Yelena Popova
Made Ground
1 October – 17 December 2022

Thurs – Sun, 11am – 4pm
or by appointment outside of those times

Entry to this exhibition is free

This exhibition is wheelchair accessible

We are pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Nottingham-based artist Yelena Popova, entitled Made Ground, which opens on 1 October.

For her exhibition this autumn, Yelena Popova has produced a new group of paintings, for which she has used soil and rock that she collected locally to Cample. A new substantial painting installation, it continues and extends a wider body of work that Yelena calls ‘post-petrochemical paintings’, which she began in 2017 during a residency at Girton College, Cambridge, where she worked with gathered materials and natural pigments for the first time. Installed by Yelena in our upstairs space, these new paintings are to date her most sustained exploration of a place through soil, stone, pigment, gesture and colour.

Made Ground, the exhibition’s title, is the term used to refer to land where natural and undisturbed soils have largely been replaced by man-made or artificial materials. In developing her work for Cample, Yelena has drawn upon her interest in the relationship between geological depository and the kinds of artificial deposits or changes to land surface that are a legacy of local industries such as mining, particularly in agricultural landscapes such as Dumfries & Galloway’s. Mining for materials and mineral resources has happened across the region over centuries and while some remnants of this industrial activity are evident on the land and more obviously so in the built environment, other traces remain hidden from view underground in the soil.

An interest in land use, in our industrial activities and heritage is often central to Yelena’s work. Whilst at Cample, she visited several former local sandstone quarries whose faces, for all their subsequent reclamation by natural forces, continue to expose registers of deep time alongside more recent human histories of extraction. A large ornamental carved sandstone fruit bowl in the grounds of nearby Drumlanrig Castle, overgrown with moss, fascinated her for the way in which the moss will slowly turn the stone back into earth. Walking in the area, by the river, she was drawn to an iron-rich rock, which ‘bled’ a deep terracotta pigment.

Yelena gathered soils, pieces of red sandstone and terracotta brick fragments from a number of locations, including Kings Quarry from which the stone for Drumlanrig Castle was extracted, and from the rivers Scaur and Nith. Seeking to distill these experiences of the landscape and to bring them to the canvas, she then ground the samples by hand into pigments in her studio. The resulting pigments comprise an array of richly varied reds, pinks and browns, directly reflecting the geology of the area whilst also evoking many other things for the artist – ‘meat, blood, red wine, cocoa…’ Working on canvases of varying scales and shapes, she applies the earthen-coloured pigments in thin washes of colour in softly curved, sweeping and swirling abstract gestures.

In addition to her painting installation, Yelena also presents two textiles works in our downstairs spaces. The first of those references the extensive coniferous plantations that are a major feature of the working landscape in Dumfriesshire, producing as it does 30% of Scotland’s annual timber harvest. Measuring 100x120cm, it has been hand-knitted for Yelena by knitter Irina Miloserdova, using a variation of Sanquhar Knit, a distinctive geometric knitting pattern that originated in the town of Sanquhar in Dumfries & Galloway in the 17th century.

Alongside this, Yelena has also included a limited edition jacquard woven throw. Titled Hunting Scene with a Ray Cat (2022), the design is taken from her initial sketch for a large jacquard woven stage curtain for Solway Hall community centre in Whitehaven, produced as part of a new public art commissions programme ‘Deep Time: Commissions for the Lake District Coast’.

Join us on Saturday 17  December at 4.30pm for our closing event. Yelena Popova will be in conversation with director Tina Fiske. They will talk about Yelena’s exhibition in the context of her wider practice.

Join us for festive refreshments as we bring our programme to a close.  

Artists’ edition
Hunting Scene with Ray Cat, 2022

This Artists Throw is Yelena Popova’s initial sketch for a large jacquard woven stage curtain for Solway Hall community centre in Whitehaven, produced as part of a new public art commissions programme ‘Deep Time: Commissions for the Lake District Coast.’

We hold a range of limited edition works by artists who have been included in our programme. All income from our Artists’ Editions will support our public programme.

Yelena Popova works across a range of media, including painting, tapestry, video and installation. There is a stress placed upon the notion of balance within her work, whether political, aesthetic or metaphysical. Reflecting her upbringing in the USSR, she is influenced by the tenets of Russian Constructivism, while often seeking to discuss the constant development of industrialism and the landscape of contemporary capitalism. Growing up in a secret Soviet nuclear settlement, Popova has turned her attention to nuclear history and heritage undertaking series of research trips around decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK to produce The Scholar Stones Project commissioned by Holden Gallery, Manchester in 2020. 

Yelena was born in the Urals in the Soviet Union. She has lived in the UK for over twenty years, and lives and works in Nottingham. She graduated with an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art in 2011. Her work is included in Slow Painting curated by Martin Herbert for Hayward Gallery touring programme (2019) and in Vitamin P3 (New Perspectives in Painting) published by Phaidon (2016). She was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Award in Painting and was included in 100 Painters of Tomorrow published by Thames and Hudson (2014). Yelena has attended a number of residencies, among them Girton College; The Art House, Wakefield; CCA Andratx, Mallorca. Recent solo exhibitions include: Landscapes of Power, Philipp von Rosen, Cologne; The Scholar Stones Project, Holden Gallery, Manchester (2020) Her Name is Prometheus, L’etranger, London; Townlets, After Image, Nottingham Contemporary (2016) and Unsensed, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle (2015).