This week’s Spotlight Artist is Yuliya Stephanel, a self-taught artist of Belarus origin based in North-West London.
Yuliya’s works celebrate the human body: the form, the skin, the inner states made vivid by postures and the look. Yuliya takes inspiration from everyday life: people she encounters, thoughts that pop into her head, music she wants to share with others. Magic takes place and the act of art happens.
To learn more about Yuliya, we had a short Q&A with her:
When did you feel you wanted to become an artist?
I think it has always been in me, as a schoolkid I was fascinated by people's hands. How different types of hands - big, small, with delicate, thin, or chunky fingers - helped people to express their thoughts and ideas; how people's hands almost characterised their "owners". And I drew them. Lots.
But taking time off university and moving to Florida for a while was the period of new freedoms and experiences. I suppose that was the time when I started painting quite a lot. There were good times and bad times, and those ended up on the canvases. And London, where I moved around four years ago, showed that there are so many opportunities to showcase your work as well, so here I am.
How did Florida influence you as an artist?
It did in quite funny way, in fact. On one hand, there are your beautiful landscapes and beautiful people who inspire with their stories and looks. On the other hand, there's lack of materialisation to these inspirations. One of the influences was the actual urge to create, there being not too much cultural scene going on (the locals would rather spend their time on the beach of white sand rather than in a studio). So, I had to create art around me. One of my favourite places was a restaurant where alongside with lovely meals you were getting all sorts of performing acts and artists painting right by your table. The colours they used were so bold and daring, so was their choice to paint in public. I would carry that home with me and practice talking with those colours on my own canvas.
Did you notice any differences between the Florida and London art scene?
At the time the difference seemed huge to me. Obviously, you have your Art Basel Miami festival, and what not? But the galleries I would walk in all seemed to be eager to sell and to please the diverse buyer. So they would collect art all across the genres. I think I love Florida as an inspiration with its real people and nature, but I am not such a big fan when it comes to the ways they deal with arts.
London has it in a hectic manner as well. Certainly, London is not devoid of the commercial sentiment. But it offers varied experiences in a more "filtered" manner. East London and West London. I know where to go to see inspirational street artists and singers, soak in the impressions of tiny alternative galleries. I'll go the other way to experience immaculately curated pieces and drink bubbly.
What is your favourite London hangout?
I love Joe's in Camden. They play fantastic tunes of the 50's and 60's and you cannot not dance there.
Ain't Nothing But Blues bar in Soho is authentic and cool.
What have been your highlights at Debut Contemporary so far?
DC is open- & young-minded, professional and encouraging. The positive and dynamic spirit of the project seems contagious and inspires.
Being part of the Debut Contemporary project is valuable experience for me in terms of my development as an artist. When getting started and taking artist's path in a professional way, the direction one takes at the beginning is most often a milestone, determining the further outcome. And Debut Contemporary has all the expertise in giving that valuable advice and setting one off for their journey.
I started to learn how to look at my work in a more objective manner, having an opportunity to exhibit alongside with the talented and versatile artists.
One of the highlights for me are the workshops organised by Debut - it is a fantastic way to learn more about the industry, ask questions and use the advice in your artistic activity.
The monthly previews are great for meeting the like-minded people, getting to know other artists. Additionally, the individual talks and advice on your own path are very valuable and appreciated.
Do you have an interesting fact for us?
This year Vienna celebrates Gustav Klimt's 150th birthday. There are a lot of dedicated exhibitions still taking place in the city. I am a big fan so trying to fit this into one of my weekends.