Roman Road is thrilled to present Paradise Is Not Just a Place, a duo show of new works by Yulia Iosilzon and Anna Skladmann. This is the first exhibition at Roman Road since February 2020.
Skladmann’s photographs and Iosilzon’s paintings draw on forbidden fruit as a repeated motif, exploring tropes of temptation, abundance, and nourishment. The works are interwoven with a meadow of ceramic flowers, bringing the life cycle of the plant into the gallery space, and picking up shared references to species that feature across the two artists’ imagery. The exhibition inhabits a notion of overgrowth, of plants taking over the ruins of the past, seeding themselves in the cracks of history. Stories leave microscopic traces through the life cycles of plants and people; we all become food for plants in the end.
Anna Skladmann’s practice interrogates the mythologisation of nonhuman nature, and the relationship between plants and technology. She uses a scanner to capture arrangements of flowers, leaves, and fruit, adding water to the machine’s sensitive surface. Slow scans are used to create ultra- detailed high-resolution images, flecked with digital glitches caused by tiny movements or light leaks.
Yulia Iosilzon’s paintings evoke a dreamworld of human-plant hybrids and playful childhood memory, tinged with the quiet menace of mythology. Figures and faces emerge from the surface of the canvases before dissolving into foliage, water, and the bodies of animals. The paintings contrast chaos with control, baroque abundance with boldly delineated segments of colour.
The artworks act as portals into a vegetal realm that unfolds and grows, playfully expanding on the artists’ distinct visual worlds. A profusion of handcrafted ceramic flowers emerges in the spaces between the works, challenging the traditional parameters of a two-person show; creeping and climbing between paintings and photographs, they blur the boundaries of where one artist’s work ends and the other’s begins.
The exhibition takes reference from Hieronymus Bosch’s c.1490-1510 The Garden of Earthly Delights, which abounds with red berries, twisting and subverting traditional narratives around the Forbidden Fruit. Skladmann and Iosilzon draw on the complex relationship between chaos and symmetry in the painting’s composition, as well as its evocation of exuberant natural growth.
The traditional Japanese practice of Ikebana has also been central to the artists’ shared process in cultivating the ideas for this exhibition. Masters of Ikebana work by dividing the space with flowers, working across three levels: soil (represented by the Ikebana base) , life (represented by the flowers) , and sky (represented by the empty space above and around the arrangement) . Skladmann and Iosilzon’s response to the unique site at Roman Road – a gallery with a small footprint and a very high ceiling – uses these Ikebana principles to divide the space with ceramic flowers and floral photographs and paintings. Visitors are invited to take off their shoes to step down onto the gallery floor, which is covered in black sand, and to contemplate the life cycle of the plant in an immersive environment.
Ikebana embraces the budding, blooming, and dying stages of the plants in the arrangement, for example working with closed buds that open over the course of a few days and then wither. Across cultures, fruit and flowers are symbols of both beauty and death, innocence, and experience; the fullest bloom is followed quickly by rot and decay. Paradise Is Not Just a Place conjures this sinister undercurrent, weaving a complex web of references and associations.
The exhibition will be complemented by a conversation between Anna Skladmann and Yulia Iosilzon, moderated by writer and curator Anna Souter.