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Dreaming Of Utopia

26 Sep 2022
Vivid and vibrant, Ekaterina Dimieva's work reflects her outlook on life. She explains how hope and freedom can motivate your creative senses.

We live in a time of both urgency and hesitation, divided in this moment of collective crisis.

While we dream of a reboot, the journey of recovery comes with an associated sense of both anxiety and imagination. Through the painterly process, Ekaterina Dimieva articulates her work abstractly to explore the world of fantasy, imagination, and the current state of recovery.

She explains her hopeful approach to apprehending the post-pandemic world.

“Yearning, dreaming, and hoping are now more important than ever,” states Dimieva.

“The utopian imagination tends to stir when the world feels shaky, unsafe and wrecked. The pandemic destroyed our familiar pattern of life, and we are now in the process of rebuilding.

“This is the moment to rethink and reset our values and shift our priorities.

“We can use utopia as a tool to create a vision and build hope for the future.”

Life as a birthday party

By exerting pressure on the audience to reconsider their place in the world, Dimieva employs the power of perception and transformation, to engage our capacity for manifesting and fabricating blue skies.

Her exhibition Wild Spring, currently on show at Tāmaki Makaurau's Allpress Gallery reflects some of the aspirational ideas about our collective futures.

Ekaterina Dimieva, Big Wild, 1500 x 1200mm, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Supplied.

They are a series of ‘Energizer Bunnies’ of empathy and enjoyment, working together in concert with our dream-like utopic agencies that directly contrast today’s highly mediated society.

It is life presented as a birthday party.

Working with colour, Dimieva draws upon her personal history and close connection to her Bulgarian origins, to explore the lens of speculative fiction and deep personal insight.

“Saturated colour was always part of my language as it is in a way related to my Eastern European background. There is no holding back - no hesitation.

“I am putting everything on the canvas. It inspires me to try and paint like myself.

“At the core of my practice is the desire for freedom, expansion, and for exuberance. It is this yearning to be seen, to be validated, to spread your wings, to soar, to be free.”

Focus on wellbeing

Ekaterina Dimieva, Never-ending Summer, 1500 x 1200mm, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Supplied.

Dimieva’s artistic practice is stimulating, curious, and fascinating.

It is a ritual of secret histories that connects to the process of knowledge and repetition, unraveling and unfurling of ideas.

This is an artist in pursuit of discovery - looking to identify themes, mining for them like buckets of diamonds. The focus is on engrossing within the magical but equally on the holistic nature of wellbeing.

Dimieva explains “ideally, I would like the viewer to be immersed in these imaginary worlds. My art is born out of the intensity of the present moment, where the audience is given the chance to experience a liberating, hopefully, uplifting feeling.”

This incessant investigation of colour and mark-making is indeed in pursuit of the present but also in constructing a fictitious universe. More than that, it raises a series of issues regarding capitalism that comprises our current growth, focusing on overproduction, consumption, and ultimate destruction.

Ekaterina Dimieva, Two Trees, 1200 x 900mm, acrylic on Canvas. Photo: Supplied.

It is among these recurring themes of the exploration of the human condition, that we find the most innovative dimension of Dimieva’s practice.  

“The aim is to transcend the habitual mind patterns and to see the world afresh,” she enthuses.

“It’s a type of sensory reboot. I would like the viewer’s eye to be able to travel around the painting, looking for the next switch or jump. The paintings are intended to deliver conflicting energies, or at least complex, non-linear intensities.

“You follow the medium and make discoveries along the way. It’s about freedom and letting go.”

Inspired by storytelling

Ekaterina Dimieva, Wild Spring, 1500 x 1200mm, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Supplied.

Dimieva’s practice is contradictory in being both subtle and obvious.

There is a sense that we are walking through a story of an extraordinary work of fiction, opening these windows one by one like the possibilities that embrace the deviation and capture the richness. We are simultaneously experiencing our lavish dreamscapes alongside the visions of nature opening and bursting into bloom.

The works may have begun as empty and bounded white canvases, but this artist draws from many influences.

“As a young person I wanted to be an actress - I have always been mesmerised by the world of theatre, circus, drama, performance, and high emotion,” Dimieva reveals.

Ekaterina Dimieva, The Island, 1200 x 900mm, acylic on canvas. Photo: Supplied.

“I ended up studying literature and spent 10 years working as a copywriter and graphic designer. During that time, I increasingly yearned to do something with my hands. I tried sculpture and ceramics but that somehow wasn’t enough at the time, as I missed working with colour.

“With painting - almost from the very beginning - I was interested in making complex paintings, that worked like riddles, which needed deciphering, and which changed with time.”

Although abstract in form, the experience is all-embracing and continuously blurring our reality. A reminder that images do not live on the canvases but are just mere projections of our powerful minds.

Making your practice your closest companion

Ekaterina Dimieva, Summer Nights, 1500 x 1200mm, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Supplied.

For Dimieva, switching off is a creative approach to tuning in. It is easy to see these learnings translating into her creative practice and channeled to awaken the capacity for our minds to migrate and space out.

“One important lesson I’ve learned along the way is to allow space for the creative process to take place – to make room.

“I try to switch off as much as possible – Good work ethic is essential – it’s very easy to get distracted.”

These are artistic projections of a curious gaze toward a personal state of hope and joy.

At its most, this world is seductive, tapping into the visual stream of consciousness and storytelling that is both innovative and exploratory. But most importantly, it is a reminder that no matter how we are feeling, we can still believe in magic, and heal through making art.

“The best piece of advice I ever got was from Maggie Hambling (a British artist). She taught me that you should make your art your best friend.

“You go to it when you’re happy, when you’re sad or when you’re lonely. No matter how you feel – you can always go to your art and have a conversation with it.”  

While our capacity to generate dreams seems limitless, our drive for exploitation and overconsumption is often misaligned with those aspirations.

Reshaping and resetting our priorities and relationship with the natural world and our fellow inhabitants is in order.

Wild Spring is an invitation daring us to imagine what the future holds for all.

Ekaterina Dimieva is one of the artists participating in TBI’s Toipoto Mentoring Programme. For more information on how to apply and what the requirements are, click here.

Wild Spring exhibition is currently on show at the Allpress Gallery until Friday 30 September.