Lilith and Eve Gamble over Adam

Lilith and Eve Gamble over Adam
from the series “Black Paintings of Cheerful Events”
2020, acrylic on canvas, 120x120cm

photo: Kalin Serapionov

With the painting Lilith and Eve Gamble over Adam, Iskra Blagoeva continues to develop her series of works Black Paintings of Cheerful Events. All of them are related with the mythological narratives or popular (sacral) images which the artist transforms, always depicting a certain extreme states. Going back to the original biblical story of Adam and Eve, the artist chose to present a situation that is seemingly beyond the Fall. We see a time and a space which is not only far from Eden, but seems to fit in another dimension – a black hole in which the matter gains a different shape and character. The heavenly is cultivated, multiplied, depreciated and finally cold-bloodedly consumed. The opened fast food boxes, the flower in an undersized pot, the ash tray, the perfect donut that rather seems a piece of porcelainware – an artefact that has long lost its function to give pleasure, the wine and the bleached skull make up a still life beyond the natural. In this psychedelic world, the light bulb hanging like gallows replaces the sun; there is neither a way out, nor divine light. The consumed Heaven is the decor of the main act, in which the first human, the man – Adam – is gambled over at cards by the lookalikes Lilith and Eve, in whose form the artist portrays herself. The ultimate state of decadence is reached, which cannot “bear” fruit and “resurrect” the natural. In Iskra Blagoeva’s works, this state of overwhelming finale is a metaphor for the failure of the patriarchal order and the societal conditions and structures created by it, which comprise the foundation of the Western Christian culture. Through the extreme denial – the disgust, cruelty, coldness, and arrogant cynicism towards the sacral, the artist seeks a new image, a new beginning, which puts the woman in another role and gives her the strength to be capable not only of creation, but also of destruction like a vengeful Goddess.

Vladiya Mihaylova, curator

Saint 02

Saint 02
2019, 80×60 cm, acrylic on canvas
+359 Gallery Collection, Sofia, Bulgaria

For many years M.R. was abused by her son who wos an alcoholic. One day while he was sleeping she killed him with a hoe. She went to prison, but after a year she was released for being seriously ill. She lived with her husband, who was also ill, with whom she had a bad relationship.Later she decided to kill him. She went to his bed and made a small incision in the carotid artery with a butter knife, than locked the door and left him bleeding to death.

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN HEAVEN

Last year, it became something usual to hear about murders or violence against women. The subject has become particularly media-intensive and politically loaded with the passions around the Istanbul Convention. Between the apathy, speculation, anger, horror, and the new, yet conservative wave of protection of family values, the door to the real debate has gradually begun to open – why is this happening and how do we react as a society – as citizens, but also as human beings.
The exhibition of Iskra Blagoeva tries to open this particular door, shocking us a bit, worrying us and most of all confusing the stereotypes, with which we imperceptibly and inevitably live. For one year, the artist has been exploring the topic of the woman – murderer, looking for anchor points in psychology, mythology, poetry and religion. Documentary stories, part of the information flow, real life news give grounds for this, and the references made by the artist go far beyond. Guiding the audience through the themes of vanity and obsession with the new narcissistic culture, crime and sin, holiness, degradation and lack of remedy, confession and forgiveness, the author creates an overall installation in the space where the works complement and build on each other and “tell” about the contents of the exhibition along the vertical of the very Water Tower.
At the heart of the project stands the woman, but this exhibition is not only about women, insofar as the issue of violence therein is addressed as an act of treacherous superiority of the stronger over the weaker. Contrary to the expectations that human problems are discussed through the male image, Iskra Blagoeva has chosen to show the audience not the god-like Adam, but the sinful Eve. Are women-murderers abusers or victims; are they different from men in their role as oppressors and where to draw the line between strength and weakness, between fall and retribution? The two portraits in the exhibition relate to real women who killed in a cruel way their male partners. The artist creates images that are devoid of sentimentality or drama, who seduce with their fragility but also chill with their indifferent alienation and their pale stone faces. By putting haloes above their heads, the author provokes the audience, testing the limits of what we perceive as normal. At the same time, however, she makes a comment on the devoid of substance religiousness, which has become conservative scholasticism, insensitive to the contradictions of human life.
Without expressly highlighting that she engages in the situation in Bulgaria, Iskra Blagoeva’s exhibition comments on many of the current problems in our country, from the murders (of women) through the growing alienation and violence among people, to the devaluation of values, the lack of adequate institutions, the degradation of faith and the chaos in the orientations for the world. This is an exhibition that uses the scandalous and even the horrible to turn to the forgotten role of art to talk about human choice, ethics, saints, and sinners.
The visiting project – the film “Five Years and Five Months” by the directors Andrey Getov and Neda Sokolovska – further underlines the timeliness and the specificity of the problems that motivate the very exhibition, by telling about the problems of the women’s prison in Sliven and the degrading treatment of the women there.

Vladiya Mihaylova, Curator

Saint 01

Saint 01
2019, 116×81 cm, acrylic on canvas

The Sofia Police Department receives a signal that a human arm placed in a yellow plastic “BILLA” bag was found in a trash bin. In another container, а severed male head was also found inside a plastic bag labeled “Europe Shops.” Later, following a signal from a  communal building, a human male corpse was found, missing it’s limbs, head and genitals.
The police investigation discovered that the murdered K.L. has been missing for several days. He has been living with G.R. and was a step father to A.V. – G.R.’s daughter.
When investigating A.B.’s room, the police found a jar with a male penis and testicles in it, filled with red-coloured fluid.
A.V. confessed that  she has been sexually abused by her stepfather when she was 6 years old. This went on for three years and she did not share it with anybody and that was the motif for the murder.
Sometime ago she asked him if he remembered what he had done to her as a child. He told her that he didn’t .And if so, he was forced to do it by the Satan; therefore, he would not apologize. After a while, she invited him to her room and strangled him with a nunchaku and dissected the corpse.

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN HEAVEN

Last year, it became something usual to hear about murders or violence against women. The subject has become particularly media-intensive and politically loaded with the passions around the Istanbul Convention. Between the apathy, speculation, anger, horror, and the new, yet conservative wave of protection of family values, the door to the real debate has gradually begun to open – why is this happening and how do we react as a society – as citizens, but also as human beings.
The exhibition of Iskra Blagoeva tries to open this particular door, shocking us a bit, worrying us and most of all confusing the stereotypes, with which we imperceptibly and inevitably live. For one year, the artist has been exploring the topic of the woman – murderer, looking for anchor points in psychology, mythology, poetry and religion. Documentary stories, part of the information flow, real life news give grounds for this, and the references made by the artist go far beyond. Guiding the audience through the themes of vanity and obsession with the new narcissistic culture, crime and sin, holiness, degradation and lack of remedy, confession and forgiveness, the author creates an overall installation in the space where the works complement and build on each other and “tell” about the contents of the exhibition along the vertical of the very Water Tower.
At the heart of the project stands the woman, but this exhibition is not only about women, insofar as the issue of violence therein is addressed as an act of treacherous superiority of the stronger over the weaker. Contrary to the expectations that human problems are discussed through the male image, Iskra Blagoeva has chosen to show the audience not the god-like Adam, but the sinful Eve. Are women-murderers abusers or victims; are they different from men in their role as oppressors and where to draw the line between strength and weakness, between fall and retribution? The two portraits in the exhibition relate to real women who killed in a cruel way their male partners. The artist creates images that are devoid of sentimentality or drama, who seduce with their fragility but also chill with their indifferent alienation and their pale stone faces. By putting haloes above their heads, the author provokes the audience, testing the limits of what we perceive as normal. At the same time, however, she makes a comment on the devoid of substance religiousness, which has become conservative scholasticism, insensitive to the contradictions of human life.
Without expressly highlighting that she engages in the situation in Bulgaria, Iskra Blagoeva’s exhibition comments on many of the current problems in our country, from the murders (of women) through the growing alienation and violence among people, to the devaluation of values, the lack of adequate institutions, the degradation of faith and the chaos in the orientations for the world. This is an exhibition that uses the scandalous and even the horrible to turn to the forgotten role of art to talk about human choice, ethics, saints, and sinners.
The visiting project – the film “Five Years and Five Months” by the directors Andrey Getov and Neda Sokolovska – further underlines the timeliness and the specificity of the problems that motivate the very exhibition, by telling about the problems of the women’s prison in Sliven and the degrading treatment of the women there.

Vladiya Mihaylova, Curator

I Confess

I Confess
2019 pink neon oreal, diameter 40cm

 

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN HEAVEN

Last year, it became something usual to hear about murders or violence against women. The subject has become particularly media-intensive and politically loaded with the passions around the Istanbul Convention. Between the apathy, speculation, anger, horror, and the new, yet conservative wave of protection of family values, the door to the real debate has gradually begun to open – why is this happening and how do we react as a society – as citizens, but also as human beings.
The exhibition of Iskra Blagoeva tries to open this particular door, shocking us a bit, worrying us and most of all confusing the stereotypes, with which we imperceptibly and inevitably live. For one year, the artist has been exploring the topic of the woman – murderer, looking for anchor points in psychology, mythology, poetry and religion. Documentary stories, part of the information flow, real life news give grounds for this, and the references made by the artist go far beyond. Guiding the audience through the themes of vanity and obsession with the new narcissistic culture, crime and sin, holiness, degradation and lack of remedy, confession and forgiveness, the author creates an overall installation in the space where the works complement and build on each other and “tell” about the contents of the exhibition along the vertical of the very Water Tower.
At the heart of the project stands the woman, but this exhibition is not only about women, insofar as the issue of violence therein is addressed as an act of treacherous superiority of the stronger over the weaker. Contrary to the expectations that human problems are discussed through the male image, Iskra Blagoeva has chosen to show the audience not the god-like Adam, but the sinful Eve. Are women-murderers abusers or victims; are they different from men in their role as oppressors and where to draw the line between strength and weakness, between fall and retribution? The two portraits in the exhibition relate to real women who killed in a cruel way their male partners. The artist creates images that are devoid of sentimentality or drama, who seduce with their fragility but also chill with their indifferent alienation and their pale stone faces. By putting haloes above their heads, the author provokes the audience, testing the limits of what we perceive as normal. At the same time, however, she makes a comment on the devoid of substance religiousness, which has become conservative scholasticism, insensitive to the contradictions of human life.
Without expressly highlighting that she engages in the situation in Bulgaria, Iskra Blagoeva’s exhibition comments on many of the current problems in our country, from the murders (of women) through the growing alienation and violence among people, to the devaluation of values, the lack of adequate institutions, the degradation of faith and the chaos in the orientations for the world. This is an exhibition that uses the scandalous and even the horrible to turn to the forgotten role of art to talk about human choice, ethics, saints, and sinners.
The visiting project – the film “Five Years and Five Months” by the directors Andrey Getov and Neda Sokolovska – further underlines the timeliness and the specificity of the problems that motivate the very exhibition, by telling about the problems of the women’s prison in Sliven and the degrading treatment of the women there.

Vladiya Mihaylova, Curator

 

Cars, Beasts and Landscapes

Cars, Beasts and Landscapes
Iskra Blagoeva and Mihail Novakov, Plus 359 Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria

Iskra Blagoeva and Mihail Novakov do not work together for the first time, but this is their first joint exhibition. As the title suggests, they develop new versions of previous projects, transforming them into completely new works. At the same time, their works are connected in a new way – by mixing images and ideas, and exchanging roles and positions. However, without the familiar battles of the sexes or for confirmation of authorship.

“Beast”* is a performance by Iskra Blagoeva from 2017, showed for the first time within the exhibition Sex Appeal, One Night Stand Gallery, curators: Ivana Nencheva, Daniela Radeva and Stefka Tsaneva. As part of the performance, the artist makes tours in the neighbourhood around the gallery with the exceptionally attractive and remarkable Jaguar XKR Convertible. The rule is that anyone can get into the car, i.e. be admitted inside the work of art, but on the condition that they post the statement “Women are better artists” on Facebook. This is how Iskra Blagoeva challenges the validity of the sexist idea of the woman, who is attracted by the expensive car as an accessory and attribute of virility. However, she also symbolically reverses the direction of the professional debate on the power between sexes. Contrary to the radical feminism, Iskra Blagoeva goes into the image of the modern woman who needs no validation of skills, independence and womanhood. If somebody is behind on this realization, contemporary art does not need to wait for society to allow the update of old problems. During the opening on April 20, in Plus 359, there will be a new performance, again with the opportunity for the audience to travel in a luxurious atmosphere, but this time with Blagoeva’s new statements and new rules of the game.

“Cars, Chicks and Landscapes” is an exhibition by Mihail Novakov from 2012, displayed in Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, curators: Boris Misirkov and Georgi Bogdanov. On the invitation of Vladia Mihaylova to the most established authorities in the area of photography to present the most interesting of this art in Bulgaria, they chose only Novakov and thus uncompromisingly identified him as ‘the only one’. The exhibition is a selection of hundreds of his photos and demonstrates his method to try not to artificially create stories, scripts or implied meaning. The title highlights this by listing the most predictable storylines, which are at the same time the most difficult. One must rely on an unerring eye and a superhuman visual instinct to catch fractions of a second that are never forgotten. Novakov’s ability to tell a story by capturing the moment, has not only been approbated by the relevant institutions and authorities, but also is confirmed in his overall portfolio.

Mihail Novakov is also chosen for the exhibition “Cars, Beasts and Landscapes”. Iskra Blagoeva invited him as the only one who can capture and document her performance for the second time. She invented the title of the exhibition, mixing the two projects. She selected the frames for her self-portrait, which he had made for her. She examined all of his artistic works and selected the photos that fit to her image from the performance. She posed, but not as his muse, but a muse to herself. Novakov photographed. He did not challenge any conceptual solution, but virtually every image on a durable medium in this project is his creation and bears his authorship.

The exhibition in the specific space of Plus 359 is based on five pairs of perfectly matching large-format photographs of the two artists. At first glance, the theme revolves around cars, travel, luxury, beauty and unfamiliar places. There are confrontations between the images of an over-expensive car and crushed asphalt, or between a portrait of a modern woman and a retro landscape. Questions pop up like “Is this Sofia?” and “Is she from Sofia?”. In addition, the question of whether the work had followed some practical script or everything was intuition. What is important, however, is the positioning of the pair of artists in a situation to share a common space, although the word ‘Beasts’ does not imply a peaceful co-operation, but rather a collision.

“Beast” in Bulgarian jargon can be used in a figurative sense as a definition of aggression, sex appeal, or both. It is often used as an adjective to the female temper. Also to cars or high-tech devices like electronic or photographic cameras.

Daniela Radeva, Curator

Exhibition view:

Dzver (A Beast)

Dzver (A Beast)
2017/2018, performance

The work is a performance, in which I am driving an appealing car – red Jaguar XKR Convertible, usually related to the stereotype of the successful men. The visitors of the show are invited to go for a ride (with the artist) in the city. The individual ride lasts between 5 and 10 minutes and usually is a drive in the very center of the city, attracting the attention to the car and the awkward group of passengers in it. Every time when is performed the work is slightly different, because according to the particular site and situation there is a different rule to participate. Sometimes the passengers are predominantly men, who have to post on the social network the hashtag: #Women are better artists. Sometimes only women are invited to take part by posting a selfie with uncomfortable gesture and the hashtag #dzver (a beast)
Up to the present moment the work was performed twice.

The Last Suffer

The Last Suffer
from the series “Black Paintings of Cheerful Events”
2017, 180x90cm, acrylic on canvas
Sofia City Art Gallery Collection, Bulgaria

The painting uses the composition of the “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci, substituting the male figures with all women personages. At the center is the figure of the artist, who is vomiting as if being discussed and fed up with the whole situation. In the work I use the classical composition, which I consider to be a manifestation of the dominant culture and structure of the world, created and performed by men. By bringing different women figures, among them Lilith, myself, women of different colors, who are individual but also strangely similar to each other, I aim to invalidate and transform the dominant pattern of representation. The “ritual” is just a form, with no visible meaning and visibly absent enthusiasm. The predominant feeling is the one of total boredom and ignorance in front of the pathetic of the actually male narrative.

photo: Kalin Serapionov

Exhibition view:

photo: Kalin Serapionov