Category Archives: Zoom In

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.




Fabric, plastic sheet, polyester wadding, rope, PVC pipe, food colouring solution, wood, alarm clock

As much as it feels like a state of the mind, sleeplessness is a physical condition, a malfunction of the brain. Insomnia gives you a lot of time to think – of your insomnia among (endless) other things. The paradox is, that the grave anxieties which cause insomnia more often than not manifest themselves in trivial thoughts that roam in your head while you are tossing and turning in the dark.

Using trivial materials found in the drawers, cabinets, and the garden of my home and studio – the spaces I inhabit physically during the day, I have created an object which is a material embodiment of my insomniac mind. Assembling this entanglement felt like I was holding my thoughts in my hands. Weird, but fun.

Insomnia was included in Nocturnes, a group art show which I curated in The Grand Gallery in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Here are a couple of other images showing “the thing”:



Photography: Christine Matthai

Self Portrait in REM

Self Portrait in REM Boryana

This is one of two pieces which were included in Nocturnes, a group art show which I curated here in Freeport.  Nocturnes opening was last night and generated a lot of interest. I am preparing a full case study of the experience, which will be published here in due course.

The piece is titled Self Portrait in REM and is executed in acrylic on paper. My amateurish photograph doesn’t do it full justice, but you can get the idea.

Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM, is one of the five stages of sleep that most people experience nightly. It is characterized by quick, random movements of the eyes and paralysis of the muscles. It’s during this stage of sleep that most people are able to have especially vivid dreams.

While most of us see dreams when sleeping, I have visions from my disturbed nights when I am awake. This image must have been one of them.  It came about spontaneously, in the midst of other things. The idea for Nocturnes was already brewing in my mind so it must have had something to do with it.

Rapid eye movement also alludes to the rapid movement of the hand while creating this entirely gestural piece. Gestural painting is possible only when one is deep ‘in the zone’ – a state of mind  as far from awareness as only sleep could be.  Maybe for this reason, even in retrospective, it is impossible for me to differentiate between intention and accident in the content and form of this piece, including its title.

You are Being Abducted!


Imagine that you live in paradise – blue skies, azure waters, silky air and mojitos.  God’s own residence is just across the canal from you, so to speak. You can see him often sitting alone on his porch, staring at the distance.

If you are trying to be an artist in a place like this, you can choose to paint the world around you, of course – sunsets, coconuts, beautiful people. Or you can choose to look at it from a Heavenly vantage point – through the eyes of its creator.

The paintings in the Abduction series have been conceived as a  journey to a different dimension from where the world is seen like an entanglement of anthropomorphic or manmade shapes floating aimlessly in the void, where the time to move the eye from one frame to the next can be the difference between being and not being.

It is concerned with the idea that while humanity is absorbed in political, material and interpersonal squabbles, the planet is coming perilously close to the limit of its resources. That we, with all our possessions, ambitions, passions and complications, are nothing more than a grain of dust, a blink in god’s eye. It is an appeal to shift from our small minded point of view and re-define our values from a cosmic perspective.

My work is influenced by a tradition of expressive figurative painting starting from Michelangelo, to Caravaggio, Gericault and Lucien Freud.  I am seeking to create images which are imposing, imperative, even aggressive – this is not an invitation to quiet contemplation, but abduction to a place where the only option is to face reality, the point in space and time, where we cannot look the other way, as there is no other way to look.

The piece that you see here is titled Kingdom Come and reflects two moments in time, which for the human race may be separated by centuries, but are just a blink in God’s eye.

If you see something else, please let me know – there is no right or wrong here.