Yevgenia Baras’ paintings are dense and full, illustrating emotional and physical tensions. She expresses the dualities in the life of the exile, who can look back fondly, but can never return.
Baras is strongly influenced by her Russian roots. She explores her nostalgia for the country that she left as an adolescent, as well as the falsity of her memories, in her paintings. She has written, “[I]t is wonderful to have hot water when taking a bath and yet I manage to idealize a rusty bathtub and a hand pouring in pot after pot of water that had to be carefully heated on a stove, which is a hallway away.” This mental image of a youth tended by a mother figure reminds the reader that Baras has a nostalgia not only for a country, but also for a distant and irretrievable childhood. This impulse to revisit and idealize that childhood is evoked in the illustrative prettiness of some of the paintings. The result is a depiction of her home country as a fairy-tale world.
Baras uses images of roots and wires in her paintings to represent connections to landscapes and people. These roots often connect what looks like a fantasy world back to a more solid one. The wires are not clearly directional though – they could act as ladders up to the dream world just as easily as tethers to the ground.
The artist’s childhood, with its tiny apartments and the lurking shadow of political oppression, demanded a closeness with others that was at once comforting and stifling. The memory of these situations and emotions is reflected in the density of Baras’ painted surfaces. Layers of pattern in the paintings, evoking old lace and textiles, often placed on a glowingly textured background, create airless and closed miniature worlds. The images are reminiscent of Eastern Orthodox icons and redolent of pre-soviet Russia. Like the Viennese artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, Baras uses the style of religious art to display the sanctified or elevated status of an object or idea within her mind.
Baras’ work is also characterized by a fascination with the human body, and the female organs in particular. Porous substances sweep through the paintings, waving like seaweed or reaching out to each other like dendrites, evoking skin, brain, and blood. The body represents the only thing that belongs entirely to oneself. Flowers are rendered with tangled and fleshy petals and leaves, blooming out of nowhere, referencing the hidden and mysterious fecundity of the female reproductive organs. The womb and the menses are private, and privacy is a treasure in overcrowded conditions.
The inclusion of birds and trees in a number of paintings and drawings illustrates a tension that is important to much of Baras’ work. In the choking fullness of the pictures, birds represent the only possible route of escape. The birds may express a desire within the artist to someday be free of swaddling lace and binding roots. However, birds in trees do not always fly away. Birds can break free of the assemblage surrounding them, but instead they often build nests. Baras builds her nest out of remembered, imagined and idealized pieces of her past, creating a new world out of the old.
- Luisa de Miranda
More artwork by Yevgeniya Baras can be found for sale at: http://www.yevgeniyabaras.com/