Artist and photographer Olivia Milani has been captivated by images and the power of visual language since she can remember.
Olivia studied photography at Central Saint Martins in London, graduating with a Postgraduate degree in Photography.
Through her curious, inquisitive and lyrical looking, she creates subtle, open narratives that usually develop into long term projects. Travel is an important source of inspiration for her work. As much as representing outer places or destinations, her dreamlike images conjure inner landscapes suggestive of internal states and the fluidity of emotions.
Partly constructed, partly simply observed or gathered as they happen in the moment, her images are often situations encountered by chance which she then invests with symbolism, mythological and literary references.
Her work has been exhibited internationally and she has enjoyed collaborations with many gifted artists. Growing up in the context of a multicultural background in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, she lives and works in London, England and feels at home in the world.
Olivia sees photography as a tool for outer and inner exploration and discovery. Approaching her work with serious playfulness, she likes to let its meaning unfold.
Eastern Winds is about a journey of tracing my roots and reconnecting the fragmented aspects of my family past.
It all started when I opened an old suitcase filled with photographs and letters - the remnants of my grandmother Lydia's life in Russia. The photographs were mainly portraits from 19th and 20th century Russia. Their soulful and enigmatic quality captured me immediately and led me on a voyage, first inner and imaginary, and eventually outer - like following a river back to it's source, I decided to travel to Russia.
Starting in Moscow, I crossed the country by land, from West to East, travelling along the Trans-Siberian railway route all the way to Siberia, that to me felt like the far northern edges of the world. As I was travelling through the immense vastness of the endless Russian plains, I was imagining the lives and destinies of my ancestors. A great stillness stretched around me and it felt as if the limitlessness of these landscapes was re-shaping my inner geography, linking me back to the continuum of my ancestral connections.
My grandmother Lydia was born in Moscow to a Russian mother and Swiss father. All I know is that during the time of the political turmoil of the Russian Revolution her family got torn apart and she had to flee Russia over night. She was 20 and travelled to Switzerland on a cargo train with one sister. She never saw her family and homeland again.
These images are a way of weaving back together the broken threads of my family history - a tapestry composed of lost and found family photographs, untold stories and memories half vanished through time.
An act of remembrance and a way of reappropriating my family history and transnational heritage.
Blending the pictures I took during the journey with the photographs of my ancestors is an attempt of linking past and present together, one family member to another, one generation to another. Reconnecting to the ancestors returns us to the river of life that flows from the past into the present moment to nourish us.