Blissful and joyous on the outside, Yulia Iosilzon’s paintings are in fact loaded with deeper contexts
The London-based Russian artist talks us through her process, one that involves painting “like a sandwich with all the ingredients”.
- Ayla Angelos
- 19 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Reflecting on her past, Russian and London-based artist Yulia Iosilzon looks back to when her mum put her into art classes instead of traditional pre-school. She speaks of this fondly, as it was this very experience that acted as her gateway into the arts – something she’s been involving herself in since a very early age. “It may sound silly, but those moments embedded in my mind as moments of calmness, where I could fully be myself,” she tells It’s Nice that. “Art was the only space where I felt in a mental safety net.”
Continuing to reminisce, Yulia reminds herself of the “great pleasure” she had while visiting the school’s pottery and creative imagination classes. During these classes, she and her classmates would paint imaginary stories, objects and creatures. “I believe that these exercises really evoked my true love of dreaming and imagining things that could have happened,” she says, describing her younger years as a period that taught her how to bring an idea to life on paper.
Then, her early teens imparted her with great knowledge about her medium’s mentors, learnt through artists’ biographies, interviews, as well as through her own deep studies into painting and photography. For her BA at Slade, she decided to write about constant repetition in Mark Rothko’s and Eva Hesse’s art practices. “Repetitive vicious circles play a very important part in my works,” she says, adorning her style with elements of artist greats.
Despite these external influences, Yulia has come to perfect a style that is very much her own – in fact, we’ve not seen anything quite like it before. Additional avenues of inspiration can be anything from the stories she’s seen in films, politics and the social world, to when she makes assumptions about what “could’ve happened to that person in some imaginary situation." Often, she will find herself using humour as a way of alleviating anxieties when addressing serious issues like “freedom, false beliefs and propaganda”.
And that’s just it – although Yulia’s work seems apparently bliss and joyful on the outskirts, they are in fact loaded with deeper contexts. She calls out and addresses prison tattoos as a regular motif that appears heavily throughout: “I find the tattoos from prisons as a universal emblematic language of freedom of speech and they are widely used in my works to tell stories. I love filling my paintings like a sandwich with all the ingredients, that way you can always find something that you can relate to.” The same goes for the characters, or “creatures” as she calls them, who tend to have the artist’s thoughts and views directed onto them.
As of late, Yulia explains how a series of watercolour drawings that she made during quarantine are her favourites. “They are just so full of life and meaning,” she says, covering topics of feminism and femininity within. The subject matter is something that’s been circling in her head for a while now, so it felt more than beneficial to finally release these feelings into a piece of physical art. These, like all of her works, were created from a “recipe”: a process that begins with observing paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and watching films about “tough life”, like those from Russian director Aleksei Oktyabrinovich Balabanov. “As a result, I made numerous amount drawings that will end up as new paintings very soon.”
With many drawings set aside, Yulia has created a mammoth archive of her thoughts, feelings and observations of the world around her. These in turn act as references for when she starts to paint, and sometimes she’ll find herself jumping between different drawings, or bringing together different meanings to create a new narrative. Her work is, therefore, a sweet concoction of different elements, which to no surprise is as an artistic ploy. “I expect my audience to experience a ‘salad’ of feelings when they look at my works,” she concludes. “Some of them are infused with a certain duality in the meaning, including humour, craziness, calmness and symbols – exactly like life itself.”