And there she was, her giant frame towering over them against the cloudless night. Enormous petals in magnificent shades of black and ruby surrounded her many fierce faces, some animal, some plant and some still bearing traces of her former features and pairs of huge, glowing eyes. The lower half of her body extended long and thick into the ground, sprouting thorns and leaves covered in wet, amphibian skin that changed its pattern and colour as she twisted and turned. The men all fell silent, watching her as if hypnotised.
Sapling is pleased to present Frogspawn, a solo exhibition of new paintings and ceramics by Yulia Iosilzon. Responding to an original short story by the curator Sonja Teszler, the artist combines inspiration from this fresh literary source with her distinctive visual vocabulary to open a portal onto a subversive fantasy world. Sapling is treating the exhibition space as a marshland, inviting the artist to populate the gallery with paintings and ceramics of her creatures emerging from the water.
Based in London, Iosilzon creates sites for escapism and introspection. Her instantly recognisable symbolic imagery finds roots in arts across time, from ancient mythology to contemporary cinema. In her paintings, the artist uses oil and silicone paints on stretched silk, expressing an abundant world where stories, symbols and characters subtly emerge, overlap, and interact. Rendered in the artist’s signature calligraphic brushstrokes, monumental flowers, plants, snakes and mischievous human faces float and shimmer above the translucent surface. Iosilzon’s ceramic practice includes standing sculptures and wall murals of distinct living organisms such as bees, mushrooms, and flowers.
Doubling as a curatorial text, Teszler’s story is a speculative reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale “The Marsh King’s Daughter” by Hans Christian Andersen. He tells the story of Helga, a woman who lives in two states: a bewitchingly beautiful but cruel person by day, and a monstrous frog-like hybrid by night, albeit with a kind character. In Teszler’s response, she learns to embrace her fluid, composite, non-categorical, and abject reality. The new story tracks Helga’s progress from a “split” state toward synthesis and final acceptance of her hybrid existence.
Taking this as a framework for reconciling Western philosophy’s tendency towards a dualistic worldview into a more holistic cosmology, the exhibition engages with the concept of the human and non-human evolving in contamination with one another. The project embraces all aspects of life including abject elements that traditionally provoke fear. Informed by a feminist perspective, artist and writer propose that we celebrate what may appear monstrous as a state of vibrant entanglement.
Yulia Iosilzon (b. 1992) lives and works in London. She received an MA in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art in London, UK in 2019 and a BA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Fine Art in London, UK in 2017.
Solo exhibitions of Iosilzon’s work have taken place at: Foundry in Seoul, South Korea (2022); Carvalho Park in New York City (2021 and 2019); De Brock Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium (2021); Huxley-Parlour in London, UK (2021); Berntson Bhattacharjee, in collaboration with Sotheby’s Scandinavia, in Stockholm, Sweden (2021); Osnova in Moscow, Russia (2020); and Roman Road in London, UK (2020).
Group exhibitions that have shown Iosilzon’s work have taken place at: Berntson Bhattacharjee Gallery in London, UK (2021); Roman Road in London, UK (2021); Space K in Seoul, South Korea (2020); Hannah Barry Gallery in London, UK (2020); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, South London Gallery in London, UK (2019); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Leeds Art Gallery in Leeds, UK (2019); the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, Russia (2019); Hockney Gallery in London, UK (2018); and Kvadrat 16 Gallery in Copenhagen, Denmark (2018).
Sonja Teszler (b. 1997, Budapest) is a writer, curator, and musician. As a writer, she has published exhibition reviews and essays digitally and in print with Flash Art, Arts of the Working Class, Something Curated, Calvert Journal, thisistomorrow and Floor magazine among others, as well as contributed texts to various exhibitions in the UK and internationally in both creative fictional and more conventional formats. She has worked with non-profit organisations such as Migrate Art, Kunstraum London, and Drawing Room. She focuses on championing artists from the Central-Eastern European diaspora throughout her practice.