Yuliya Lanina’s exhibition at Artpace, titled Mother/Land, delves into the artist’s complex relationship with the war in Ukraine. Through animation, sculpture, and installation, Lanina continues her introspective exploration of the emotional and physical impact of war, building on her previous work, Gefilte Fish, from 2021.
The exhibition’s centerpiece is a large animation composed from emotionally charged ink drawings she started making since the war began. The continuous scroll of images represents the artist’s experience of the war from afar. Accompanying this moving animation is by a soundscape by Nina C. Young containing fragments of melodies from the Ukrainian national anthem, sirens, and birdsong. Large paper poppy sculptures with eyes are scattered throughout the gallery.
Yuliya Lanina’s emphasis on handmade paper as the primary material in her art is a significant aspect of her creative approach, reflecting her handcrafted techniques. On the wall opposite the animation is a paper mural created out of stream-of-consciousness writings Lanina made while in residence. A prominent figure takes up the center of the mural, representative of mother and motherland and the artist’s intricate relationship with both. The mother is creeping over a one-eyed figure (a stand-in for the artist) surrounded by eyes turned into flowers and lights. The eyes, often used throughout Lanina’s oeuvre, make clear that the flowers serve as witnesses to the destruction and turmoil that surrounds them.
The exhibition’s color scheme, comprising black, white, and red, conveys the trauma, blood, and rage associated with war, lending a somber and contemplative atmosphere to the gallery space. The most vibrant display of color comes from the previously mentioned sculptural red poppy flowers, which carry a complex meaning for the artist. On the one hand, they are symbolic of people who died in the war. On the other hand, they remind Yuliya of the beautiful poppy fields of her childhood. The exhibition’s final addition is an interactive mechanical figurine featuring a rotating drum in its stomach, representing brokenness and the internal processes that arise during stressful times – intense stomach aches, nausea, and illness. Through the use of horror and absurdity, Lanina invites viewers to examine the subject matter further and reflect on its message: war is a tragic, traumatic, and ongoing experience.
Accompanying the exhibition is a limited-edition book with the drawings used to create the animation on view in the gallery.
The artist would like to thank: Theodore Johnson (engineering), Anna Kravets (flower design), Yevgeniy Sharlat, Artpace staff and interns.