Portrait of the Artist

Andrew Morris

Professional writer and translator. Described by his mother as “a genius” and by everyone else as “that Welsh bloke”.

February 15, 2021

Describing art is hard. And it’s often particularly hard for the artist. I’ve read pieces by artists in the past which have made me think, above all else: “Now I get why you paint, because writing clearly isn’t your thing”. Same goes for other creatives, such as dancers or photographers. They may be masters of their craft, but their genius doesn’t always extend to the written word. 

Their texts try to capture the ineffable, often turn in on themselves, and collapse under the weight of their own abstraction, resulting in a cloud of words that may look impressive from a distance, but actually makes very little sense. 

Luckily that was not the case when I met Yulia Bas, who is blessed with a sharp mind and an excellent mastery of English (her mother tongue is Russian). Yulia gave me a few examples of texts which she needed to mould into an “artist’s statement”, of the kind you submit when applying for a scholarship or a residency. 

It had to combine elements of autobiography and artistic intent, of aesthetic worldview and technical description, of provenance and plans for the future. 

And all that in under 350 words.

Which raises an age-old challenge. It is of course far harder to write concisely than to drone on for page after page. Because that requires a certain tightness of structure and language, a clear road map and an equally clear purpose. 

And it has to be accessible to the reader while nevertheless stimulating anyone who actually knows about art. Lucid, but not over-simple. Complex, but not abstruse. 

We got there in the end. This is what I wrote, and I hope it gives you an idea of the artist, whose intriguing work can be found at yuliabas.com

In the beginning was the body – its pain, its struggle, its accumulation of past experience, and that of generations long gone. Yulia Bas understands this suffering as the starting point for an artistic study of her own psychological reality, of contemporary life, and beyond that, of the unwritten, universal history of womankind. She depicts the bodies of her subjects and uses her own as a philosophical instrument and thus she creates a space for every single viewer to explore the same topics within themselves. 

Yulia tells this narrative in monumental portraits, in which pain is an expression of beauty, an integral part of existence, and both a proof and a celebration of the life energy coursing within us. That pain also harbours the seed of healing and transformation – a turbulent combat that ultimately leads to reunification and fulfilment – achieved at considerable cost. 

Born amid the dying embers of Soviet Russia, Yulia’s early years were set against a backdrop of constant transformation, as entire countries unravelled and reformed. Her work also thus sets out to excavate the social biases buried in our deepest subconscious memories – an inheritance from our ancestors, with their triple burden of tradition, patriarchy and culture. Moving to Europe helped her question and reshape the worldview she had grown up with and informs her artistic practice in Barcelona to this day – a blend of perspectives: neither fully “other” nor fully “western”. 

Such a voyage into terra incognita calls for unorthodox materials: cork, paper, sand, mixed acrylic media, fabrics, and even the pages of her private diary. The multi-faceted textures that emerge under the layer of paint represent the intricate unpredictability and uniqueness of our individual story, with its blend of experiences and stereotypes.

Unlike the mind, with its vanities, its arrogance and endless search to justify its own existence, Yulia sees the body as speaking a primary truth. Her future work will continue to explore the dichotomy between mind and body – the eternally tortured dialogue that lies at the very core of human experience.

The most important thing was that it appealed to the artist herself. Let’s leave the last word to Yulia:

“It’s the first time I’ve worked with Andrew and I’m absolutely satisfied with the result and the flow in which Andrew works!

The task was to help me reshape and arrange multiple notes about my art practice and combine a comprehensible and fluid artist’s statement. And he was very attentive to all of my comments and ideas and adjusted the text with incredible mastery!

Would absolutely recommend Andrew’s excellent services!”

Over to you

Care to share your thoughts? Head on down to the comment section.

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