by Shraddha NairDec 09, 2019
Inspiration has been found on mountaintops, in the depths of caves, and in Ksenia Salion’s case, at the bottom of the oceans. Her most recent body of work is motivated by the beauty and functionality of bioluminescent phytoplankton. An artist by profession, with a heart that belongs in the open waters, Ksenia Salion talks to STIR about her long-standing love for the ocean.
“It started long time ago,” she says. “When I was a kid, I spent my best moments by the Black Sea, in the Southern part of Russia. I loved being at the sea. I developed a strong bond with it and its sound. I could spend hours looking at the sea and waves. Perhaps, on some level, I could see and hear what others couldn’t.”
As a young girl, Salion had an affinity for drawing, which took her to art school in Russia where she studied and honed skills in composition, exhibition design, oil and watercolour painting. Later on, she graduated from FIT in New York with a Bachelor’s as a Graphic Design major. Throughout the birth of her artistic career she harboured a passion for marine biology as well. Her recent works bring these two together for Ksenia. She recalls, “For my senior project I decided to develop an exhibition project about the work and life of famous French Marine explorer, inventor, conservationist, filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He was a real hero for me! This was the beginning of it”.
In a time where global warming is a phenomenon directly affecting us all, Ksenia looks to art as a driving force for social change. “As an artist I want my art to change the world. I think artists have the power to make people think and react on current climate related issues,” she says. “Specifically, the way we perceive climate change and how we, humans can reverse it or at least slow it down. I believe it’s all in our hands. We just have to stop ignoring it, make our voices and opinions count! We can help the earth, help to save the ocean!”
Her current work examines the importance of plankton, a major source of oxygen in our atmosphere. Inspired by the natural bioluminescent nature of phytoplankton, her installations use ultraviolet lights and paints to imitate the natural glow of such marine creatures. Ksenia creates immersive experiences using soundscapes, which she feels are an integral part of her works. She goes on to explain, “I incorporate electronic music and motion graphics to add immersive experience. I think artwork should have sound, especially if it’s related to ocean or water. I think the sound is definitely adding more layers, emotions to the total experience. My artwork is abstract, and instead of trying to recreate what the jellyfish or bioluminescent wave looks like, I leave it mostly to the viewers imagination and use abstract forms”.
Bioluminescence is a chemical process in which an organism emits light. It’s considered a ‘cold light’, which means only a small percentage of the light contains heat, unlike the light produced by fire or the sun’s rays. Ksenia uses the concept of bioluminescence and biofluorescence to guide her material choices while creating these artworks. She uses retroreflective and luminous fabrics and lights to re-create the subtle glow seen in nature. Her artwork transforms in the daylight as well as under flashlight or UV light, creating a range of audiovisual experiences for the viewer to absorb. She hopes that with these works her audience is moved to understand the importance of the ocean along with the integral role of marine life in our existence.
Her artwork can be found up at her studio in New Jersey, and was on display in Miami at the Dimensions Expo curated by Fathom Magazine as part of the Art Basel Miami. Her work will also be seen at Flux Factory in Long Island, New York, a part of a group-show starting December 21, 2019.