Russian-born, UK-based artist Yulia Brodskaya has made an international name for herself as a gifted paper quilling genius. The artist has, arguably, single-handedly reintroduced the masses to a beautifully embellished art form, which dates back to the Renaissance, when French and Italian nuns and monks practiced quilling to create decorative religious objects.
Brodskaya’s portfolio of work has drawn our attention and endless admiration over the years. She’s honed her skill over time, constantly challenging herself to find new ways to practice quilling. Her subjects have ranged from typography to portraiture, each piece further accentuating her talent for the craft with her creative eye for color and texture.
The artist’s newest venture, a series known simply as Old People Portraits, is an ode to those whose faces reflect the lengthy time they’ve spent on this earth—the resulting portrait inspired both by real encounters and a healthy dose of imagination. Each quilled strip serves as a wrinkle on her paper subject’s face, like the rings on a tree—the more rings a tree has, the older it is and the more time it has experienced. In an email, the gifted artist tells us: “I’m fascinated by how a person’s whole life gets written on his/her face and it is there for us to read and interpret; I keep exploring ways of showcasing old people through their interests or situations they may find themselves in.”
In recent months, Brodskaya has begun experimenting with new techniques to recreate the images of these wise, elderly people. “The new expressive way of using the strips of paper that I discovered recently is really exciting,” she tells us. “It allows me to achieve a more ‘sketchy,’ ‘freehand’ look for the paper art and I’m excited to keep experimenting with it.” Though, she admits, “It’s a shame that this method is not much faster than the neat and refined way of gluing strips one by one… I wish I could work faster in order to bring all my numerous ideas to life, but the reality is that I have to preserve all the emotions and inspirations keeping them inside, and only spill them drop by drop (paper strip by paper strip) while working on my pieces.”
Scroll down to see some of Brodskaya’s beautiful new work, including exclusive detail shots and captions she’s shared with us.
When I talk about my work I usually say that ‘I’m drawing with paper,’ but here I’m ‘painting’ with paper; mixing strips of paper as I would mix paints on a palette.
For a while I’ve been collecting photographs of markets from all around the world; what fascinates me is the exuberance of colours that immediately attracts your eye. I have all kinds of inspirational photographs featuring fruit stalls, spices stalls, but for this piece I decided to go with textiles to be able to work with patterns as well. I deliberately avoided references to specific parts of the world (selecting certain patterns and the seller character, her look and outfit could easily point to a specific place); I wanted this artwork to be more generic and focus on the environment for this old lady who spends her time surrounded by all those vivid colours; she belongs there and draws positivity and optimism from her surroundings.
Textile Market detail
Textile Market detail
I thought it would be interesting to show a bit more private moment in this series, for instance an old lady applying her make up. The obvious first thought was to do a reflection in a mirror, but then I thought it would be more interesting to imagine a situation when she left her hand mirror at home and is forced to use some other reflective surface instead. So I’ve made a quick search for ideas of reflective things and objects and came up with the idea of a glass decanter – an unexpected and quirky object.
This paper artwork visually differs from my other pieces: I sprayed pieces of flat paper with some paints to add some tactile feel to it and make it look more like a painting, and also used some additional materials to add even more texture (e.g. sheets of pressed cork and dried skeleton leaves). I wanted this piece to give an overall warm autumn-y feel. I finished this artwork the day before Queen’s Elizabeth 90th birthday – I looked at it and thought that unintentionally I made this lady to resemble the queen a little bit (although one can disagree of course), perhaps I should call this piece a Loyal Toast J.
This work is my metaphoric take on ‘the beginning of the end’. At some point this old woman feels an inevitable pull into nothingness; it starts slowly, but hair by hair her life is being sucked into the ‘black hole’ of non-existence.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Yulia Brodskaya.