We don't quite know what's going on in Julia Petrova's delightfully eery artworks but we can see a recurring theme of gloomy mystery and heavy atmosphere, complemented with a unique lexicon of symbols that blend the psychedelic, urban, tropical, and horrific.
We're not complaining. The film noir tones hang over Petrova's characters in a darkness that is only too appealing to those of us who enjoy dystopian themes. Her human subjects are often distant, absent, or obscured, which only makes each piece even more intriguing and atmospheric. It's as though something awful is about to happen in each composition. Indeed, if you look closely at most of her works, you'll spot a single eye, peering out at the protagonists, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
An artist and illustrator based in Moscow, Russia, Petrova's unique style certainly feels like a typical neo-noir movie, as though inspired by the weird and wonderful German Expressionist cinematography of the 1940s and '50s. There's a Revolutionary Road feel to some of her thrilling narratives. A sense of foreboding, sparking a desire to learn more. Or perhaps even shout out a warning, ensuring that no harm comes to those she depicts. Even the very title of her website points to her inspiration, Suspicious Object.
In earlier works, we see this ongoing mix of enticing surrealism and horror. It's a style that's since evolved to include urban and often tropical environments as the backdrop to most of her illustrations.
Created using watercolour, ink and liner pens, there's a softness to her drawings, despite the dark undertones. It's as though they're handmade and from a different era. And the colour palette suggests glamour of the old Hollywood kind with perhaps a dose of traditional cover design for sci-fi classics might favour. We see humour plays its part, too, as we spot a tongue-in-cheek approach to some of Petrova's works.
This is a portfolio that captures the imagination and invites you to come closer if you dare. We certainly enjoy poring over Petrova's illustrations, trying to spot the clues to the wider narrative at play. You can do the same via her website.