With an extraordinary and original irreverence and effectiveness, the work of Nedko Solakov analyzes the role of the contemporary art system, and the inherent contradictions in its means of communication and its schizophrenic relationship with real society and cultural geopolitics. Using a vast range of techniques, media and linguistic fields including drawing, video, the manipulation of found objects, performance work and the creation of exquisitely literary tales, the artist dissects the legendary status of art. He does so with sarcastic, carefully judged actions and interventions in places and contexts specifically designed for the reception of artworks or, by contrast, with projects in places and contexts where art is potentially absent. Suffice it to recall the occasion on which he painted large purple question marks next to the most celebrated paintings in the museum of his home city, Sofia. Or the two unforgettable decorators who took it in turns, working in a continual cycle, to paint a wall black and white at the Venice Biennale in 2001. Or again the sentences written on the wings of an airliner and clearly legible for passengers sitting out their high-speed, high-altitude journey.
This last intervention introduces us to the surprise factor that is so crucial to the artist’s poetic and procedural strategy. Brief stories, aphorisms, comparative descriptions, word plays and semantic double meanings, all written out in spontaneously flowing, almost vandalistic handwriting, find their way onto the clean, empty surfaces of museums, exhibition spaces and other public meeting places. Their message subverts and deconstructs the aura of art and draws the public’s attention to architectural situations or details that are only apparently insignificant. In fact, thanks to the artist’s intervention, they reveal the real nature of the conditions shaping artistic practice. These writings form a host of narrative rivulets, at times realistic and at times surreal, sometimes didactic and sometimes farcical, giving rise to an inexhaustible chain of associations of ideas that involve the viewer directly in the creative universe of the artist and in the collective tradition of artistic practice, questioning the limits and potential of their relationship. At the Castello di Ama, Solakov has “populated” the walls of the room usually used for tastings of the estate’s famous wines with small writings and drawings; apparently childish and improvised in nature but shot through with subtle irony, striking sentences and little characters work their way in among existing objects or into wall cavities. The ensuing dialogues and apparently paradoxical situations investigate the history, the customary use and the new role of the castle itself in the ambit of the contemporary art system. In a contemporary and ironic version of the thousand-year-old Tuscan tradition of wall painting and fresco work, the artist builds parallel stories in which the preexisting objects and architectural elements in the room take on a life of their own, revealing an alertness and receptiveness to what takes place around them. For instance, there is the threatening telephone socket that exclaims-claims “to know a lot of things” or the light switches that converse with each other about the importance of their reciprocal positions.
The shadows and light distributed by the lamps in the setting provide a point of departure for metaphysical reflection about day and night, or for fantastical places on which strange characters sit, a splendid spider weaves its web and a child hangs his swing. A silhouette of the famous knight that features on the labels of the castle’s legendary wine is the protagonist of an unexpected encounter upon his return from the Crusades. The same inebriating potential of wine and its effects on the personality are the subject of other small episodes, to the extent that even the waves of an imaginary sea, carved out by tracing the veining on the wall, become freely intoxicated in this revealed landscape. But this is probably just the beginning of my own story. Every viewer will build another one, and another again, and as Solakov seems to indicate to us, this is a necessary and inevitable condition in a contemporary world that is increasingly fragmented and ungraspable. In a world like this, a single, linear representation and interpretation of reality is impossible.