Artist Spotlight: Julia Sinelnikova a.k.a. THE ORACLE

 Artist Spotlight: The Oracle

Your sculptures are stunning works of beauty. Can you tell us a little bit about how you developed this style of sculptures and installation pieces?

From the beginning, my mind naturally worked to transform space, through a kind of visual math. One of my first memories, back in Russia, is building a castle out of building blocks, the feeling of determination in creating something tangible and well designed. When I look at a space, my mind overlays abstract patterns which seem to expand the space into an eternal spread.

My process developed out of a hands-on approach to experimenting with studio and industrial materials, as well as from my interest in fractal forms in nature. For a long time, I focused on figurative collage and painting, and at some point, I decided to pop the collages images out of the 2D plane by cutting and twisting them in hand fabricated acrylic cubes. The smooth curves of the shapes created by cut and twisted films enticed me, and I began to draw on my upbringing with Eastern folklore to create the “Fairy Organs” hanging light sculptures. To create these works, I hand cut materials such as vinyl with patterns from plant and animal cell structures, such as diatoms, single-celled bioluminescent sea creatures. I am constantly building a “library” of patterns into my hand cutting process, through photography of plants and light refractions taken during my travels. I turn these photos into stencil patterns for future immersive sculptures.

My vision with my sculptural practice is to envision the world through purely organic forms and transform the audience into a meditative state.

Can you tell us a little about how you got started and how you have grown over the years?

I was enrolled in after-school art classes by the second grade. When I was fourteen, I made the decision to exhibit professionally, and at sixteen I had my first solo show in Houston, Texas at the Super Happy Fun Land gallery.

Participating in a small art collective called Zeitgeist in Houston as a teen was a huge part of my beginning phase as an artist. It meant a lot to be respected as an equal by lifelong artists in the scene, and we exhibited together at legendary venues such as Helios (Avante Garden) and Notsuoh.

New York City has been such an important part of my growth as an artist. It is here that I gained an interest in light art through my participation in underground nightlife, and reawakened the performer in myself through work with JJ Brine’s Vector Gallery and the Vectorian Government, a PostHuman Art collective and seasonal pop-up gallery. I have now been based in Brooklyn for eleven years, amongst an incredibly diverse and passionate artist community.

Can you tell us the origin story of where your unique style grew from?

Is there a beginning or an end? We are taught that art is painting as children, for the most part. I suppose my art started as vivid boredom as a child, during which I would construct complex visual worlds in my mind and project them onto the architecture around me. I painted moody figurative scenes into my early twenties, and after a solo show in Bushwick around 2011, dropped it entirely to pursue immersive work. Everything I do has a three dimensional or time-based element these days, and I produce a lot of videos. I suppose I evolved fully into the fifth dimension.

How do you blend so many elements into your art? Where does it come from?

A lot of people think my work is 3D printed, or think my hand cut works are laser cut. That’s part of the trick and the joy. It’s not as if I am out there to imitate a machine, but I wanted to create ethereal forms which had a futuristic materiality that didn’t exist in the world before, and so I experimented with resins and pigments and light. It is interesting to me to see how far into a fantastical realm I can pull a simple material, such as a flat film or paper. I want to show that the mind, the eye, and the hand can create never-ending worlds without the necessity for machines.

Of course, I use automation when appropriate, such as to laser cut some wide swaths of mylar for warehouse installations and client work. One thing people don’t realize is that a laser design takes even more work than hand cutting in many ways. You must first design an intricate pattern by hand, which I do either by cutting or on the computer, and you have to make sure the shapes will cut well on the math-based laser cutter machine. Then you have to line up the material and deal with fumes, as well as to determine an appropriate speed and strength of the laser beam to avoid burning your material too much. Some of the materials I work with, such as vinyl, cannot safely be laser cut because of toxic fumes. Replication machines are a limited tool, not necessarily a shortcut.

Please tell us more about your artistic process! How do you go from concept to finished piece?

I see myself as my character “The Oracle,” a feminine sorceress giving birth and life to the “Fairy Organ” light sculptures. My process involves many sketches in order to understand how I am going to take up space volumetrically in a particular room or outdoor site. Then I get to work with a wide array of plastic, resin and lighting materials. I cut for weeks, months or years to complete my sculptures. I also film site-specific performances of myself interacting with my sculptures, edit them in a kaleidoscopic way, and project the results over my final installations. This creates a recursive visual narrative and organically triggered movement in the artwork.

In terms of software, I code in Max, use Adobe Suite, Resolume, and a little Touch Designer. I do projection l-mapping of videos with surveillance and cyber futurist themes over my hand fabricated sculptures.


Can you tell us about your creative-minded daily schedule?

I usually try to take a very long morning, to heal and grow my brain through nourishment and boredom. I might read a novel - I recently read the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemison, and it was a very visually inspiring work, describing future earth worlds where technology and the plant lifeforms became intertwined.

I might cook myself some oatmeal with blueberries, work on an outfit that will make me feel confident for the day, and catch up on some calls with clients before heading out the door to my studio for the afternoon and evening.

Do you listen to music while you create? If so what kind and how do you see it affecting your finished product?

I grew up around music in Austin, TX and in the NYC nightlife scene, so I’ve always been around a ton of amazing musicians. I’ve always been heavy into the rave scene, and whenever possible enjoy a night out dancing with my orbital light at an Unter warehouse party in Brooklyn. 

After being immersed in this world for so long, I adamantly prefer to see music performed live, be it electronic or acoustic. I just need to be in the action and see how the musician or DJ is really putting out the vibe. It’s similar to hearing a poet recite their own work. I need to feel it for it to be real. Music is tangible performance and that’s the pure way in which I want to experience art.

These days I am working on some songwriting of my own and finally trying to finish some tracks...

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I don’t know a life or mindset other than art. It’s what I’ve done since a young age. I am also a writer and performer - I have a lot of ways to flex my creativity and I take advantage of them in as diverse a pattern as possible. To stay flexible.

What would be your ultimate dream to accomplish with your art?

I see myself designing sculptures and immersive installations which interpret scientific data about light, quantum physics and time. I would like to work with CERN, NASA and Bell Labs to articulate advances in technology to wide audiences through immersive visual art. I would like to design a light-reactive work which lives on the International Space Station.

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