This suite of tapestries by Yelena Popova focuses on the prismatic social, political and physical effects of energy, place, elements and monuments. After visiting decommissioned nuclear sites around the UK, including those at Sizewell, Wylfa, Dungeness and Hinkley Point A, she created speculative designs for mausoleums. Popova incorporates the graphite cores of now defunct Magnox reactors, which cannot be moved for almost a century after their use, due to fear of radioactive contamination. Keepsafe I and II (both 2019) caution against historical and future repercussions of fission and fusion, reflecting markers not only for the advent of the Anthropocene – by some standards dated since the first nuclear explosions released excess radiocarbon into our atmosphere – but also for her own biography, having grown up in Ozyorsk, Russia, birthplace of the secretive Soviet nuclear-weapons programme.
Promethean Chalice (2020) combines ancient geometry, astronomy, solar power, mathematics and atomic fusion, proffering sustainable, ecological solutions for utilising nuclear energy. At the centre of the chalice is a torus, a continuous bagel-shaped vortex mirroring the human aura, in which energy flows through the head and loops down to the feet and back up through the body. Influenced by Popova’s mother’s architectural drawings and her father’s knowledge of electricity and chemical reactions, Ripple-Marked Radiance: after Hertha Ayrton (2019) also pays homage to a pioneering British scientist and suffragette, Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923), who became the first female member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers after her late nineteenth-century research into arc lighting.