Jevgeni Zolotko (1983) is an artist whose work centres on the relationship between the verbal and the material. In his site specific installations Zolotko highlights the universal traits of human nature, intergenerational sensitivity passed on through culture and religion and suppressed subconscious. The artist digs deep into the past preceding our collective consciousness.
One of Zolotko’s first large scale installations, “One day of the state archivist life” (2011) presents an eternal moment. The cellulose book-shaped pressed objects on shelves create a time scale that includes logs by the archivist. On the background of this static scene we can hear the whole-encompassing compositions of Bach’s register. In a similar approach, a series of time-stilled moments were presented in his six-act exhibition “Things” (2012) in which Zolotko opened the attic of Tartu Art House to visitors, offering them different views on this static environment over the course of three months. Zolotko has said that he approached things and materials in that space without purpose, maintaining their incidental, neutral meaning. The only thing the artist added was a sound piece by Helena Tulve – everything else was already there.
Zolotko’s solo show “Lukewarm” was based on the idea of childhood being a time of purity and openness, however, the exhibition was not autobiographical. In this installation Zolotko was interested in the idea of lukewarm as in-betweenness, neutrality and balance, and transferred these notions to a light grey tonality that has become one of the signature colours in his work.
Zolotko has mostly avoided explaining his work, as he dislikes the anchoring effect words have. He thinks that the overflowing mass of text that rules the world is a sign of the beginning of an apocalypse. The site-specific installation “It’s time to take ceilings down” (2015) covered the wall of the exhibition space with a grey mass and consists of pulverised/ground-up books and newspapers, accompanied by a low-frequency pulsing sound. Also part of the work, are specks of paper under a magnifying glass that allows the viewer to look more closely.
Installation “The sacrifice” (2018) is one of Zolotko’s eeriest works. An abandoned horse trailer painted light grey that includes a startling sound was first exhibited at the first Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. This was the artist’s childhood memory from when he saw a metal container with horses locked inside. The horse motif also occurs in the installation “Miserere” (2018).
As part of the project “Artists in Collections” the exhibition “Viivikonna passages” (2018) took place at Sillamäe Museum. The artist focused on the current situation of Viivikonna village, based on oral memories of its former and present inhabitants. The mining city, built by prisoners of war, was completed in 1955, and during its heyday had several thousand inhabitants, to only be left with barely a couple of dozen today. In Viivikonna, the past makes itself visible at every step. Its magnificent Stalinist architecture today largely stands in ruin. Alongside the monologues of its inhabitants, black and white photos and a few found objects were displayed.
Jevgeni Zolotko graduated from the Department of Sculpture at Tartu Art College (BA, 2008) and continued his studies, specialising in sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts (MA, 2010). His work has been recognised several times: Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia’s Köler Prize (2011), A. Starkopf Sculpture Prize (2012), Annual Award of Visual and Applied Art Endowment of Estonian Cultural Endowment (2013), nominee for the Tartu culture award Kultuurikandja (2016), and the art award of the magazine Akadeemia (2016). Since 2017 Zolotko has been teaching in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Tallinn University of Technology and in the Estonian Academy of Arts’ Department of Installation and Sculpture, where he has also served as the head of the department. His works belong to collections of the Art Museum of Estonia and Tartu Art Museum as well as private collections. He is one of the recipients of the artist salary 2021–2023.