Antonyan, Svetlana (Okean)

Nationality: Armenian
Place of Activity: Armenia/France

Svetlana Antonyan’s interest in photography began as a hobby and she has never had professional schooling in the medium. However, since 2009, her sophisticated photo-performative works began to be noticed by curators and art critics. This has led to her participation in a number of major exhibitions in Armenia, like the 2010 ‘Body: the new representational art in Armenia’ and ‘Trouble in paradise: photography and constructions of femininity’ (2014).

The artist’s own body, its relationship to the camera and the world, is the primary subject of Antonyan’s photographs. Her first foreys into performative photography expressively transformed the body into a raw nerve. Freed from cultural earmarks and even temporal signposts, these photographs distilled the physicallity of the artist into unmitigated emotional states that could be seen as ‘studies of desire and fear’.

Even while Antoyan’s work has increasingly acquired a conceptual ‘bodice’, her photographs retain the same viscerality. Nevertheless, what makes her latest series so effortlessly relevant is the wider and richer network of engagements which she brings into play. These encompass a wide range of subjects – from classical painting to news media and political theatre.

In her recent series of black and white images made in the Loire Valley in France, Antonyan’s naked figure stands in a dense forest like an echo of the Biblical Eve. This ‘primal’ state is disturbed by the artist’s gestures, which are directed straight at the viewer. The artist’s agressive gaze shutters and exposes the idylic surface of the images as romantic and cultural constructs.

However, unlike the work of earlier photo-performance artists like Francesca Woodman, Antonyan’s body is not erased by its surroundings but appropriates them as an arena for her own, powerful exploration of self and sexuality.

Vigen Galstyan, 2014