Photo by Maria Bujoreanu / Sofia's Studio in Varna, Bulgaria
Sofia is an young artist, currently based in Varna, Bulgaria.
We met a few months back at One Gallery + in Sofia. We bonded over a conversation about her art piece, which was part of the Dualism II exhibition. Little bio of the exhibition is below, and some photographs are below.
The idea of unity and dualism has been quite controversial in the history of mankind.
In the divine constructions and explanations of the world, duality is active - order comes from chaos, in which everything is one; Yahweh plays with Job's feelings and destiny, regardless of justice in his motives, combining good and evil.
“Dualism II” - /25.01 - 20.02.2022/
"Street Angel", video 2021-2022
part of the "Dualism II" show at ONE Gallery
photo: Kalin Serapionov
To be honest I was happy to see a piece (video work) representing the free expression of the emotional state of a young woman, who was asking herself WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A WOMAN, actually? Right. To me this was an abstract question in my head. And honestly, here in Bulgaria my understanding of this ''concept'' broke down to pieces in the past year of so.
So we spoke about Petur Dunov, the role women have in society and everything else that is AN EXAMPLE of BEING a woman. It became clear that both of us thought that all of the examples and external explanations as well as written or spoken laws of humanity in regards to being a woman have cracked and didn't matter. So her work in the Dualism II exhibition made me feelingly realize one simple truth - I can define and allow myself to be the woman I want to be and FEEL like I am. Probably, this would be read as a cliché, but I can not be less bothered by that potential fact.
The important part in this intro is that Sofia conveyed her own realization and sensation VERY SUCCESSFULLY with her work and that it definitely got to me. Isn't that the point of art and its nuances?
In the meantime, Sofia has been making other things happen, such as being active part of the @ReBonkers.Varna team in Varna. I will share more about that unusual space and it's story soon!
In short, it is a space in Varna for contemporary arts. It's first exhibition will be this June.
Now, more about what Sofia has to say and her answers for Story Tap read below. I hope she can serve as an example of dreams and goals are achievable when you work for them with purpose and put in the work!
Photos in the studio of Sofia Dimova by Maria Bujoreanu
T.D.: Let’s enter the conversation with the first and foremost of importance question!
How did you decide to apply for university in the Netherlands and why Fine Arts was your choice of degree?
In addition it might be good to ask you those as well:
What did you like about the education system/approach there and the degree itself?
And in that sense what do you want to bring back here in Bulgaria (as you shared in our conversation)?
S.D.: I started looking for universities/places to study at the age of 16. The Netherlands was one of the few places in Europe, which was providing education in English without the need to know Dutch. For some reason, the first academy I came across was Academy Minerva in Groningen. My brother, who is older than me, was already a student in the Netherlands, and he was very happy with the Dutch educational system, so this also helped me to have a better insight. Even though he is in a completely different field than mine, the curriculum is kind of the same in any educational institution there.
I chose Fine Arts, because I knew I wanted to become an artist, somehow I was very self-aware and determined at this young age. I knew what I wanted. Actually, I knew I wanted to become an artist from the age of 4. I am in awe of myself, it's almost unbelievable. When it comes to the educational structure in the art academies in the Netherlands it varies from an institution to institution. My first year in Minerva was actually the year of big changes in the curriculum of the academy as well, so I was able to experience this transition. One of the big changes in the Fine Art program is that the students don't have to specialize in any of the main subjects. Therefore, we were not going to graduate under the the label of a "painter", a "photographer" or a "sculptor", but simply as artists.
We, as students who were exploring different fields of artistic practices, were not put into just one box. We had to go through pretty much everything from video art to performance, painting, photography and the list goes on. We had to figure it out for ourselves and our mentors were pushing us to explore to the maximum. With this freedom comes a lot of responsibility, not everyone can handle it. I want to bring exactly this to the table- the responsibility towards yourself and the art, the vulnerability and authenticity... and some ease dressed in a self-deprecating joke.
I try not to take myself too seriously. Connecting people and giving other artists a platform is also something I would love to focus on.
T.D.: The new generation in Bulgaria and you as part of it or / a.k.a do it yourself and learn how things work by doing them yourself.
Living in Bulgaria for the past 2 years makes me notice that young women and not only young women seem to speak and do what they say at the same time.
What is your motivation to be so passionate and keep moving on with your various activities?
S.D.: Personally, this drive and passion doesn't come only from my desires and dreams, but from good work ethics and determination. I grew up around great role models in that sense - hard work, being strict to yourself, respectful and transparent towards the people involved in the process. At the end of the day, I know I owe it to myself and that 4 year old, who was dreaming of becoming an artist. The Dutch education helped me a lot too. We had classes called "Professional Practice". Basically, we were taught how to network, approach important people and apply for grants and residencies.
But at the end of the day it all depends on me and what I do with this knowledge.
I know a lot of people who say "Oh, I want to do this or that", even if they have all the resources, something still stops them... it could be fear from rejection or failure, I don't know.
Personally, I go and I try to get it, and even if I receive a "no", this won't stop me from trying again.
And it is the same with the different activities I get myself into, I don't limit myself. I try to explore as much as possible, and reach new horizons. This approach can be hard and risky, but it only enriches you in the end.
My advice is to put yourself into situations out of your comfort every now and then.
"nothing more to say" 2021, performance with Tobi Bienz
photo: Elena Gugleva
T.D.: In that line of thinking and questions, will you share what techniques you use from what you’ve learned back in university and how does that pay off here in the communication with galleries or other associations when you have an idea, desire and want to implement those in a project with a gallery / space. Concrete examples would be wonderfully illustrative and useful!
I think it is literally all about good, direct communication and transparency.
It depends on the institution you are working with. Some galleries can provide you with good conditions, others don't have the resources, which is also fine. I came back here not knowing anyone from the art scene in Sofia, especially since I am based in Varna, I had to make it work somehow. Being selected for Sofia Art Week 2020 and working with Voin de Voin were a door to a lot of opportunities, but it was up to me if I would take the key and unlock that door. I went to him after SAW 2020 and told him directly: "It would only make sense if I have my solo show in Sofia at Æther Art Space and work with you again."
Another example I can give to show how things come around full circle, if you are consistent: ARTE TV contacted Voin after Sofia Art Week and they wanted to do a reportage. Voin spread the message to everyone who participated in that edition. I took the opportunity and went to Sofia for less than 48 hours, and did my performance for the cameras. I don't know what I was thinking, it was for sure one of those moments where I got out of my comfort zone. A year later I was contacted by Viktoria Balon, who works in the German radio SWR. She had seen me on that ARTE TV reportage.
If I didn't go to Sofia, I wouldn't have that important interview for SWR. All I am trying to say is that patience and dedication take you far.
Here is a link to the video reportage and interview of Sofia, done by by ARTE TV.
T.D.: And last, but not least will you tell us a little bit about your upcoming exhibition at the Credo Bonum Gallery - the hall? The process of working with the gallery, the theme of the exhibition and the unique experiences you gain on the go.
S.D.: Vessela Nozharova gives me a lot of freedom in the process. This is why I wanted to work with her and the gallery. She is very easy going and easy to talk to. I don't want to say too much about the exhibition itself yet, but it would be a consuming experience.
2nd of June!
And the date marks a year since I started the concept and working on the ideas. My life has been a rollercoaster the past couple of months, so what I gained was quite a lot, which is great for my practice, but I am still processing it all.
"Halt in Production, Aggregation", site specific installation 2021, "Vladimir Dimitrov- Maystora" Gallery
Photo: Elena Gugleva
T.D.: ReBonkers Cultural & Art Space is located in Varna, Bulgaria. Would you share how you got involved?
Martina Stefanova ( @mortinas ), who is behind DOMA ART FOUNDATION , came to Varna for a visit. She introduced me to Ralitsa Gerasimova, who is now the art director of ReBonkers. The three of us went to see the space - it is an amazing spot and carries a lot of history. Martina and I were amazed by it! Then we started joking that we should organize a show there, and these jokes turned into very serious brainstorming. And here we are, in the making of an international group exhibition happening in July. Ralitsa fully supported the idea.
It is a great learning experience for me, because I really admire Martina and all the projects and art shows she is behind.
My role is as an assistant curator. I really try not to put any boundaries on myself and try out new things.
I am happy that Martina took me under her wing and she has been showing me the other side of things - the curatorial and management side, which is not easy whatsoever...Meanwhile, Ralitsa and I really clicked, so I have been actively involved with ReBonkers ever since Martina introduced us to one another. So it's been a couple of months.
Soon I will share about the Rebonkers Space and Sofia's exhibitions + we might do a LIVE Instagram Chat with the purposeful topic of How to Approach Galleries and Space.
See you soon!