The Shock of the Now Issue 10
Featured Exhibition Text

Yulia Iosilzon & Anna Skladmann
'Paradise Is Not Just a Place' Two-Person Exhibition
Roman Road
22nd September 2021

Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, forms the conceptual foundation of Yulia Iosilzon and Anna Skladmann’s ambitious two-person exhibition at Roman Road. Embracing Ikebana’s three principle elements - earth, life and heaven - the gallery space has been transformed into an immersive environment complete with Iosilzon’s paintings and Skladmann’s photographs woven together by the former’s trail of ceramic floral and fauna. Grounded by a carpet of black sand that floods the floor, and requires visitors to don protective shoe coverings, the luscious installation encircles and engulfs the viewer, artworks resplendent with depictions of flowers, fruits, leaves, stems and stalks lining the space before giving way to the gallery’s high-ceilinged heavens above. Paradise Is Not Just a Place transcends the traditional two-person exhibition, and it is perhaps unsurprising that it exists as the result of almost two years of close collaboration and dialogue between Iosilzon and Skladmann. 

The natural and the technological collide in Skladmann’s photographs, where plants and wildflowers are layered and submerged within water, or occasionally milk, before being exposed to a slow-scanning process akin to the earliest methods of photographic print production. The resultant verdant compositions preserve the delicate fruits and flowers in high definition permanence, never to wilt and succumb to their inevitable organic life cycle, forever awash with the muted hues of natural light that breached the scanner, or the occasional digital glitch caused by the slightest movement. Iosilzon’s vibrant, gestural paintings perfectly complement Skladmann’s imagery of perennial ecology, employing recurrent foliage and fruits as the backdrop for the artist’s distinct ménage of anthropomorphic caricatures. Playful inhabiting the viridescent marshes, meadows and meres these ambiguous animal-human-plant hybrids appear straight from the pages of a childhood fairy tale or fable, reflecting Iosilzon’s - and in addition Skladmann’s - enduring interest in the mythical or the magical. In truth, the exhibition as a whole has more than a minor mythic undertone, evocative of many folkloric tales’ seasonal scenic settings; the inevitable droop, decay and death of a flower so often the personification of our own mortality; or the infamous forbidden fruit complete with its implicit temptations, seductions and illicit desires.