Yana is an Azerbaijani Canadian interdisciplinary artist based in Toronto and working primarily in oil, encaustic medium, and textile. Her work is inspired by land and nature because of her great appreciation of its therapeutic qualities. Influenced by the Canadian landscape tradition, her works are an attempt to understand how she fits in within this land and to re-frame said landscape with consideration of her own culture and identity. In creating this new visual language her goal is to allow the viewer to experience work that is aesthetically unique, but also to think about land from a different perspective and to re-imagine the art of weaving that is generally regarded as women’s craft and excluded from the fine art scene.
Yana graduated from OCAD University with distinction and holds a BFA in Drawing and Painting. She is the recipient of the Andre Beaulieu Bursary for Young Visual Artists (2022), the Won Lee Fine Art Award (2023) and the TOAF Career Launcher (2023), and is currently pursuing her MFA at OCAD University.
My work has always been inspired by nature, however, when I think of paintings of nature, I picture something that has been viewed through a colonial lens with no inclusion of ethnic groups. Therefore, I feel compelled to bring elements of my cultural identity into my nature-inspired works in the form of traditional handwoven textiles, as my ancestral homeland, Azerbaijan, is one of major weaving centers in the Caucasus region. As someone who comes from land that, over its long history, has been conquered by formidable empires, and who now lives on this land we call Canada, which is also a taken land, I often think about place, culture, identity and belonging. Hence, I choose the border parts of the rugs to stand as metaphors for geographical borders, and the cut-out element to convey the fragmented nature of diasporic living.
I use natural materials, such as beeswax and charcoal, and have the textile pieces frame or flow through the work. The textiles add a three-dimensional element to the work, pushing off the boundaries of the surface and into the viewer’s space. The beeswax serves as a painting medium but is also the substance that binds the textiles onto the surface, with some of the threads embedded in the wax. This conveys the intertwining of nature and culture and unifies the flat and dimensional elements of the work.