Yevgeniya Mikhailik: A Slow Conflict
through April 14
Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana
Written by Liz Goldner
To view this exhibition is to enter the private world of a profoundly imaginative artist. Yevgeniya Mikhailik reaches inside her psyche to create a series of drawings and paintings that express how our changing environment and inner worlds empathize with and reflect each other.
The results are realistic to abstract artworks in blacks, grays, oranges and peach colors that sweep, flow and gyrate across the gallery walls. They depict the artist’s interpretation of the evolution of our planet, and include the formation of mountains, valleys and bodies of water. The pieces simultaneously relate to our inner lives and to the personal growth of the artist. Mikhailik explains that her works metaphorically reflect the life stages we all go through, including growth and aging, along with the many difficulties and conflicts we face in our journeys through life. In creating this series, she hopes that viewers will begin to feel as empathetic toward the natural, changing environment as they do toward themselves and others.
The 30-something Mikhailik immigrated to this country from Tomsk, Russia at age 13. She moved from a lush green landscape outside of Moscow to Orange County where the physical and human environments are entirely different. “When we moved here, I spoke English just a little,” she said, “and I immediately started high school.”
While she adjusted to life behind the Orange Curtain, she also maintained a sense of disorientation about her life here. With this theme pervading her consciousness and even her subliminal thoughts, she finally embarked on “A Slow Conflict” a few years ago—to visually express her inner journey over the last two decades.
The largest work in the exhibition, also titled A Slow Conflict, is a 23 foot wide by four foot high drawing, done in 14 individual sections, in watercolor, acrylic, ink, graphite and wax pastel. This large sweeping art piece with its peaks and valleys in grays, blues, purples and oranges on black depicts the artist’s interpretation of our planet progressing from its formation, eons ago, to the present. It also expresses her expansive view of her own life and career—which is certain to evolve over the coming decades.
The 9×12” drawings, Alone and Arms, both of tree branches in white on black backgrounds, are more human sized, and are metaphorical portraits of people, as the artist explains. Her 26×40” Balance of a large white boulder balancing on an equally large black boulder suggests the precariousness of creating balance in relationships. While the 26×40” Transform is an illustration of a large plume of smoke. With this piece, Mikhailik addresses climate change and how this process is affecting us and our environment, perhaps activating a large number of fires.
Among other works in this exhibition are Birth, Mound, Erode and Kidney. With these, the artist shifts to an even more personal level, creating abstract depictions of human movement and of organs. These works also mimic elements and forces from nature, indicating that we are all inextricably connected to our evolving universe.
On one wall of the gallery, Mikhailik has drawn in charcoal a rambling map of the Mississippi River. She initially painted a large colorful map on that wall, but when completed, it overpowered the other works in the exhibition. She painted over that map, and then drew the subtler one, which she says is like a history of the mighty Mississippi, with the river often changing direction—as people often do.
Artist, educator, and curator Yevgeniya Mikhailik is excited to continue to investigate in her work the human experience of conflict, imbalance, and converging forces, and how these experiences relate to the natural world. She received the Emerging Artist Award from Arts Orange County in 2016, and the Best Curator award from OC Weekly in 2017.