Message from Sofia
Last month I was in Sofia for my participation in The Herbarium Collection, an ongoing project initiated by curator Irina Batkova. While in the Netherlands most cultural activities still take place behind closed doors, in Bulgaria, after a short period of closure, all museums and presentation spaces have reopened since April. I took the opportunity to indulge myself in it.
The Herbarium Project
The Herbarium Project, as described on their website “explores the working environment in contemporary culture where ideas are born and exchanged. The focus of Herbarium is to create a collection sealing, in 40 x 40 x 10 cm, or 20 x 40 x 10 cm boxes, the creative energy of different generations of artists from all over the world. The contents of each box, accompanied by a description and an audio file with the artist’s voice, will be presented both in the exhibition and on the project’s website. The artists invited by the curator of Herbarium choose two new participants—thus, the project tracks creative contacts in the world of art. The development of the collection has no time limits and grows exponentially with each new participant until the final exhibition is announced.”
The exhibition with the first results of this ever-expanding network opened on April 8. With the generous help of a small team, Batkova pulled off an impressive project, composed with the utmost attention to every detail. The entries from the first group of 55 artists, each consisting of a white box carrying its content, for a larger part reveal (elements of) personal stories that provide insight into a specific view or way of thinking about everyday events that you may encounter in human life.
Below you’ll find a selection that caught my special attention. Artists in order of appearance: overview, Radostin Sedevchev, Krassimir Terziev, Aksinia Peycheva, Voin de Voin, Kinga Kielczynska, Boryana Petkova, Takesada Matsutani, Janire Echebarria De Dios, Larisa David, Youlian Tabakov, Angelica Falkeling, Vito Valentinov, Marie Civikov. Visit the website for a detailed archive of all participants, their entries and more background information.
"White Exhibition", a project by Iskra Blagoeva at One Gallery
One Gallery showed the third edition of “White Exhibition,” a project by Iskra Blagoeva. Where the first two chapters had been solo projects, this time she formed collaborations with different people around her with whom she started to form a small artistic community. The works in the exhibition reacted to each other in a deliberately intended and at the same time organic way.
Works on the Images below, in order of appearance: Iskra Blagoeva, Stela Vasileva, Iskra Blagoeva & Daniela Radeva, Mariela Gemisheva, Simeon Simeonov, Iskra Blagoeva
The National Gallery, Kvadrat 500, Radostin Sedevchev
‘This clear – cut World died without leaving behind it a Charnel House’, a solo exhibition by Radostin Sedevchev, was on at The National Gallery, Kvadrat 500. Walking through the exhibition, I felt like a voyeur nosing through the secret notes of a detective working on unraveling a big family mystery. In this, images from found family archives of diary excerpts seemed to correspond to holiday pictures of a couple in an Italian city in the 1960s. On a banner hanging in a loop from ceiling to floor were enlarged copies of documents that reminded me of the pages from the archives of the former secret services from my father’s file, the names erased with black marker. The texts, in fact, were all in Bulgarian, a language I still don’t manage to decipher, which must have influenced my perception. A numbered grid of square millimeters on paper, contained a drawing that connected these numbers according to a certain pattern. It looked like a complicated calculation which I automatically related to the inflated portrait picture hanging behind it of a large group of men and young boys from, I guess, the 1930s. Later, I understood, that the pattern is related to the moves of the knight in chess. The connection with the picture I like to dream of and hopefully will remain veiled in mystery for me.
A couple of floors up was an exhibition by Alla Georgieva, who since the corona crisis revealed itself in Bulgaria, has kept a diary in drawings in East Indian ink that shows in what ways this period has affected our daily lives. Recognizable to many of us, from Zoom meetings to conspiracy theories and Corona kilos; Georgieva elaborated on it all, often with a lot of self-mockery and humor.
Andrey Daniel, Between Two Eras, Sofia City Art Gallery
Another highlight was Between Two Eras, a big retrospective at the Sofia City Art Gallery of Bulgarian painting icon Andrey Daniel, who passed away in January 2020 at a relatively young age. It was remarkable to see how with small nuances “contemporary” painting can be connected to a certain cultural identity in these times of digital globalization.
The drive that comes out not only from the enormous body of work he left, but also the clear connection that it makes with his personal life from which a great socially engaged personality speaks, has made a big impression on me.
BalkanExhibit Art Fest
In between we passed a vibrant event/exhibition, BalkanExhibit Art Fest, organized by “youngsters” in the former Computer Club. Unfortunately I don’t have that much more information, but the atmosphere was energetic. Below pictures of my favorites; some ceramic works by Srucete and photos of Infantilniq that reminded me of Boris Mikhailov.
Daniela Kostova at Structura Gallery
Just before my departure back to The Netherlands, I was lucky enough to catch a preview of Daniela Kostova’s solo exhibition, Storms, Park and Princesses with Hair Rollers at Structura gallery. In a clever way, Kostova managed to find a light-hearted tone to represent her reflections on current times in which the consequences of the Corona crisis on our daily lives are present but sometimes hard to grasp.
As I enter the room, the first thing I notice are the tables, sterile white and square, arranged as in a visitors’ room or cafeteria. A glass plate, fixed to the edges of the tables with sturdy clamps, divides them in two, with a chair on each side. The material of the glass plate has the alienating abilities of half-reflection and transparency, mixing the image of the person sitting across with your own reflection. It automatically initiates a game in which everyone in the room participates, which is a beautiful (and sad) representation of the transformation that a bigger part of the social contact of humanity has necessarily undergone in the past year. Taking a seat at the table with “your counterpart” on the other side of the glass, also reminded me of visiting hours in a high security prison, a setting I only know from movies and television. The circles, referring to the circles sprayed on the grass in the parks to keep people aware of social distancing in a collage of people picnicking in the sun, running from the gallery floor to the wall, almost make you believe that nothing is going on in this world, until you wake up again.