YYulia Podolska - sculptorulia Podolska, resident artist at The School has had an incredible three years following her arrival in the UK from Ukraine. First in 2010 she was awarded the Bronze Age Young Sculptor of the Year by the Society of Women Artists and had work selected for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition. In 2011 she was selected as one of 10 finalists in the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize. This endorsement was followed by the selection of her sculpture Montanka for the prestigious 150th Annual Exhibition at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and in 2012 she has now secured her place at the Summer Exhibition at the prestigious Medici Gallery in London (throughout August).

Podolska grew up in Kiev the daughter of Soviet athletes and naturally her young life revolved around sport. However at the age of fourteen a visit to the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, to see a Claude Monet exhibition, had a profound effect on the young girl. On returning home Podolska became ill and was confined to bed. She was given pencils and paper to keep her amused and not able to do anything active Podolska spent her weeks of recuperation drawing. The drawings finally ended up in the hands of a professor of art at the National Academy of Fine Art and Architecture in Kiev. Two years later she became, at the age of sixteen, one of the youngest people ever to be offered a place at this prestigious school.

It was while she was at the Academy that Podolska discovered that sculpture was to be her real calling. Her studies at the Academy were wholly based on the traditional disciplines of classical sculpture, with great emphasis put on the study of human anatomy and the perfect reproduction of the human form – all other forms of art being seen as inferior or irrelevant. Modern and contemporary art was not understood by most of her teachers as they had developed their practice under the introspective Soviet regime. Although Podolska admired and understood some early Soviet artists such as Vera Mukhina, she became increasingly disenchanted by the work that surrounded her believing it to be an irrelevant hangover from an outdated time.

Having secured her Masters degree in Sculpture, Yulia then travelled to Europe, visiting Turkey where she learned the skills needed to carve marble and then to view the great National collections in Italy, France and the UK. She was eager to expand her knowledge of contemporary and modern art and decided to relocate to the UK. She says: “These experiences had a profound effect on the direction and maturity of my art, I wanted to be closer to the contemporary art world and have greater access to reference material and examples of great works available in the West.”

On Arriving in the UK Podolska submerged herself in the British art scene visiting the galleries of London – Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Royal Academy and in Paris the Pompidou Centre. The work of particular artists, none of whom she had known or seen before impressed her – Henry Moore and Jacob Epstein for the way they could deliver strong messages through greatly abstracted human forms, Jacometti (who she had thought of as irrelevant when just viewed on the page) for doing the same by accentuating just the features, the wire and spheres sculpture of Anthony Gormley where the figure exists in the spaces between the elements, Anish Kapoor’s mirrored forms for the sheer scale and Emily Young who’s work relies as much on the beauty of the stone as on the carving applied to it.

Relocating to the UK has greatly expanded Yulia’s Horizons and she is modestly pleased with her progress both personally and as an artist. Yulia now sees that art can be a language of its own, used to convey emotion and thought to the viewer, and not just the reproduction of the natural environment. This has had a dramatic effect on her work. Initially she reacted by moving towards complete abstraction but now anatomy is again the bedrock of her compositions. She combines the right degree of abstraction to the perfect anatomy, playing with the composition to relay the concept she is trying to convey.

Podolska is one of 30 resident artists at The School Creative Centre in Rye and one of her latest projects has involved collaborations with other residents producing work that crosses boundaries and combines many different art disciplines including painting, animation and music.

But there is so much more that she wants to explore and she has a busy schedule ahead of her. “I am currently producing a series of nude figures in marble; colossal figures for display in the urban and rural environment; creating figurative work in fabric and creating a series of figurative works from river and beach stones with minimal enhancement of the natural forms.” She continues: “I also want to study at one of the great London art schools and continue to develop my art. I don’t think it is possible to stop learning and improving – I want my art to get bigger, better and deeper.”

Yulia’s work can be seen at the Medici Gallery Summer Exhibition. 5 Cork Street, Mayfair, London W1S 3LQ from 10th July until 30th August.

Larger pieces will exhibited at The Pure Arts, Pure Autumn Art Fair Powder Mills Hotel Battle from 14th to 20th Septembe