Willis, Elena

Elena Willis, As he shook the tree, burning leaves fell on her, 2009.


As he shook the tree, burning leaves fell on her

As he shook the tree, burning leaves fell on her symbolically explores the complex nature of relationships. Based on a dream, this image brings what is been buried in the heart and mind of the dreamer to the surface of their awareness. In the world of the subconscious, emotions related to the personal realms of intimate relationships are fairly recognizable and potent. Feelings of shame, anger, hurt, regret and longing are some of the prevalent and unprocessed reactions to living in a relationship that is dysfunctional. This image is part of a larger body of work that is exploring the function of dreams as a tool not only for self-discovery, but also as a window into the collective unconscious.

Inkjet print,
  • 2009
91.4 x 121.9 cm |



Elena Willis’ elaborately staged photographs captivate the viewer immediately. The strange sense of the familiar, of understanding, that comes through the sometimes opaque imagery demonstrates the artist’s facility with visual language and symbols. This skill may inform the interest that drives her work—to explore the collective unconscious and the way in which human beings need and relate to each other. The demands for each piece are wildly diverse, and the artist communicates a different aspect of the collective unconscious in each series.
Born in Banbury, England in 1979, Elena studied photography at Concordia University and graduated in 2003. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, Asia and Europe. Most recently, her work was exhibited in a group exhibition in Shanghai, China and in a solo exhibition at Galerie D’Este in Montreal. Elena has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a grant by the Canada Council for the Arts in 2009. Elena’s work is part of collections in Canada, Europe and the United States. She currently lives and works in Montreal.