Living a nostalgic dream: Yelena Yemchuk

Talking about and describing the work of Yelena Yemchuk, as is often the case with other artists, is definitely not the easiest way to bring the viewer to understand the deep layering on which the artistic personality of this photographer, painter and filmmaker moves. The only truly effective way is to directly show the product full of intention, artistic and visual tension, simply because in her entire career Yelena has done nothing but bring to the plate the motif of herself, of her own inner quest and proposing it in a dreamy state that envelops our bodies and minds.

In a relentless proposition of knowledge, her works are as eccentric as they are human, they are part of all of us, and somehow this is all to be accepted regardless of our thoughts about it. Expressive versatility allows Yelena to range with the elements, to converge elements of her painting into photography and film, elements of the filmic into painting and photography and photographic elements into the two other disciplines, thus creating a truly rare, elegant, fascinating and, in some cases, disturbing richness of expression. It is no coincidence, then, that his main influences include names such as David Lynch, Andreij Tarkovsky and Fellini.

A former student of Art at Parsons in New York and Photography at the Art Center in Pasadena, Yelena discovered her passion for photography at the age of fourteen, when her father gave her a Minolta 35mm film camera for her birthday.

Yelena Yemchuk was on display at Phest 2022 with a work that we can describe as extremely intimate, as much as it is imbued with mystery. Odesa is a work developed over four years in the artist’s native Ukraine, in the town of Odessa. The work is a deep and personal insight into that reality, a searching interconnection with the Ukraine that Yelena remembered and lived in until the age of 11, but also an exploration of a mysterious and free land of which she had always heard and dreamed so much. At this point, Odesa is a visual ode, a hymn to the city and her own origins, imbued with a profoundly necessary humanity.

Connecting us to the theme of origins, we find another work set in the beloved Ukraine: Mabel, Betty & Bette, an extraordinary work of photographic portraits and a film that lives in a totally dreamlike plane, in which the three figures that give the work its name project themselves into different female bodies but share this aura of perdition, anxiety, and undefined, vague, and foggy personality .

Mabel, Betty & Bette is presented as an exploration of the nature of identity and what is unquestionable is the truthfulness of what Yelena decides to tell us.

Short film Mabel, Betty & Bette © Yelena Yemchuk

At this point, I can say that Yelena’s ability to make us navigate mysterious and intangible dimensions that are beyond the mere and explicit visible and that demand to be explored and felt is what, in my opinion, distinguishes her entire career and enhances her expressive needs.

For those interested, you can find her website here and her instagram account here.