New East Digital Archive

Elena Gileva’s striking sculptures wrestle with Russia’s past

8 July 2016

Elena Gileva is interested in how objects convey historical narratives. Her experience of growing up in Russia in the 1990s, when the country was rewriting its recent history, has influenced her handmade sculptures, which appear to writhe and tangle on the surface.

“Throughout my childhood the Ethnographic Museum in St Petersburg had a big effect on me,” the artist told The Calvert Journal. For Cultural Landscape, a project produced during her studies at the Royal College of Art, Gileva reinterpreted museum artefacts such the Soviet postcards on display at St Petersburg's Russian Museum using clay.

Gileva's process often begins with images, although the resulting work is always three-dimensional. Besides Cultural Landscape, the artist has previously turned ritual vessels found in Russian iconography into life-size objects.

She describes working with clay on a larger scale as being both liberating and restrictive: “The main form may take a only a week to construct but it takes several more months of drying and sculpting before it can be fired and then finally glazed.”