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By Margarita Shklyarevskaya
It was not by chance that I name this short review on Yelena Tylkina:” A Marvelous Pebble in the Mosaic of the World of Art”, words that I borrow from a famous Russian artist Yuri Pimenov. Because Tylkina is, indeed, a special person: a gifted, uniquely individual, thinker and a master of any media with a refined story telling approach which has become quite rare these days. Her narrative is that of a woman with her dreams, desires, happiness, pain, disappointments and love.
Yelena Tylkina is a genuine artist. Like the patriarch of Impressionism, Camille Pissaro, she is a master of visual effect and illusion but also of the deep, intangible things in the human psyche. The proof of my words lies in her retrospective exhibition of over sixty works presented by the QCC Art Gallery.
The exhibition is a body of work divided in three groups: unique graphics, phenomenal paintings and watercolors emanating light, all residing in the spacious rooms of a beautiful gallery and united with one theme – psychoanalyses and a search of the self.
This exhibition is a voyage to an incredible world of erotic blossoms and vivid fantasies .I will start from the room filled with black and white graphics which are exquisitely executed. But first, let’s talk about a precious jewel that welcomes viewers at the main entrance. Astonishing in intensity, the emotional painting,”Violet” (2007), is a virtuoso piece that reveals the tale of the short journey of life: from birth to death. A flower opens, gives its beauty to the world and fades into nothingness. But this painting is an optimistic, so to speak, homage to the ecstasy of the brief earthly existence and a triumph of a blossoming soul over the turbulence and trials of life. My guess is that it is a self-portrait of the artist. I recognize Yelena’s enigmatic smile, wandering eyes, proud posture and a light cloud of ultra feminine sensitivity over all her persona which may be mistaken for grievous vulnerability. It was no accident that “Violet” was a chosen for the cover of her art book and to grace the invitations for the exhibition.
In the black and white work “First Kiss” (2007), the awesome passion of pure love shines upon the viewer. Then, the proud and lonely “Queen “(2007) on the chess board caught between the sharp edges of a geometric dilemma: What are the odds? How to continue when everything is lost? A painted novel of our life unfolds. We all wander between choices of black and white, right and wrong. But the game of life always seems to be one move ahead of us. And in complicated circumstance the basics remain the same: To be strong and truthful to one ’s self when difficult obstacles lie ahead.
I think this principle applies to Yelena Tylkina in her approach toward her professional success. She is a member of the National Association of Woman Artists of America, which nurtured famous American artists as Marie Cassat and Judy Chicago. Yelena has, in her account, several awards and honors for her contribution to the world of art both nationally and internationally, and her art work is included in many private and corporate collections all over the globe.
As I step into the main exhibition room full of colorful, yet dramatic paintings I note that Yelena Tylkina has surprising ability to produce quantity with superb attention to quality in her work. She is truly a workaholic; a prolific artist with originality and scope that befits a rising star in the art world. Or, to be absolutely accurate, she is a person who is obsessed with creativity to the point where she herself has become a creative tool in the hands of higher powers.
The over all style of Tylkina’s complex works is figurative symbolism. Her symbolism in itself is a twisted strip of our collective existence that is taken apart by Tylkina’s sharp eye and penetrating intellect. At first glance, the heavy symbolism of her work overwhelms you. Yet, immediate connections accrue and symbols sweep you into the world of her personal confession which echoes any woman’s search of her own soul. The higher level of self expression of Tylkina’s creative “ying” is in her endless self portraiture. Perhaps this is a syndrome similar to Frida Kalho’s? Maybe not, but the thought came to mind that Tylkina uses herself as a sort of guinea pig to see what is inside the rest of humanity. She gives both contemporaries and future viewers a full report of her own life saga in the great hope that women’s complex internal world and sexuality can be finally understood.
Each and every one of her works is a philosophical, social and psychoanalytical essay, which is contemporary and timeless, professionally executed and emotionally deep. What is woman’s place in today’s world? Even now, it is still an open, pending question. Decoding the mining of Tylkina’s feminine series illustrates the constant struggle between the sexes in the arena of life. In every line of Tylkina’s works there is a secret message engraved for us: her quest for equality of women, recognition of their abilities in every aspect of life, if not their superiority in many such areas. Who is our lord, boss, manager, judge? Tylkina comprehends that which is not obvious to everyone – Time is our only master. And in “New York City” (1996) she puts herself in between the gears of a ticking mechanism of fate, rotating the wheels of time, to determine her own destiny. She is tormented again and again in “Tormento” (1998). Her nude body pressed against cold cement under a bridge and yet her spirit floats freely above with an enlightened gaze. A masterpiece from this series is the work ”Crossroad”. The artist crucifies herself on the crossroads of Time and Space; a self- analysis that takes even Freudian theory to yet higher levels.
But the drama of being a woman is layered with Romanticism, erotica and wild sexuality as well. The emotional material is pushed through a grinding mechanism of the artist’s internal world. Her being -as a surreal form- can overload you with visual puzzles and brain games. One novelty of Tylkina’s symbolism is graffiti. The universal language of our time, or from the beginning of time: from prehistoric wall drawings to aerosol can painting, she is seeks inspiration without judgment or criticism, guided only by love.
Love is not ignored in her images of males. Male portraits are domineering, but sensitive. Gods are gentle and loyal. “Poseidon” caresses the earth, longs to leave his oceanic kingdom, dreams of the flower in bloom in his heart and hopes for unconditional love.
Of course, one can not miss the canvasses dedicated to New York City, the giant cosmopolitan-monster and the Wizard of Oz all wrapped in one; the grand prize for those who dare. Yelena Tylkina, an immigrant from Belarus, chose this city as her Mecca and became devoted to her new birthplace. The beauty and the beast are the artist and the city. And like a fairy tale with a good ending, the beast has become a loving prince and the beauty has blossomed fully.
And speaking of blossoms - the third room, the balcony (which I call the watercolor room), is filled with large, emotionally uplifting, watercolors of floral bouquets dripping with a zest for life. I could sense the aroma of painted flowers that left me invigorated and fresh.
There she stood: Yelena Tylkina, elegant and courageous in the middle the gallery, an Amazon of contemporary avant-garde, who most assuredly shall leave her mark in art history.
Translation from the New York City Russian newspaper
“Russian Bazaar” #36(646) Sept. 4 -10, 2008
www.russian-bazaar.com Article ID 13330