I recently interviewed artist Yuliya Lanina.Yuliya is a contemporary art folklorist. I met in her in passing at the Digital & Video Art Fair 2007 (DiVA) in New York. Her piece, Play With Me, was presented by Patrick Heide Art Projects. I decided to contact Yuliya for an interview- having been impressed by her film.
Yuliya's work is highly charged with personal and grieving experiences, yet its mood is innocent and hopeful, imbued with a desire for purification and transformation. She will often reuse and evolve images and symbols, which serve as a visual vocabulary to develop her personal mythology. The following text is about Play With Me... followed by the interview.
"Play with Me by Yuliya Lanina
Two brothers start upon the quest for easy thrill. The eldest senses danger and cowardly volunteers to be the driver. The youngster blindly follows his own desire for adventure and kicks.
The brothers ride through the woods, led by their happily blinded butterfly. Passing various wonders the rich wilderness could bring, they ride by the garden of unborn crying children, they pass carrots quietly making out in the woods, crawling baby slaves and bleeding chickens, they finally get to the tree where SHE lives.
The junior is ready. His arrow is prepared. He throws it and HER heart is wounded. SHE falls down breathless. The coward leaves before it is too late. The killer is ecstatic, he is the WINNER.
Suddenly the tree awakens, the flowers open their eyes, and the visionary birds appear in their casual S&M costumes embroidered stylishly with diamonds.
Startled pre-teen feathered fawns surround him. Out of somewhere the drunk baby God comes down in barbaric splendor; his infant soul is enraged. Revenge is imminent.
The fiendish laughter of a mad baby doll will stay forever imprinted in the brother's mind."
Q. I'm very interested in the way you take innocent items (such as a doll) and turn them into what may be considered frightful images (I describe your work as beautifully twisted). It is as if you create an altered reality when you juxtapose items in this manner. In your own words- what are you trying to convey?
A. "That is how life is. Not everything is the way it looks at first. There is no black and white and everything has multiple meanings. People are never innocent or cruel and each action is never totally good or bad. I try to convey that in my pieces. For instance in “Play with me” a cruel action of murder springs up another life and in “Journey” a cheerful bird obsessively seeks to discover her identity, oblivious to her dangerous surroundings."
Q. Your video Play With Me was exhibited at the DiVA Fair 2007 in New York. I was impressed with the creative world you had created. Can you go into detail about the meaning of the piece? How long did it take to construct?
A. "“Play with me” is about an innocent play of two little SM dolls that turns into a cruel act of killing, which in turn initiates the awakening of the other consciousness together with revenge and psychotic state of the victim. At the end you do not sympathize with anyone in particular for you see that all is a part of some kind of a twisted game.
As far as a time frame for building it. That is hard to tell. I start creating the characters way before I know where I will use them later on. But actually working intensely on the piece it took about 6 months to create."
Q. When I viewed Play With Me I felt a tragic energy about it. Ii reminded me how we are still children at heart... yet we are barraged by the cruel reality of living as adults. Was this your intention?
A. "The intension is also to portray that cruelty comes from unawareness and that all understanding of reality is based on limited perceptions."
Q. Your work seems to be very personal. If I may be so bold, what experiences drive your work?
A. "I always felt an urge to create. I think we are born with this impulse. Some of my life experiences also influence my work. I try to talk about difficult things in a lighthearted manner for I find that the problem comes when life is taken too seriously."
Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?
A. "I always have been drawn to creative expression. In Russia I studied music and wanted to be a musician. When I came to US at the age of 16 I started mainly doing visual art. In a way I always knew that I would end up doing something creative."
Q. Has your art ever been published? What magazines?
A. "Yes, it has been published in various magazines, including NYArts Magazine, Brooklyn Rail, Wagmag, Beijing today and Seoul Arts Center magazine."
Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?
A. "My most important exhibition was at the Seoul Art Museum in Korea. It was my first museum show oversees and I was representing US with my work. I have never been in Asia before and did not know what to expect.
Language and cultural barrier was very obvious and I did not know how my work would be received. When I came into museum on the opening day and saw many groups of Korean children lining up for a photograph in front of my works. I was moved to tears. That was the biggest compliment for me."
Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?
A. "I don’t really have any rituals. I just show up. If I feel stuck I clean my studio or do the chores."
Q. Where can we see more of your art?
A. "I have a solo show coming up at the Lab Gallery, 501 Lexington Avenue, New York. It will be called Flight of Fantasy
I am collaborating with C. Eule dance who will be performing every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between March 19 and 31st in the costumes I created based on the butterfly creatures from “Journey” piece.
You can also visit my website http://www.yuliyalanina.com/ to see other projects I worked on."
Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?
A. "Yes, it was censored twice. First in the Altar Art magazine for nudity, which was hard to imagine nowadays. Another time was for the show in Korea, where I was asked to remove all the scenes with violence and sex from the piece. It tuned out to be a good practice to convey my ideas without being explicit or vulgar."
Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?
A. "I cannot resist the impulse."
Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?
A. "I live in Williamsburg, which has a very vibrant art scene. It is changing a lot but many galleries and artists are still there."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Yuliya Lanina. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,