Vernissage on Thursday, 18 March, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., observing all anti-epidemic measures and with controlled access.
2,263. This is the approximate number of centimetres of the work, ‘Coronavirus in Bulgaria—Diary’; 2,263cm of paper, on which the artist Alla Georgieva, inhabiting the ‘new reality’ beyond reality, shares experiences and emotions, attempting ‘to stay and seal the slipping course of time’. It all began with an ‘accidentally’ found roll lying about in her home, which Alla began to fill, ‘in step with the events taking place, in prima vista, with a brush and black Chinese ink’. The work originally conceived as a diary gradually transformed into a scroll—a symbol of the historical memory of ancient times, reflecting, as in a freeze-frame, the dramatic events and endless flow of pandemic-related information streaming daily.
The moment we peek into the Diary and immerse ourselves in the artist’s world, we are engulfed by the magic of the feelings she shares about the world around us. They are like an avalanche of moods, sometimes reaching the absurd, but behind the laughter and the playful atmosphere, we become aware of the sad finding of the acute problems that have emerged in our lives. And Alla does not bypass any of them. Before we know it, we join her hyperbolised narrative, whose energy sweeps us away like a river in full flood. With bitter irony, the artist throws us into the vortex of current events that accompany our daily grind, identifying herself with the fragile vulnerability of each of us. The dramatis personae, created as if all in a single breath by the power of her undeniable talent, remain for long in our minds with the sour flavour of the reckoning. The stories, told with surprising originality, move along the fine line of subtle suggestions of various emotional states: anxiety, fear, sadness, indifference, joy. In the series of 61 drawings Alla created for each day of the quarantine, in the period from 13 March to 13 May 2020*, each one of them is executed in the artist’s characteristic style, presented with an elegant sense of humour, self-irony, delicacy and artistic measure.
FOOTNOTE: *On 13 March 2020, the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria took the decision to declare a state of emergency relating to the epidemiological situation in the country.
Alla Georgieva is an artist with a rich oeuvre that encompasses painting, installation, performance, video and, last but not least, caricature. Her appearances, provocative and dazzling, in exhibitions and galleries at home and abroad, never go unnoticed. The encounter with her art not only creates a reason for reflection but prompts us to return to it again and again. This is one of the distinctive features of her output: the ease with which she manages to transport us into a world that provokes with its various moods and states. Behind the mask of a tranquil smile lies the wisdom of a life journey travelled by an artist who has mastered the fine line between the shattering atmosphere of what has been experienced and any superfluous pathos. We are left in admiration of her artistic multifacetedness, the provocative subjects, the power of her impressive spontaneity, the ease with which she juggles with cartoon, parody and absurdity.
Such is Alla Georgieva: armed with the power of her art—socially engaged, sensitive and critical, bright, talented, memorable and inimitable.
‘Coronavirus in Bulgaria—Diary’ by Alla Georgieva belongs to the Collection of Slava Nakovska and Nedko Solakov.
Dr Boryana Valchanova, exhibition curator
The reason I began keeping this Diary was the unique situation we found ourselves in—something I did not expect could happen to me in the 21st century. The global pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19 reminded us of forgotten realities in the Western world: quarantine, closure, strict restrictive measures… From the very beginning, I felt a compulsive need to record, visually and verbally, the events taking place, to stop time, to fix it, seal and remember it. And when the government in Bulgaria declared a state of emergency*, I decided that I should recreate it in daily drawings. I posted them on my personal Facebook profile, and this went on for two months until the state of emergency was lifted (*13.03.2020–13.05.2020). I made the drawings in step with the events taking place and my reactions, without preliminary sketches, in prima vista, with a brush and black Chinese ink. Each drawing was accompanied by accurate statistics of the newly infected people in the country. My Facebook friends’ comments and interest in the drawings motivated me to continue making them every day. Humour and irony were a prism through which I looked at what was happening. The entire situation was so unusual, confusing, insane and often absurd that it simply could not be presented in any other way.
The appearance of the Diary in the form of scrolls seems, at first glance, accidental and unmotivated, but I have long realised that there are no coincidences in my case. The monotonous days, filled with innumerable restrictions, merged into one another creating a uniform stream, for whose depiction the long scrolls were the most suitable form.
It all began with a roll of paper lying about at home. Being an art-Plyushkin, I did not have the heart to throw away something that might one day serve me as art. I decided that this roll was suitable for my Diary and started drawing on it without even knowing how long it was. When the paper unexpectedly ran out—I had no other like it—I made two drawings on separate Fabriano sheets while I urgently bought a roll of Fabriano Accademia to continue in the same style. Thus, three scrolls with a total length of 22.63m and consisting of 61 drawings, appeared.
Later came the realisation of this non-coincidental ‘coincidence’. On the internet, I looked up scrolls from different epochs and immediately felt a connection. The ancient scrolls narrated the most important, extraordinary events in the history of their peoples. My scroll illustrated the exclusivity of this unusual phenomenon—the pandemic of COVID-19, with a focus on Bulgaria. The scroll as a form creates a particular intimacy of the experience of the work of art.
Drawing the Diary was an extremely exciting encounter and valuable experience. In fact, I enjoyed myself quite a lot doing it. Its content constantly tacked between the personal and the collective. At the same time, it became a curious palette of our mental states during the period of forced isolation—the fear of illness and death, our overwhelming depressions and claustrophobic manias, mass obsessions with world conspiracies, fear of dictatorship and the possibility of manipulation, the falling into the black hole of occult practices and pseudo-medicine, anxiety states caused by lack of human contact and closeness to nature. I also tried to express the painful transition to working and communicating online.
Our lives will never be the same again.