Biography

viona ielegems visual artist

Born in Belgium, Viona grew up in the 80’s in a town near Antwerp. Her parents, both teachers, raised her to become a well-mannered, accomplished young girl. She attended a Catholic school run by a mother-superior. She spent her free time with drawing classes, ballet lessons and horse riding. However, Viona was a melancholic child, often overcome by a vague sadness. 

 

From an early age, Viona was fascinated by the costumes, music and stories she had seen in ballet performances and in her favourite movies. She dreamed of becoming an artist. At the age of 12, her parents let her go to a full-time art school where she hoped to learn the skills to become an artist. Her teachers however had a different point of view on art. Viona was looking to learn the classic arts while her teachers were into contemporary and art installations. 

Throughout those years, Viona started to get the feeling she did not belong. She started running away from school during breaks to spend time in some horse meadows, the only nature she could find near her school. She graduated school at 18: once a dreamy ballerina girl, now a disappointed gothic girl. Her drawings, dancing and horses were her way to escape the world around her.

 

Very soon after she recognised the opportunity of photography as a medium to create the world she had imagined for herself. She graduated in 2003 from Photography Academy in Antwerp but never stopped drawing and painting too.

The years following on her graduation she started building up a portfolio filled with dark romantic scenes, hauntingly beautiful girls in otherworldly gowns. Her shoots were often set in castles, ruins and in nature. By that time she had picked up costume design too and made countless dramatic gowns and headdresses to adorn her models.

 

She opened her first immersive solo exhibition in 2003. It was set in a gothic church and she sent out guest invitations requiring a strict dress-code. It was as if she had called to all the kindred souls that didn’t belong too. And they came. “Gala Nocturna” was born. 

From that moment on she hosted a yearly costumed ball filled with performance and art, every time with another theme and in another historical location. Every year, Gala Nocturna attracted hundreds of sumptuously dressed visitors from all over Europe and beyond. Just like her, people longed to step out of the daily reality into a world of imagination that she had carefully created. Many other events followed and her entourage followed wherever she would lead them. 

 

In 2011 she moved with her husband and their son to a Victorian hunting mansion in the middle of a vast forestland in Germany. She managed the castle, hosted exclusive soirees and gatherings and worked on art projects there for almost 10 years. 

A year before Corona broke out, she decided to stop organising her events. She had given so much and needed a break. She started her journey of redemption and rediscoverance. In that time she worked on a series of self-portraits and a still-life project. 

 

The popularity of social media and more specifically the shameless self-promotion became something she grew to detest. The fake-and-fastness of it all, the consuming of images and addiction to attention was something she did not wish to take part in. She turned her back to all of it and started painting again. Pursuing her love for art, nature and slowness, she aims to live an authentic life while standing up against a society that puts financial success before all.

Currently, she lives back in her home country, Belgium, away from any city, where she fully focusses on her next projects.