Evy Jokhova’s (b. 1984) polysemus sculptures and installations create a conversation between reality and fantasy; between the familiar and the uncommon. Her art practice includes objects, sculptures, installations and sound works that seem capable of challenging the mind, as if they are symbols of things or situations we might have seen or experienced before. Rock-like objects, clay or linoleum structures, abstract paintings and sound sculptures operate as stimulating forms of aesthetic manipulation, while being thought provoking to the viewer’s mind. Situated in different spaces each time, her works can be seen as creative means converted into things uncanny and mysterious. Places and spaces seriously sport a remarkable significance to the artist’s approach; the spatial interpretation provides an additional dimension to the exhibits for further engagement and understanding.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
In this respect, one recent example is Jokhova’s exhibition ‘Weighed Down By Stones’ at Lily Brooke gallery in which the artist “wanted the viewers experience to be reminiscent of entering a home filled with familiar yet somewhat uncanny objects imbued with history, as opposed to entering a gallery space in a home”. Jokhova also aims to convert memories or other imprinted socio-cultural evocations into visually conventional or peculiar adventures that confront the viewer with the objects’ material absurdity and unorthodox geometry. Materials encompass their own history that is remarkably explored in her multi-media based shows. Ontological enquires are often introduced through her creative prism investigating notions of space, architecture and human memory and identity.
Born in Switzerland to a Russian father and an Estonian/Dagestani mother, Jokhova grew up in Vienna, Austria. She now lives and works in London. The artist has a vast educational background; more specifically, in 2006 she received a BA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins, in 2011 she completed an MA in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in London and in 2013 another MA in Political Communications at the Goldsmiths College (London). Her work has been exhibited mostly around the United Kingdom, but also to other countries, such as the Netherlands and Italy.
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Evy Jokhova: My work is research based and stems from much observation of the world, social anthropology and architecture theory. The research is on-going, I frequently travel to different parts of the world on residencies specifically for research and then return to make work influenced by this. The production periods following the research are usually very intense and exhibition specific. Sometimes they involve multiple collaborators such as composers, dancers, performers and other artists. This bears with it all the dreary but rewarding aspects of project management alongside the actual making of the work.
AV: How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
EJ: Site-specific, site-responsive, research based (and often stone related).
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
EJ: Ever since I saw the work of Rebecca Horn for the first time at her Hayward Gallery retrospective in 2005 she has been a great inspiration. Architecture and observing how other cultures experience architecture is an on-going and important source of inspiration for me.
AV: What can you tell us about your works on view at ‘Weighed Down By Stones’ at Lily Brooke gallery?
EJ: All of the works for the exhibition were made with Lily’s gallery in mind, specific to the physical space and the context of the domestic location. I have not made a body of work about domestic objects, keepsakes and relics before. To date my work has either been large scale or in large series, whereas here I concentrated on creating more intimate and individual pieces. I wanted the viewers experience to be reminiscent of entering a home filled with familiar yet somewhat uncanny objects imbued with history, as opposed to entering a gallery space in a home. Lily and I installed a carpeted floor for this and sponged the walls with charcoal swirls to create a smoke effect linking the space to the central sculpture that resembles something between a log burning stove, a totem and a museum display case encasing a stone display. The other two objects in the exhibition are two small ceramic pieces: a hook and an oversized button that fade into the charcoal walls almost like objects long forgotten on a shelf. With the exhibition taking place in winter I had the idea of linking the performative aspect of the work with people dancing around a fire. The sculpture comes with several headphone sets that the viewers can put on and hear a soundtrack that they themselves create through triggering motion sensors set in the sculpture, which in turn activate different parts of an original score composed by Oliver Price for the exhibition. Further we commissioned writer and theorist Michael Amherst to write a creative text to go alongside the exhibition touching on the themes in the work and, hopefully, allowing the viewers another way in.
AV: Working with different physicalities, patterns and objects, does it feel like on ongoing challenge to explore the idea of materiality in your shows?
EJ: Yes, definitely and also of constantly experimenting, testing and understanding new materials and their inter-relationships. Sometimes it can feel a little like treading through a minefield, as in the end all of the different materials have to work together either cohesively or dissonantly, but I enjoy the excitement and challenges that this brings.
AV: Creating a new artwork can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
EJ: This is very much project dependant for me, as I often work with numerous collaborators if I am making a film, devising a performance or creating one of my ‘singing sculptures’. Sometimes, however, the work is very studio based and I do find myself alone for days making, sanding, stitching, editing, etc. I enjoy this time immensely as I like to take my time with generating ideas and forms. Being alone presents the right environment for me to concentrate properly. Unnecessary communication or exposure to the outside world, so to say, can make me lose my trail of thought. Either way, if I am working with collaborators or without, there are definitely intense periods when the projects shortly before completion take over my life and for a week or two social life is mostly cancelled. The joy of working with collaborators is that even in these moments there are people to talk with when you need to. Also, depending on which gallery I am working with and how long the installation period is, I will ask a number of artist friends to come in and give some feedback before the final work is completed.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
EJ: My studio space is often a little transitory as I travel a lot for projects and residencies. This results in many different studio setups in various countries. The materials and processes I use have at times also been defined by the cultures I have worked and presented work in, as well as what workshops are available to me. Generally I would say that my work spaces have two guises, minimal and well ordered during the planning stages where drawing and computer work are predominant; and extremely busy (and somewhat messy) during production stages, where walls are covered in drawings and plans whilst the floors are densely packed with materials, moulds and objects in progress being arranged and rearranged.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
EJ: ‘Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and other Treasures’ – an exhibition curated by Wes Anderson’s and his partner Juman Malouf at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Here Anderson and Malouf present a selection of objects from the museum’s archives and displays in arrangements and grouping that present an alternative narrative to the way historical objects are usually displayed and interpreted.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
EJ: Ideally a question or multiple questions. Through my work I aim to pose questions more than attempt to say something, I try to create situations and environments where the audience can question the inherent meaning of things, their relationship to objects, ideas and social norms.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
EJ: Sometimes she understands it. Almost always she challenges it, provides insightful questions and constructive criticism.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
EJ: Both, if that is possible. I nap in the afternoons.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
EJ: Lisbon! I am off to Lisbon on a 3-month residency starting March with the idea of moving to the city afterwards and trying it out for year. I have been in London too long and fancy a change as well as an affordable studio space. Of course, I will return to London often as I have several shows planned there, the first in April: ‘Sisyphus in Retrograde’ curated by Aindrea Emelife and Gabriella Sonabend at White Box space in Regents Place, London. My first exhibition in 2019 will be in February in Lisbon, ‘Capitulo Um’ at AMAC, curated by Tim Ralston and Diana Cerenzino of PADA.
All images courtesy of Corey Bartle-Sanderson & Lily- Brooke Gallery