Born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine, Yuliya Art cannot remember a time when she wasn’t drawing. She used drawings of dragons, witches, zombies, and other elements of fantasy to illustrate her self-authored narratives as a child. Yuliya never questioned that she would pursue a career as an artist.
For Yuliya, the combination of her own photographs, stock imagery, and digital illustrations is a form of drawing. In her series, The Chemistry of Attraction, Yuliya uses a combination of nonrepresentational elements and photo-based embellishments, such as body armour, animal fur, and rockets, to explore bold aspects of human desire and attraction. “For me, it’s a feminine exploration of desire,” Yulia explains. “I’m trying to explore how this world works. Everything is based on [various forms of] attraction — relationships, for example, with others, with yourself. It’s magic, and so much fun to play with.” Playing with visual elements may be the key to the fantastic quality of Yuliya’s images, but a good deal of her art is grounded in meticulous execution and hard work.
After graduating with honours from the National Art College and the National Institute of Applied Arts and Design, both in Kiev, Yuliya was employed as a picture artist in the computer gaming industry. “The 3D artists use software to sculpt everything such as roads, buildings, and characters. Everything is grey and without texture. It was my job to create the glass, doors, cracks in the walls, and to make it look as real as possible,” explains Yuliya.
Yuliya was drawing for a living and was using the latest technology to do it well. One look at her work informs viewers that Yuliya values beauty and perfection. Her time in the gaming industry helped her further develop her talents and provided opportunities for travel. “I’m really inspired by new places; I started taking pictures of everything: grass, roots, boxes, cracks in the wall. I’ve been collecting a huge library of images for many years. Whenever I want to start a new composition, I often think of an image in my library and start there,” she says. Yuliya sometimes adds to her library by purchasing stock images of nudes, which she uses in an unconventional way. “I never start off with a whole person in my work; each figure consists of pieces. I feel like I want the legs longer or shorter, so I add or remove them, using arms and heads from other figures. I take pieces and paint with them using Photoshop and finally, the Wacom Tablet for drawing and shading.”
The Chemistry of Attraction was the first image in her series of the same name. It’s Yuliya’s favourite piece, and one that inspired several months of continuous work. The central figure is calm and stoic, despite the excitement that surrounds her. There is a tension between chaos and control, one of many themes in Yuliya’s visual explorations of attraction.
The details in Yuliya’s images pull viewers further into her narrative. In the piece titled “Invitation”, for example, buttons along the spine of the mixed gender figure turn the skin into a sort of costume. Yuliya explains that the figure “is a hunter trying to hypnotize a young woman, and she wears a mask to protect herself. The world that smiles at us is often not as nice as it seems.” In this image, hooks and lines hang from the buttons and a tiny birdcage holds a motif of a human heart. Each symbol is rich with meaning, and Yuliya invites viewers to linger on every detail.
Many elements of Yuliya’s creations actually look plausible. Although the works are fictional, Yuliya shows a strong commitment to the tenants of traditional drawing and photography via light, shade, and perspective. She says, “It doesn’t have to be in real life, but the image should look logical. You need to notice what side the light is coming from and ask yourself ‘Where does the shadow fall?’”
In the midst of so much richness and complexity, how does Yuliya approach her work? She takes a methodical approach. She says, “Take one small thing at a time, and focus on one detail after another. It’s live meditation. You just move slowly, and eventually it ends, and then you start a new one. I don’t think about it too seriously. I play with what I’m doing. I’m constantly thinking ‘What if I try to do this?’ … then I see what happens.” When asked how others could duplicate her success, Yuliya’s advice is clear and simple: “The main thing is to do it yourself. Ask a lot of questions and try, try, try. In this moment, ask yourself ‘What if …’ and go from there.”
We featured Yuliya and this article in our WINTER 2010 – PHOTO ART issue. If you’re looking for art photography inspiration, you can find it HERE.
Check out what Yuliya has been up to lately at: yuliyart.blogspot.com