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final PhD exhibition

Winchester Gallery

Winchester School of Art

December 2014


How to Create an Ideal Past:

Continuities from the Communist Era in Post-Communist Bulgaria 

My practice-based research looked at continuities between fine art in
Communist and post-Communist Bulgaria. In order to explore these continuities,
the study investigated, both by means of theoretical and studio practice elements,
two notions of the past: nostalgia and ‘repainting’ the past, considered as key
notions for exploring the succession between the two periods. Their influence was
examined as extending over contemporary fine art in Bulgaria, deeply affecting the
perception of the past and its heritage in the art-world.

The outcomes of this research are paintings and installations. My studio practice,
as an integral part of this study, explored continuities between the Communist past
and the post-Communist present as manifested in the field of fine art in Bulgaria
throughout the research process. Its key element has become the examination of
photographic reproductions of Social Realist paintings and monuments, as well
as their correlations to the notions of nostalgia and ‘repainting’ the recent past.
The examination of the ways these photographic reproductions’ meanings are
produced and operate has formed one of the main focuses of this study. A helpful
way to understand the process of their meanings’ production is provided by Roland
Barthes’ concept of myth. The latter, together with selected aspects of Levi-Strauss’
understanding of the myth, underpins and guides this study. The photographic
reproductions have been explored both as structurally autonomous and as
products of processes of production, distribution and consumption. They have been
investigated here as related to their peculiar temporal positions – between ‘then’
and ‘now’, between presenting ‘facts’ and constructing notions of the past.

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