The dreamlike photography of Ellie Yonova is exhibited at the Sofia Gallery as a part of the 3rd London Festival of Bulgarian Culture. Inspired by Bob Fosse’s bold and dynamic Cabaret, a series of Opuses seems to awaken musical associations. Using primarily light, glass, water and natural objects like flowers, Yonova uncovers her own technique and style: one characterized by ambiguity and vibrant, celebratory colour.
Situated on the border between abstract and figurative, Yonova’s photographs, experiments in shape and pigment, seem purely aesthetic. Repeatedly she manipulates the proportions of her subjects: the almost abstract-seeming Opuses show flowers in their frozen and preserved state, yet twisted when captured through the glass – Yonova’s favorite tool – which distorts and creates a melting effect. In her latest works Yonova introduces more figurative elements too. The idealized heroes of antiquity enter the abstract setting and act as phantoms of a long-gone culture, with nymph-like creatures seeping through an enigmatic winter forest, adding to a sense of elusiveness.
The aspiration behind Yonova’s work, it seems, is to disengage us from fixed meanings and let associations float together and connect: in these seamless objects we can perceive musical instruments, fireworks, insects, and all made subtly strange. While the images are nebulous and open to limitless interpretations, there is nonetheless a strictness in her composition, the choice of angles and colours: surely a part of Yonova’s work experience in the wider visual media. Trained at the Moscow Film Institute, she now lives in Canada and works mainly as Director of Photography for feature films and TV documentaries, and this side of her work – whose influence seems to spill into her Opuses – is also presented here.
This small exhibition at the Sophia Gallery offers a rare experience to be a visual artist oneself and bridge together recognizable objects that have lost their identity in unexpected ways. It’s the meticulous beauty of Yonova’s work and her liberation from earthbound definitions that allows this scenario – thankfully – to unfold.
Ellie Yonova: Photography was part of the 3rd London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, organized by the Bulgarian Cultural Institute London.