Abramova’s paintings, and a world of layered stories opens up before your eyes. Stories with roots in Slavic, Celtic and Indian mythology are purposefully woven into each piece, with deeper meaning than meets the eye.
The diptych, “Silence,” is, to use a play on words, truly breathtaking. It is a golden silhouette of a woman’s profile with a finger held to her mouth, with ribbons of deep blue and green flowing down the length of her hair. Abramova points out that the woman represented in gold leaf conveys the meaning of power sourced from the universe, something beyond mere human power. If blue signifies royalty, that means we’re not looking simply at a queen but at a being of a much higher order. We’re looking at a goddess. In a deeper sense, Abramova appeals to our sense of individuality and the work we are entrusted to do while we’re alive. “We are royal in terms of uniqueness,” the artist says. “We all come to this earth with a mission. We can’t leave the earth without completing that mission.”
Upstairs in the dining room, the work titled “The Ark of Life Journey” hangs on the wall in front of a large family-style table. This is fitting, considering the story being told on the canvas. The painting depicts a wooden boat afloat on swirling waves, packed with people of all ages, from all walks of life. A large fish swims in the undulating ocean waves. The inspiration behind this piece is a Slavic folk tradition in which everyone drinks from the same wooden jar as it is passed around the room. The drink itself is empowering, and the act of partaking is an act of unity. In essence, everyone becomes a part of the same tribe. You can almost imagine everyone on that boat enjoying a meal together at the long dinner table in this very room.
Taking in the expanse of Abramova’s series “Flow I” and “Flow II” feels like peering into a window of the universe. Fine lines and spirals, miniscule dots, and textured gold flow on the canvas, symbolic of not only the infinite nature of the universe but also how deeply we are connected to it, as Abramova sees things. “There are so many similarities of galaxies within ourselves and the world around us,” she explains. “Our cells and our DNA are like microcosms and macrocosms, like stars and galaxies within us. Even tree roots look like galaxies. We have more in common with all of it than we think.”
It goes without saying that painstaking work, intense focus, discipline, and research were required to make each of these pieces come alive. One painting could require two weeks straight of nonstop work for 12 hours per day at the canvas, while another could take more. But all of this speaks to Abramova’s purpose and her vision for what she aims to accomplish with her artistry. She says, “I want to unite people with respect to each other. We cry the same tears for the same reason. We’re all the same.” All nine paintings in Abramova’s collection at Zavo speak beautifully to that mission. In layering so many worlds on each canvas, she’s using her work to do exactly that. To unite us.
Ekaterina Abramova’s work is on display at Zavo through July 7.