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Natalia Koren Kropf Reflects on Art Making and Discovering the World

I refer to life as a process - says visual artist Natalia Koren Kropf in a statement published on the Artios Gallery website, a New York-based enterprise that represents her. And indeed, her art follows her thought trajectory. The processes happening around us, both visible and invisible, find their way onto her fascinating canvasses. Life's energies reveal themselves through vibrant abstract forms coiled and intertwined, as everything living on this planet is.

Natalia's ideas about the interconnectedness of natural energies and those human-made — for her new series Trajectories she mentioned electromagnetic fields, UV rays, and similar as inspiration — are transformed into formal elements, which have the power to transpose the viewer "into the realm of physical harmony."

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Natalia is a classically trained artist who explores the meaning of our existence and the forces in the workings beyond the material reality. She immigrated to the US in 1991 and has since participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. As a member of many art organizations, including the Art Students League of New York, Monotype Guild of New England, the Pushkin Society Artists Guild, and the National Association of Women Artists, where she served as a president, Natalia continues to share her knowledge and promote art education. 

Her most recent series, Trajectories and Curvatures, is an extension of her research into movement, interconnectedness, and light. Art historical and historical references are also present, both in formal and conceptual elements, as she looks into the ancient trade routes and artists who masterfully transformed the forces of nature into simplified visual vocabulary, such as Hokusai. The color palette and the choice of materials draw from natural elements and leave clues for viewers to decipher because "the work left without feedback is like an unsung song."

In an interview with Widewalls, Natalia Koren Kropf talked about her process, her continuous fascination with the world, philosophical and aesthetic questions she tries to answer with her art, and announced her upcoming project with Art Plexus Group.

Left: Natalia Koren Kropf - Silver Lining, acrylic on canvas / Right: Natalia Koren Kropf - Inner Space, tempera on panel

Exploring the Great Universal Puzzle

Widewalls: You are a classically trained artist who draws inspiration from science, humanity, and nature, among other themes. What can you tell us about yourself and your artistic journey so far?

Natalia Koren Kropf: My true inspiration comes from observing nature. For years and years, I recorded what I saw around me by painting landscapes and portraits, drawing forms and textures, studying human anatomy, range of movement, and dance.

Naturally, during these years, I started composing my own versions of the visual dynamic by simplifying motion trajectories into curvatures, obtaining a gradual understanding of the interconnected universe by learning about quantum physics and string theory through my spiritual practice, poetry, and intuitive sense of oneness. So far, my artistic journey has been fueled by curiosity about who I am in this great universal puzzle.

Widewalls: Your two new series, Curvatures and Trajectories, deal with the notions of interconnectedness, movement, and light. How did you get interested in these topics?

NKK: To tell you the truth, I am always interested in these topics. As long as I can remember, I have been curious about the world. Does it have a beginning and end? How vast is the space-time continuum? I have been making multiple inquiries about world models and theories and studied different schools of thought from various cultures.

All of that experience led me to portray fragments of my understanding. It boils down to abstract themes of interconnectedness, movement, and light. I do not pretend to gain a summarized worldview. However, I came up with the visual language as I integrated my experience of art-making and my discoveries about the world.

Natalia Koren Kropf - Bounded, stoneware

The Curvatures Series

Widewalls: In Curvatures, you explore different abstract forms and connect them with stories about ancient trade routes and Mediterranean civilizations. What inspired these contemplations and the look into the past?

NKK: I love to dig into history as I study art. A series of monotypes called Ancient Whispers is my visual contemplation on the trade routes of Mediterranean civilizations.

The Ancient world in that region was culturally interconnected due to active trade and the ability to travel by sea. Therefore, the colors of terracotta and cobalt serve as metaphors for land and sea respectively. These two colors also pay homage to ceramic objects, such as tiles and vessels, both functional and decorative.

From Iran and China, the famous cobalt-glazed earthenware products traveled to Europe through the Silk Road and via Venetian merchant ships. As a result, cobalt glaze ceramic objects can be found in every European country, thanks to the culture of the trends.

Widewalls: The series is anchored in the creative heritage of old masters, such as Hokusai. How do you see these connections, and how much does art history inspire your work?

NKK: Artists do not exist in a cultural vacuum, no matter how much of a hermit they could consider themselves. Art history brings us all, artists or not, to where we are today. It is a collective consciousness. To a degree, we are all affected by it. So an informed answer to art history challenges is better than inventing a bicycle wheel attached to a stool. Marcel Duchamp already did that. What’s next?

Every artist answers that question, expressing it through their own aesthetics. Hokusai and I lived at a different time period, but because his excellent work survived, I consider him as one of my mentors. His world, his pure way of simplifying his complex surroundings, interests me both aesthetically and philosophically.

Natalia Koren Kropf - Hopes And Dreams, acrylic on canvas

Representing Interconnected Energies

Widewalls: Starting with streamlines, you use abstract forms to represent the oneness of the inner and outer world in Trajectories. Do you find abstract art most effective in conveying these complex ideas?

NKK: Yes, of course! I feel that abstract art is not only a way to express complex abstract concepts but also a way to pose an open-ended inquiry, leaving the viewer to explore with me. At first, I offer my own visual language and then leave the viewer to their own discoveries. It is enriching both ways, it is a sort of communication. Otherwise, the work left without feedback is like an unsung song.

Widewalls: You mentioned electromagnetic fields, UV rays, radio waves, and satellite signals as inspirations for Trajectories. What meaning does this technological radiation, invisible and yet present all around us, hold for you?

NKK: We are intermingled with so many visible and invisible forces that are mind-boggling. I want to show that the air is not empty, even the vacuum is not empty. Our human body has its own electricity in the brain and at the fingertips. We are not only bodies, we are embodied energies. I find it fascinating. There is so much to discover about humans, and yet, each of us is what they think they are.

Widewalls: You created the series during the lockdown. How did this experience influence your process?

NKK: At first, it was a shock and fear. A pause, an interruption of my daily life, only on a global scale. And as I learned that the Pandemic affected us globally, the idea of unification came to me. We are all in it together. And If I were to survive, what do I want to say as my last words? I started working feverishly, and in the process of art-making, I discovered my peace. In this altered meditative state of consciousness, there came the paintings and images, as though I was channeling some form of calligraphic messages.

Left: Natalia Koren Kropf - Summer Vibes, tempera on panel / Right: Natalia Koren Kropf - Unity bronze

Continuing Artistic Discovery

Widewalls: Different materials, from acrylic to paper pulp and terracotta pigment, are present in your work. How important is this material aspect in your practice? What brought you to paper pulp, and how does its aesthetics correspond to the ideas you are exploring?

NKK: The variety of materials comes from my ongoing fascination with the nature’s elements that I manifest in my art. Each material has its own physical properties and it often suggests the way it wants to be handled.

For example, the ceramic sculpture contains all the elements. Earth element (clay itself is formed by earth), Water (wet, malleable clay for modeling/sculpting), Fire (the fired clay, dehydrating/solidifying the sculpture), Air ( drying the clay and displaying it “in the air” - indoors and outdoors). And, of course, the element of Ether is the artist’s inspiration for the form and the feedback of the onlooker.

The same can be extrapolated to paper, paper pulp, metal, the use of pigments, and mix-and-match between the traditional techniques and my own chemical and physical experiments. I do love the element of discovery on many levels in concept, aesthetics, materials, method, and technique.

Widewalls: Early next month, your work will be on view at the Red Dot Miami Art Fair, presented by Artios Gallery. Could you tell us more about your participation and your plans for the rest of the year?

NKK: I am very grateful to the Artios Gallery for representing me and for giving me excellent exhibition opportunities. Earlier this year, I participated in the New York Art Expo 2023, where I was introduced to A&E Fine Art Gallery, who invited me to join them at the Red Dot/Spectrum Miami Art Fair this December.

Meanwhile, I am working on a new body of work in collaboration with Art Plexus Group, an Artios Gallery new Project entitled The Elements. I am very excited – it's right down my alley – stay tuned!

Natalia Koren Kropf - Ancient Whispers 1, monotype

Author: Eli Anapur / Editor at Widewalls

Featured image: Natalia Koren Kropf / Summer Vibes


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