Text: Derya Ocean

19 March, 2024

Magical realism, though rooted in the 1920s, continues to thrive as a vibrant and stirring direction in today’s art scene. Contemporary artists adapt its principles to new realities and technologies, creating works that compel us to reconsider our notions of reality. Let’s explore this through a group of photographers, video artists, collage makers, and painters.

ART PHOTOGRAPHY 

In Nelly Burenina‘s photographic projects, the presence of children is a poignant choice that enriches the fantastical world she constructs. The project “Little Heroines” captures young girls in the roles of fictional adults, infusing the images with a narrative depth and innocence that is profoundly compelling. Burenina’s work evokes strong emotions, as seen in the girl mimicking Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and another embodying the “Snow Queen.” Her use of lighting and costumes not only enhances the visual appeal but also adds a layer of dramatic intensity. The authenticity and imaginative detail in each shot not only pay homage to classic art but also create a magical realism that bridges the gap between the historical and the whimsical. Burenina’s ability to convey complex emotions through these young heroines is a testament to her mastery of both composition and storytelling within the realm of magical realism.

         

Nelly Burenina, “Little Heroines” (digital photo art, 2023)

Maria Yanovskaya‘s “Buddhist Monks at Durdle Door” is a compelling example of magical realism brought to life through the lens of a contemporary photographer. Capturing a group of Buddhist monks, both children and adults, on the brink of a cliff overlooking the endless sea, Yanovskaya masterfully creates a scene that transcends the ordinary. The composition and choice of vivid, yet serene colors enhance the contemplative quality of the image, inviting viewers into a moment of profound reflection.

Maria Yanovskaya, “Buddhist Monks at Durdle Door” (digital photo art, 2023) 

This photograph not only showcases Yanovskaya’s technical precision and her ability to evoke deep emotions but also her knack for infusing mundane scenes with a sense of otherworldliness. The monks, caught in a moment of serene contemplation against the vast, unfathomable expanse of the ocean, appear as if they are part of a larger, mysterious tale. This scene, steeped in the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness and the profound awareness of the ‘here and now,’ offers a portal into philosophical musings and a narrative depth that is characteristic of magical realism.

Artem Skripnikov‘s photograph, “Loneliness,” beautifully encapsulates the essence of magical realism, reminiscent of the timeless narrative style found in Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” The image, set in a seemingly ordinary yet hauntingly static scene, evokes a profound sense of eternity and immobility, capturing the immutable spirit of Eastern philosophy.

In this composition, Skripnikov masterfully employs a rich palette of both warm and cool tones, which enhances the mystical aura of the setting. The juxtaposition of the lush greenery with the stark, worn wall and the solitary bench beneath the gnarled trees creates a vivid tableau that seems both ancient and timeless. It’s as if the scene could belong to any era, unchanged by the passing years, reflecting the stillness and solitude that pervades much of Skripnikov’s work.

Artem Skripnikov, “Loneliness” (digital photo art, 2023) 

Burcak Yetkin

Burcak Yetkin’s photographic work from Istanbul delves into a mysterious and atmospheric depiction of urban life, where the lines between reality and fantasy are subtly blurred. This particular image, captured in Istanbul, showcases Yetkin’s unique ability to transform everyday scenes into visions imbued with a sense of magical realism. The photograph features dimly lit windows that are cast in vibrant, almost surreal hues of green and red, overlaying the darkness of the night.

The interplay of light and shadow, combined with the distinctive color palette, creates an eerie, otherworldly scene that might remind one of a setting from a dream or a distant memory. The gritty texture and the graininess of the image add to its haunting quality, suggesting a narrative that goes beyond the mere physical appearance of the objects and scenes depicted. This photograph is not just an observation; it’s an invitation to peer into a world where every window could tell a different story, and every shadow might hide a secret.

Yetkin’s technique of overlaying or juxtaposing different visual elements in the photo serves to enhance the magical realism of the image. It challenges the viewer to question what is real and what could be a mere reflection or a figment of imagination. The work captures the essence of urban isolation and the solitude that often accompanies city life, while also highlighting the mystical and enigmatic qualities that can lurk within seemingly mundane urban landscapes. Through this work, Yetkin not only documents the urban environment but also elevates it, granting it a narrative and mystical depth that invites contemplation and introspection.

Burcak Yetkin, “Windows” (digital photo art, 2023) 

VIDEO ART

In this “Luminary Oculars,” Diana Meridi creates a vivid internal universe that seamlessly blends mysticism, fantasy, and the occult with the real world. The central motif of the eye, recurrent throughout her work, is employed with powerful symbolic weight, representing divinity, control, and the possibility of transcending ordinary existence.

“Luminary Oculars” serves as a visual meditation on the unseen forces that shape our reality. The eyes in the video are not just visual focal points but are imbued with the essence of a higher power, guiding the viewer through a mystical narrative that explores the boundaries of perception. Meridi’s innovative use of video technology intensifies this experience, allowing for a dynamic interplay between the imagery and the environment that envelops the viewer.

This piece is indicative of Meridi’s broader artistic endeavor to uncover hidden truths that lie beneath the surface of the everyday. By inviting viewers into her meticulously crafted visual narratives, she encourages a contemplation of the divine and its manifestations in our lives.

Viktoriia Saifutdinova‘s video art piece “You Are Perfection” masterfully navigates the intricate dynamics of familial love and control through a narrative that unfolds in a seemingly mundane setting—a haircut. However, the twist in this narrative reveals a much deeper exploration of parental intentions and their impact on a child’s development. In this poignant scene, a boy is not merely getting his hair trimmed; metaphorically, his wings are being clipped as well. This act, performed under the watchful and approving gaze of his mother within the confines of a barber’s chair, becomes a powerful metaphor for the constraints placed on him in the name of love and idealism.

Saifutdinova uses this symbolic act to delve into the paradox of perfection as seen through parental eyes. The mother’s loving intention, aimed at molding her son into her vision of perfection, is contrasted with the subtle yet profound restriction of his potential. This dynamic is visually represented not only through the act of cutting wings but also through the emotional expressions captured on film—the boy’s trusting look towards his mother and the forced smiles that mask a deeper melancholy.

Through “You Are Perfection,” Saifutdinova invites the audience to reflect on the often overlooked nuances of human connections. Her work suggests that these moments of subtle control, though done out of love, can have significant implications on a child’s ability to dream and to fly freely. In this work, Saifutdinova achieves a magical realism that transcends the ordinary setting, turning a simple barbershop into a stage for a profound life lesson. This invites viewers to examine not just the relationships in their lives but also the broader societal expectations that shape such interactions. The piece leaves a lasting impression by beautifully merging the visual medium with the complexity of human emotions, making “You Are Perfection” a deep exploration of love, freedom, and the quest for individual identity.

DIGITAL ART

Anna Archen‘s “Metamorphosis” collage series is a compelling exploration of the magical realism genre, seamlessly blending human figures with the majestic landscapes of the natural world. Through her skilled use of digital collage, Archen creates an ethereal visual narrative where the boundaries between the human and the environment are not just blurred but transcended.

In each image of the series, the protagonist appears integrated into the mountainous backdrop—her form partially transparent, merging with the earth and sky. This visual fusion suggests more than a physical connection; it hints at a spiritual and transformative journey. The manipulation of scale and transparency lends her subjects an almost supernatural quality—floating above the ground, merging with the terrain, embodying the freedom and vastness of the landscape itself.

Archen’s work in “Metamorphosis” captures a profound sense of liberation and solitude. It invites the viewer to contemplate the protagonist’s journey as one of personal evolution, where the vast, open spaces symbolize endless possibilities and the serenity of finding one’s place in the universe. The use of cool, muted colors across the scenes enhances the sense of calm and introspection.

These collages do not merely depict scenes; they evoke feelings of introspection and a deep connection to something greater than oneself. Archen’s artistic vision challenges us to see the fusion of human and nature not as an escape but as a return to a more profound, elemental state of being. Her work beautifully articulates themes of vulnerability, identity, and the human experience through a lens that is both deeply personal and universally resonant, embodying the essence of magical realism.

Anna Archen, “Metamorphosis” (Digital collage, 2018) 

Maria Lukoianova‘s digital art pieces, including the works shown, exemplify a sophisticated blend of modern design and deep cultural introspection. Her artworks serve as portals to a world where historical narrative and contemporary societal critique converge through symbolic visual language.

Maria Lukoianova, “I understand Now” (Digital art, 2023) 

In “I understand Now, we see a figure poised at the edge of a precipice, overlooking a cityscape. The stark contrast between the natural form and the structured urban environment below, combined with the futuristic aspects of the composition, highlights the tension between human advancement and nature’s enduring presence. This setting invites the viewer to reflect on the cyclical nature of history and its relentless push forward, suggesting a contemplation of our place within this continuum.

 “Patience” focuses on the detailed imagery of ornate, traditional footwear, standing on a surreal, geometrically abstract ground. The boots, adorned with intricate designs, are emblematic of cultural heritage and craftsmanship, juxtaposed against a starkly minimalistic and modern background. This contrast not only emphasizes the beauty and complexity of cultural artifacts but also poses questions about their relevance and adaptation in today’s digital age.

Maria Lukoianova, “Patience” (Digital art, 2023) 

Lukoianova’s use of vivid colors and sharp geometric forms creates a dynamic visual narrative that bridges the gap between the past and the present. Her art is not just a reflection but a dialogue—an invitation to delve into the layers of meaning behind each element, exploring how they resonate within our own experiences and societal constructs. Through her digital canvases, Lukoianova encourages a deeper understanding of the cyclical influences of history, the enduring power of cultural symbols, and the personal journey of spiritual and existential discovery. These pieces are visual allegories that challenge the viewer to reconsider established narratives and to reflect critically on the interplay between history and modern identity.

Redaxion: Serkan Incu