As a sculptor, Ekaterina Kovalenko’s preferred medium is ceramics, and her chosen subject is people. Body parts are kneaded together, stacked, or hollowed out in her often sensual sculptures. Heads, hands, arms, and breasts stretch out in every direction. Some are seeking shelter, some offering protection—for other people, but also plants.

Katya was born and raised in Moscow. She spent six years at the Academy of Arts studying classical art. She is the only female student who has chosen to major in sculpture. And if she’s going to do something, she’ll do it right: large-scale sculptures that are big, bold, and impossible to miss. Well, not everyone liked that.

When Katya exhibited her work in a greenhouse, the facility manager was bothered by her sculptures, calling them “obscene shit!” In Moscow, artists don’t have much say; facility managers do. The exhibition closed, and Katya left.


"You have to keep them alive–otherwise, the memory dies too!"

When Katya arrived in Berlin two years ago, there was no room for her large sculptures in her small Wilmersdorf apartment. But there was room for creative freedom. She began to scale down her grandiose ideas into miniatures, still with an anatomical theme focusing on the human body. Her work phrases questions like: How do people feel in their bodies? Is it just an insignificant, functioning shell in which you may feel trapped and misunderstood, or a warm home that promises you security? Is one allowed to grow another in one’s body? Does one have children out of a narcissistic desire for immortality? Despite these enveloping fundamental questions, Katya handles these themes with ease and imagination.

Her relationship with plants is special. As a child, she always wanted to be surrounded by plants, even though her initial attempts usually ended up in the bin. Nowadays, her thumb is a bit greener.

Katya used to get plants from her friends as cuttings; now she brings some home when she travels. There are no trendy hip plants in her apartment but rather a collection of living relics from Sicily, East Germany, and Italy.

“You can’t just throw them away; you have to keep them alive. Otherwise, the memory dies too!” says Katya. And that would be a shame.


"Plants are my prisoners.”

Still, she doesn’t see herself as a plant parent. “I’m just not very good at taking care of them. Sometimes I feel more like a thief, or worse, a kidnapper. The plants are my prisoners.” The idea of holding power over a plant’s life doesn’t appeal to her, and perhaps why she goes to such lengths to give them a safe home. Limbs and body positions hug and hold various flora and fauna, cheering them on to grow. In the process, Katya enjoys watching them; the peace they spread comes from the calm they exude. Some grow quickly, others slowly, each with their own rhythm. “Especially when you grow plants yourself, from cuttings or seeds, they teach you one thing: patience!”

Succulents are Katya’s favorite because they seem right at home in her ceramics. They grow and thrive, becoming sculptures themselves with their shapes and proportions, only green and alive.