Written by Alexander Greco
August 26, 2020
Evlampia, an alumnus of the magazine, is a Russian artist who mixes the morbid, the horrid, the haunting and the beautiful. Her artwork presents dark, dream-like visions of animals, figures, creatures, settings or objects, many of which seem esoteric, uncanny or possess a mystique. This will actually be the second article I’ve done with Evlampia, the first article having been published about a year ago, and it is as much a joy to write about Evlampia this time as it was with the last article.
While it may in part be due to a language barrier between her and I (or perhaps misaligned expectations on my part), Evlampia has at times seemed like an opaque and elusive individual to talk with, which only adds to the mystique of her work. Nonetheless, Evlampia is a sweet, thoughtful individual, dedicated to her craft, and her artwork, though at times morbid, dark or uncanny, carry with them beauty, feeling and love.
Since our first article, Evlampia (@ginger_dragon_bones on Instagram) has continued creating and putting out artwork on a regular basis, sharing the contents of her mind and notebooks with a dedicated group of admirers who love her style and tone (including myself).
With a few exceptions, Evlampia’s art is mostly black and white. Most of her art is made with ink, though she uses graphite and/or paint in some of her pieces. The pieces she does make that include color other than black white usually only add red, though there’s an even smaller number of pieces with more than black, white and red. That said, Evlampia has been experimenting with more color lately.
“I tried adding new colors in my art. They didn’t really fit in. Still, my favorite colors are red, black, and white. It is always interesting to put yourself in new conditions.
“I try to combine tenderness with cruelty in my works, not in the drawing technique but in the idea itself. Regarding technique, the combination of rough strokes and fine lines frustrate me. I’m always trying to find new details. Some of them take root and move from one piece to another.”
There are a number of themes, series or styles Evlampia has maintained since she began posting her art. There are a few figure-series she’s developed, which either possess recurring characters or themes. She has a series of animal drawings, which are all done on a parchment-like paper. These depict various animals on a starry background that are dripping with some sort of black fluid. Other creations of Evlampia’s include strange, nightmarish creatures, dark, surreal scenes, or other miscellaneous and ominous creations of a nocturnal mind.
One series of Evlampia’s figures that has been around since she first started posting her art have been a male and female duo. These two are often depicted in nocturnal settings, sometimes alone and sometimes together, are shown fighting monsters at times, and are almost always wearing iconic dragon-skull masks.
Other newer series of figures include a yoga-pose figure, a series of bat-like figures accompanied by various internal organs, and an “insane” series, featuring a figure with black pants and red fur coat. These figures develop a wider cast of characters and ongoing themes in Evlampia’s work, and help explore more elements of her style.
“The Surgery series was completely accidental. I drew a brain, then a heart, and so on. Why is the bowel worse? Lungs? They are also indispensable for our bodies.
Yoga got its name because of quirky poses. Only yogis are capable of such tricks. The red yoga mat is included.”
Other than her color schemes, Evlampia’s style does vary a bit from piece to piece and series to series. Many individual pieces, particularly still-life’s that usually contain skulls, bones, flowers and insects, fall more into realism, and are impressively detailed. Other pieces depict more surreal and fantastic visions of otherworldly creatures or settings, or near-hallucinogenic spectacles of violent elegance and tenebrous epiphany.
However, there is a consistent balance in Evlampia’s art between the uncanny, eerie or disturbing with images that are intriguing, beautiful or sweet and nostalgic.
As one example, her animal series depicts animals dripping in black fluid, oftentimes with other macabre or fearsome details included, but the animals are also made in such a way that they remain cute, beautiful or in some other way likeable. They are not presented in a way that repulses the viewer from them, despite the macabre style of Evlampia’s work.
Another example would be her organ series, where a fox bat-like person accompanies images of internal organs. The animal-person alone has a darker style to it, with a pitch-black body and a face that only possesses white eyes and no other visible feature. The organs are starkly displayed in all their grotesque unmasking, serving as a reminder that we humans really are quite disturbing machines once you look beneath our skin.
Still, the animal-people have a sympathetic and cute quality to them, on top of their mysterious, ominous visage. They are both foreboding and welcoming in appearance. The organs are neatly and cleanly displayed, almost like organs you might find in a text book or on display in some anatomical museum, where their strangeness and the shock of seeing them is made safe by the environment. In addition, they are displayed inside circles, like frames or windows, encircling them almost protectively like you might protect an insect collection behind glass; and each piece includes some form of vegetation, like leaves, grass or vines.
Similarly, another animal, the “circle of death” series, uses circles in every image. This second series of animals depicts zombie-like critters with rotting flesh and exposed bones, all of which are paired with a large, red circle, oftentimes set like a halo behind their heads. There are the disturbing elements of zombified animals, but they are still beautifully depicted, and the circle adds a sort of symbolic meaningfulness to the animals.
Her ongoing series with the male and female figures act in the same way, where there is a sympathy towards the characters and the relationship between the two. While there are many mundane situations the two of them are depicted in, they are also often put into violent or ominous situations.
Beyond this, and beyond the recurring styles of Evlampia’s different series, there are a variety of individual pieces that stand out quite distinctly in Evlampia’s artwork.
In one of Evlampia’s pieces that includes additional color, she has a squid or octopus paired with red flowers and orange leaves. There’s definitely an autumn-color scheme going on here, but there’s also a neat parallel between the flowers and the movement of the octopus tentacles. These are both paired by the shared red and orange colors the flowers and octopus have, but also contrasted by the black-and-white colors of the octopus. The shapes of the plants and the octopus similarly are paired together by the flowery, spreading design of both, but then contrasted by the more fleshy, aquatic shape of the octopus vs the vegetative, terrestrial shape of the plants.
The colors give that same foreboding sense we might feel in autumn, as the world grows colder, the nights longer and darker, and we begin to watch things die. That paired with the strange, alien shapes of cephalopod appendages creates something eerie and strange. However, the limbs paired with the flowers takes this eerie, uncanny imagery and turns it into something as beautiful and elegant as it is foreboding and haunting.
In another colorful piece, this one of the male and female characters, Evlampia shows us the dragon-skull-wearing protagonists of much of her art investigating some fleshy, surreal landscape full of otherworldy vines and vegetation, bloody, bulging masses across the floor and walls, and many other small details that set this near-psychedelic scene.
This nightmarish space would normally repulse most people, maybe even drive them mad if they were to ever find it in real life, but Evlampia’s characters seem perfectly at ease exploring this landscape, which makes the viewer at ease as well. Evlampia’s “fairy tale” world is presented like a happy invitation to gleefully explore new curiosities, rather than a depiction of a nightmare we ought to recoil and flee from.
I think this contrast between terror and dread, and beauty and warmth we can find in Evlampia’s art is epitomized in a painting she made of a woman with various animals: birds, wolves, a hyena. The colors are like the shadows and the moonlight at midnight—blacks, inky indigos and pale blue-grays. The woman is wearing a horned skull on her head, and she is surrounded by predatory animals, except for the raven, which perches on a branch like a living omen in the dark. Everything about the scene ought to elicit some level of fear, dread or revulsion. And yet, the darkness of the image is accompanied by something comforting.
The cool blues relax and calm as much as the excite. The animals seem to be in no way threatening to the girl, who stares at with a calm expression and peaceful eyes. She somehow seems both all-knowing to the threatening and dark world around her, and also perfectly innocent and at one with it. We are entranced by this midnight world, and enveloped in nature and the wild.
Still, these descriptions of the unity of threat and comfort in Evlampia’s art doesn’t completely describe her art, or the emotions and thoughts Evlampia’s art elicit inside you. This might be because words aren’t the right language to describe the deeper waters and darker forests of Evlampia’s artwork.
With Evlampia’s work, it’s difficult to really pin down specific themes or ideas behind her art, and Evlampia doesn’t delve into these too deeply in conversation. With her artwork, it’s more about feeling what she is showing you. It’s about getting lost in the tentacled tangles of unconscious creatures and denizens of a dreaming landscape. It’s about empathizing with the characters she shows us, or feeling the emotions of the animals and the contrasts in colors, textures and images.
Evlampia shows us a world pulled up from her unconscious and from the landscapes of her thoughts, emotions, daydreams and perceptions of the world around us.
Evlampia said this about her male-female-duo pieces, but I think it reflects quite a bit of her work:
“These are just fragments of my life and the life of my friends. Perhaps, you can also find a fragment from your life in these drawings. These are human emotions. Almost all of us tied a blanket as if it was a knight cloak. Here it is – the emotion when we did it.”
There’s almost something like a veil around a lot of Evlampia’s work—a veil like the veil of darkness in the woods at night, hiding the secret comings and goings of nocturnal beasts; a veil like the shroud of leaves, the hide of bark or the skin of grass and dirt hiding the secret societies of plants and insects; a veil like the stony face of rocky hills hiding the caverns and tunnels behind it.
The key is not to try pulling this veil out of the way, tearing at it with your hands, or prying at it with logic or theory, but delving into her artwork and exploring the visions and feelings she depicts for yourself. Explore the midnight fields and underground forests with knowingness and innocence, and let Evlampia’s art show what she was feeling and seeing when she made it. That’s the beauty of her work, the quiet things that suddenly become as loud as a symphony when you quiet your own mind.
“The unconscious is something that we once gave up, intentionally and accidentally. This happens under the influence of society, mostly. Everyone is dependent on the opinions of others and all strive for personal satisfaction. The approval of others is a joy for us. Therefore, everything that does not find a response, praise, or some kind of approval eventually goes out of our lives and turns into the unconscious. In some secret desires, in magical creatures, in the Treasury of our brain. Sometimes they go for a walk.”
I asked Evlampia a bit about her moniker, “Ginger Dragon Bones”, trying to see if I could pull back the veil a little here, and she replied with this:
“Once upon a time, there was a prince and he went to rescue a princess from a tower. The tower was guarded by a dragon, of course. He didn’t get to the princess. The dragon had a fire inside that made the dragon’s bones red hot. This sight was beautiful and terrible at the same time. Prince took the dragon, leaving the princess to rot in the tower. And they lived almost long and almost happily.
As with all of Evlampia’s artwork—all of its beauty and cruelty, all of its tenderness and terror—make of her story what you will. Don’t pry at the veil, delve into it.
Though I’ve only talked to Evlampia over the internet, she comes across as a very sweet person, and she is certainly a talented and incredibly imaginative artist deserving of your time. And despite the wild, fantastic visions depicted in her artwork, she seems like someone you’d want to have a conversation with over coffee, or go on a quiet walk with to discover the extraordinary details of an ordinary world.
I asked Evlampia a bit about her life and where she lived—mostly because I’ve never met her in person, and, despite being an admirer of hers, I don’t really know much about her beyond what I’ve talked with her about and what I can find on Instagram. She told me this:
“There are no unexciting things. There are incomprehensible ones. They will remain incomprehensible until you want to understand them.
“There won’t be enough time to find out everything.
“There is a saying, ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ In my subjective opinion, my life is pretty standard. Yes, it is not limited to the usual route from home to work and back, but without circumnavigating the world, red carpets, skydiving and other standard attributes of ‘interesting’ life. Instead of this there are yellow-headed wagtails on the lake at 5 am, there is a delicious ginger coffee boiled for my arrival, there are night walks and observations of the tow truck taking incorrectly parked cars. All this is happening daily and right now.
“What is it like where I am?
“I am in balance. It’s like being on a tightrope over a precipice. But sometimes it’s like being on the seashore.
“Every bit of life is important. This is a lot of emotions that teach us something, lead us to something. They help you understand, make choices, and become aware of something. We make mistakes, try new things, meet people, break up with them, spend time apart. We are bored, we are happy, we are sad, we are angry, we are mad. All these moments are very important, whatever they may be. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad.”
If you want to check out more of Evlampia’s work for yourself (and please do), you can find her on Instagram @ginger_dragon_bones. There, not only can you view her artwork, but you can also contact her about commissions, prints and other merch. Please give Evlampia’s art a look, and, if you enjoy her artwork, give her a follow.