Sofia Echa appearing in:
New Now, Phillips Auction, New York
11 am, Wednesday, 26 September, 2018
By NOAH BECKER September, 2018
Sofia Echa is a young Russian artist working in New York City. A few years ago I visited a group show she was in and spoke with her about the paintings she was making at that time. We were in touch again when I heard the exciting news that her work is appearing in New Now at Phillips auction house on Wednesday, September 26th. I wanted to ask her more about her background and also about the auction - which would be good news for any artist wanting to have a break-out moment in an art scene as intense as New York City is. So the following is a conversation we had on the eve of the Phillips auction.
Noah Becker: Where were you born and did you go to art school?
Sofia Echa: I was born in Vladivostok, a city on the Far East of Russia. As a teenager I went to my first art school there, learning all the academical things, but years after, when I moved to New York City, I graduated from the National Academy School.
Becker: What materials are you using to make your work?
Echa: I do work on canvases, but what mesmerizes me most is metal. I mostly work with metal sheets (aluminum, stainless steel). You see yourself in the reflection of the work and then you walk away and disappear, and so does your audience. The material is very ‘industrial’, NYC-inspired, but on the other hand it draws me to the ideas of past, time.
Becker: How do you think about color, you use a lot of greys and have a unique technique.
Echa: Grey is a balanced color. ‘It is soundless and motionless’, as Kandinsky said, but it easily becomes chromatic and transforms into something else as I add hues to it. I never have a plan what color palette to use when I come to my studio, but I definitely get inspired by fashion, design, art, and make up. I have colorful mood boards in my studio – even looking at them gives me energy.
Becker: You works are usually glossy, how is that accomplished?
Echa: I use different varnishes to achieve that.
Becker: You spoke about Japan, how does that influence your work?
Echa: Coming from the Far East, Eastern culture has always been a big part of my upbringing. I graduated from the Far Eastern Federal University and studied Japanology. I really wanted to study art and didn’t really cherish my experience of learning about the East every single day. You don’t realize it at first when you are really young, but with years you see this impact on you. I’ve been to Japan several times and even lived there for a little bit. When it’s time for you to leave for good, they say ‘Ichi-go, ichi-e’, which can be interpreted as ‘never again’ or ‘one chance in a lifetime’. The Japanese believe that every moment spent in an encounter should be highly treasured, for it will never occur again. They give such moments their utmost attention and presence, and there is this sadness to it. I’ve have had many encounters like this in my life, and this melancholy inclines me to express things left unsaid with paint.
I am very interested in the Eastern philosophical traditions in general, especially in the Daoist idea of ‘empty and full’, ‘presence and absence’. When I look at paintings, I am watching for the pattern of what is concealed and revealed and how presence celebrates its own absence and absence bleeds into presence. That so is beautiful to me.
Becker: Do you paint with brushes? Talk more about the technical aspect of your work?
Echa: No, I tend not to – I use different metal objects to paint on metal sheets and canvases: working ‘metal on metal’ creates a challenge for me to smear and scrape the paint, but not chaotically. I try to let go and let loose yet stick to compositional direction. To me, it’s the same as it is in our life – knowing when to keep going and when to stop.
Becker: Your work has softness to it. Are you aware of this or trying to make something that is specifically soft and easy to look at?
Echa: I guess it’s just who I am, that’s my energy. And again, that’s a challenge for me to make such soft, glossy, liquid-like strokes with sharp objects.
Becker: In history are there artists that have be inspirational to you?
Echa: To name a few, Gerhard Richter, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Peter Doig are so incredible to me!
Becker: Have you ever worked in sculpture?
Echa: Only when I was at school, but I really want to go into it and play with the forms, not only the surfaces. I’ve learned a little bit about welding, so will be trying myself out in that soon.
Becker: Have you been in any museum shows?
Echa: I’ve been trying to stay focused on my own process lately and haven’t seen a lot of museum shows, but what I enjoyed a lot recently was ‘The Poetry of Nature’ exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, showcasing absolutely magnificent works of the major movements and schools from the Edo period in Japan along with some contemporary ceramics made by Japanese artists.
Becker: What’s next for you after the auction?
Echa: I am currently working on some new canvases and works on metal, getting ready for a solo show in the 450 Park avenue building in New York, right where Phillips auction is. The show will open in October, with an opening reception at the actual auction house (feeling honored to exhibit my work in the same building twice)!
Becker: How did the auction happen and what are your expectations for this auction?
Echa: I met someone from Phillips and showed my work, and after some time they invited me to be a part of their New Now auction, that is going to happen on 26th of September. That is exciting to be in such an auction for the first time being this young, and I will be hoping for the best outcome. WM
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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