Category Archives: Material for thought

Reflection on Reflection

There is an element of surprise in creating a self portrait. It is like a personality test – the act of drawing is the experiment and the final image is the answer. What makes it particularly exciting, is that the artist is the examiner and the examined at the same time, which allows her to observe how the process itself impacts her.

I have made self portraits before – a couple of purely expressive ones, which I named self portraits only after I finished them, and a collage. Here they are:

Self Portrait in REM Boryana

Portrait of self in a mood

Self collage with mat

This is my latest take on the subject – a fairly thorough pencil study, which I started partly to fill a creative vacuum, partly under the influence of a book which I read recently .

Self portrait March 2017

You, the viewers who know me, will say that I do not look like this. And this will be correct – I do not look like this to you, indeed.

The face that the others see when they look at you is very different from the face you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Try looking at another person’s mirror image to see what I mean.  That is why self portraits do not bear the anticipated resemblance unless they are drawn from a photo (a pointless act, if you ask me). This also explains why we tend to dislike our faces on photographs.

I have always been more interested in the world around me than in myself, so my self portrait experience did not lead to self analysis as much as to reflections on self awareness and perception in general and the discrepancies between our idea of ourselves and that of the others.

Contrary to what it might seem, drawing a self portrait requires distancing rather than immersion. The self is both subject and object of the process. While drawing I was thinking of the object as “her”, not of me. Her eye, her cheekbone – etc. – this is what came to me naturally.

Looking at it now, I can say that this is a drawing of me observing myself observing my reflection in the mirror.

The questions I remained with are: who knows better what I am – me, who sees a mirror image, or the others, who see the real thing?

Do I understand myself better after this exercise?

I don’t know.  Maybe it is too early to say. Now I am going to put it away and look at it again after some time. Maybe then I will be able to read it more clearly.

Or maybe the next self portrait will hold the answers to the questions raised by this one.

‘Tender Collisions’ Finally in English


The Windmills of My Mind, 40 x 30 cm, watercolor and pencil on paper

In September 2016 I had my first solo exhibition in Bulgaria. It was organised with the kind support of Kinnarps Bulgaria in their Sofia showroom – terrific venue where the art could interact with the Scandinavian chic of the Kinnarps brand.

The exhibition was titled Tender Collisions and presented an entirely new body of work, which came as a result of the decision my husband and I took about a year and a half ago, to live round the world as nomads.

The nomadic lifestyle meant giving up my studio, which in turn forced me to revise my entire way of art making. As all our possessions are now limited the 23 kg per person – the maximum allowed by airlines, all I can carry with me is a set of water colours.

The self imposed technical limitations urged me to de-clutter and streamline my thinking and took my art to a rather unexpected abstract direction.

So it is not surprising that Tender Collisions marks a complete turning point in my work  – yet again. But, as Oscar Wilde once said, “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”- and who am I to argue with Oscar Wilde?

Photographing the works with their white backgrounds proved a challenge to me so  I made some digital corrections, but even then the actual pieces look much more transparent and light. So, let’s hope that a worldwide tour of the show brings it to a place near you  one day 😉

Meanwhile, to read my intro to  Tender Collisions and see the images, click   here.


Intentional vs Unintentional

Self collage with mat

These thoughts were prompted by another self portrait which I produced yesterday – all of a sudden. Again.  I claim that I am not inclined to introspection and I never really take to self portraiture deliberately, so one can say that my self portraits, of which I already have five (??) are unintentional. Looking at them raises two questions – one, of course, is what do these self portraits tell me about me and the other – what is the role of intention in art – mine and in general. As a person not inclined to introspection as proclaimed, I am more interested in the latter.

In my view, intention has to do with one’s sense of mission and purpose – things undoubtedly very important. But then, sticking to intention, or rather, to the principle of intentionality requires control – the instant creativity killer. Is intention in art antipodal to creativity?

Looking at my work in general, I can divide it into two parts – completely unintentional – most of it you can see here, and intentional – or rather work that has started with intention.  On two instances already, I have started working on an intention – something a lot less specific than a plan, but with a certain vision in mind. Both times the end result has hardly anything to do with my initial vision/intention. One resulted in the Abduction series and the other – in the  pieces which I am working on at the moment – you can see them Here and here. What I found out is that intention, once I start working on it (and this is a long thought process with or without a pen in hand), leads me outside itself. It is not even a gradual shift but an abrupt revelation – an idea literally strikes.

Then there is the unintentional work, which usually occurs when I decide to try this or that technique, and which includes some of (what I believe are) my best pieces. I usually have no specific idea or outcome in mind when I do that.

The question which I am pondering over is whether creativity is born at the point when intention meets serendipity. Let me know your thoughts.

Mira Nedyalkova

I agree with every word – but just look at the images, they say it all. Fascinating!

I came across a sample of Mira’s work online and my heart skipped a beat; photography has to be something quite special to get me excited and Mira’s work is just flawless. There is a prolific use of water in her photography and on her site, she describes why she uses water so much as follows: ‘…It is the winner of pleasure and delight it gives life, but also poses a risk, threat, it can destroy us. I love the transparency  and purity of water, light and reflecting and transformations that is suffered in contact with another medium. For me the water is highly erotic element precisely because of the opposites that brings. Water is the one who quenches our  thirst and saves us. Lust for life of each of us, the thirst for love and the eternal struggle and attempt to erase, to dull to heal the pain, sadness, loneliness…”

The use of water, long…

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Holy Russia!

Standing Ovation, Seated

Holy Rus, God-blessed land, God-chosen nation. In Moscow, you hear it more and more often now. The words are said in a solemn voice, with a distant look in the eyes as if they would be scanning the future and actually seeing Holy Russia. A contemplative pause usually follows. Even the most ardent supporters of the Holy Russia idea avoid using the phrase when crossing a road: otherwise, an accident is almost guaranteed.

If you steal the pondering pause to ask them what Holy Russia really is, or what their glimpse in the future revealed about it, don’t expect a coherent answer. They don’t have a slightest idea.

Many Russian artists tried to resolve this predicament by offering a picture Holy Russia believers could use as a prop.

The task they set for themselves could best be described by a line from a famous Russian fairytale, when a wicked Czar…

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