Graphics by Victoria Bilogan

Iliya Reyderman 2008, Ukraine (translation)

Victoria Bilogan was born in Odessa, graduated from the Odessa Conservatoire in piano. Since 1994 she lives and works in Melbourne (Australia). She continued to study music – and in different genres: she played classics (there are records on CDs) and composed music and sang in group BI-2. She graduated from the Melbourne University postgraduate course in piano. But she had  another passion since childhood – passion to drawing. Victoria graduated from the Graphics Department of the Art College of Melbourne University.

Her graphics produce a strong and not very ordinary impression. Faces, faces … Often – the same person, reproduced then with barely noticeable, then sharp differences. She peers at the faces. And this very black and white scale, sharp contrast of light and shadow, expressive expressiveness of the picture – all this creates an impression, I would say, severe, gloomy. A tough artist! She does not spare us. She says: this is the reality of today’s human being. The man is exhausted, it seems that he left the concentration camp. But the concentration camp has nothing to do with it. Here is a metaphor, the essence of which is the destruction of man. A black face, huge eyes looking directly at us, and the upper part of the head – light, and in it, as if pierced from above, or some metal points, or black leeches, or simply the dashes of paint … But the same face – light, only the eyes are black – and without pupils. And that’s why they seem unusually sorrowful. The folds from the nose are underlined. The black beard completes the face, sculpturedly fashioned. He, like other people, seems to be cramped in the framework of engraving: he wants to go beyond this framework and live separately, turning into a kind of dumb call to our dozeful humanity. And one more variation of the same face: here the eyes are completely crazy. She is looking for extreme expression. The language of black and white engraving is “shouting”! The author admits that he follows the methods of expressionism. However, there is something from the experience of the old Japanese masters of graphics. But before turning to its general artistic principles, let’s look at a few more works.

Here’s something, similar in technique to the drawing. It was like drawing a caricature – but stopped halfway, did not reach the ridiculous. Disharmony is striking. Sharp dashes, facing upwards – instead of eyebrows. Crooked mouth. A spiky look. And here it is – in the technique of engraving. A lot of bright lines going in different directions, And in a friend you catch yourself thinking: a person is caught in a network of these lines! He did not escape! And the third variation: a shadow fell on his face, his gaze went into himself, facial features simplified, his mouth almost invisible. Here, a person is no longer caught in the network – but exists as if on the very edge. On the border of being and nonexistence.

Especially terrifying is her “Self-Portrait in a Gas Mask”. Mask, of course, is needed for work, so as not to breathe acid vapors during the etching process for metal. But it seemed to have grown to face. Above her are only eyes and a lightly flashed forehead. The mask seems to be a continuation of the human face. Here it is – the face of the human and non-human!

Looking at the faces -what Victoria is looking for? Traces of human in our already almost inhuman, machine world? Or evidence of the inhuman – again, what does this world do to a man? Even the black color of prints seems not accidental. She argues that even the prevailing mood of the work is related to the technique that she uses. “Maner Noir” the so-called “black method”  is the process when a special  surface (aquatint) is prepared on a copper plate. This surface when printed will be a black background. After that, the surface is clarified by erasing the aquatint layer with a special tool, and the drawing emerges from the black background as if outward. Wood engravings (linocuts) involve a very close process: a drawing is literally carved on the surface of a wooden plate with special tools, conveying the artist’s temperament and gesture.

Separately, you need to tell about her drawings in watercolor. Often these are fantastic landscapes, some towers, a winding road leading to the world of miracles. As if tired of all that it does in etchings and linocuts, she wants to rest, for a moment turn into a little girl. There are landscapes quite realistic, but still poetic.

In 2006 Victoria Bilogan’s work was selected to represent VCA Australia in a group exhibition in Tokyo Japan during the exchange of the two largest art schools in Japan and Australia. Her works are presented in the galleries of Melbourne, in private collections in Australia, Russia, Great Britain, the United States of America.

Ilya Reiderman,
Art critic, Odessa, Ukraine.

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