The child of rebuilding times, the founder of ‘Tatar Baroque’, named one of the strongest women 2014 by BBC… St. Petersburg-born artist Uldus Bakhtiozina has developed a distinctive visual language to talk about Slavic cultural code: through the prism of absurdly bizarre stereotypes, folklore characters, and a touch of romance.
Uldus Bakhtiozina was born to a family of a Tatar father, half-Ukrainian mother, and Jewish step-sister in the Soviet Leningrad (Saint Petersburg, Russia) in 1986. Growing up in the period of Perestroika has formed her candid and open view of things. How else do you explain the artist’s unconventional career path? Having studied public administration for 4 years in her home city, Uldus left for London to study Graphic Design at the renowned Central Saint Martins.
However, the artist admits, she was brought up by the ‘street’. Doing side jobs and observing the life around, Uldus made sure she knew the direction. She returned to Saint Petersburg after graduation and started her independent artistic practice in the field of fine art photography and filmmaking.
‘I want to learn or feel something when I look at an image – so I try to create the same experience with my my art and my life’. (Uldus Bakhtiozina, from the interview with Aesthetica Magazine, 2014)
In her works Uldus Bakhtiozina focuses on the representation of Russian culture, drawing inspiration from folklore — legends, myths, and fairytales. Photographs by Uldus are soaked with fantasy and dream, however, it’s the detached ironic approach that makes her works intense and distinguishes the artist’s manner. For instance, in her Conjured Life series (2016) Uldus Bakhtiozina refers to escapism as a power that, though being highly addictive, helps us to live our lives and empowers us to create.
In another collection called Desperate Romantics the artist discusses some contemporary issues of Russian society, such as gender stereotypes, problem of following one’s aspirations (often against public expectations), through the lens of Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics. Uldus Bakhtiozina admits, she is deeply impacted by the English painting and poetry of the 19th century, along with Iron Man, German language, and pops of color. The artist bravely confronts narrow-minded perceptions with her great sense of humor and advocates for freedom of expression.
‘My life in general can be described in one phrase, ‘analytical spontaneity’, I analyze my surroundings and take spontaneous action’. (Uldus Bakhtiozina, from the interview with Vogue Italy, 2015)
Uldus never digitally manipulates her works — what for, since she is perfectly capable of doing magic herself, with the help of a small, but professional team during many hours of shooting. The artist enjoys acting as a model sometimes (and she’s really great in it), however, she isn’t fond of using instagram as a tool of promotion. According to her, an old school method of portfolio review might work the best for the aspiring photographers.
In 2014 Uldus became the first Russian speaker in the history of TED and took part in the BBC 100 Women project. Two years later she was proclaimed a Senior TED fellow. The artist collaborates with such fashion editions, as Vogue Italy, Aesthetica Magazine, Worbz, Chaeg Magazine, C-41 Magazine. The Best Young Fashion Photographer according to Vogue Italy (Photo Vogue 2016) and the finalist of Laguna Art Prize (2017), Uldus Bakhtiozina currently lives and works in Saint-Petersburg. She is represented by Anna Nova Gallery.
‘Be brave, be ironic — it helps. Be funny and create some magic’. (Uldus Bakhtiozina, from the TED Talk 2016)