The exhibition is a try at a mirror reconsideration of history. It is a “tête-à-tête”” of two generations of lady artists: the first “bunch” of graduates from art academies in Bulgaria who advocated the right of the “fair sex” to deal seriously with art, and artists who in late 20th century understood art as an avenue to convey messages and to provoke public opinion.
The mirror approach in the construction of the exhibition is not a haphazard choice. First, the mirror is an attribute, which is invariably associated with the female principle. Second, the mirror is a common motif in the pictures of the lady artists from the early 20th century whereas the series of self-portraits from the end of the century just allude to it. Third, the mirror carries divine and magic characteristics that are typical of art and women alike. Fourth, speculum (the Latin word for mirror) is a gyno examination instrument, which is interpreted by Luce Irigaray as a symbol of the male penetration into the opposite sex based on the idea of “nonexistence” and cavity. This is how feminism is incorporated into the subject. Fifth, the mirror refers to thinking because of the etymology of the word speculum – from speculor meaning “to speculate” in the sense of “to think” or “to reflect”. This adds to the ambition of the provocative nature of the exhibition. Last but not least the speculum is associated with a spectacular performance (spectaculum), which is the quintessence of any exhibition.
Probably the opposition (or juxtaposition) seems audacious from the perspective of the tolerant theory of art. However, almost seventy years and many other lady artists are intervening between these two generations… The contrast is deliberate as sometimes it best expresses the essence and, moreover, the approach has its raison d'être. The two groups of artists have many things in common. The former protested and asked to attend the nude painting classes in the Art Academy, to have their artworks displayed in general exhibitions side by side with the works of artists from the opposite sex, to organize their own exhibitions and to be treated in a serious way. The latter tried to raise taboo questions that for many years before them were unuttered in the guise of fear and inertia. The former were trained abroad and brought home the trends of Impressionism and Expressionism. The latter experimented with media and means of expression that previously were not employed in Bulgarian art. As regards the subject matter, the affinity is undeniable: both groups are definitely introspective. Self-portrait appears to be the commonest choice. Understandably, the reasons are far from being identical. In the early 20th century the self-portrait stood for growing self-confidence and self-consciousness. At the end of the century the self-portrait was the vehicle of inner drama and anxiety and raised many questions. The exhibition seeks to highlight the similarities and dissimilarities in the attitude to the still life, the male nude body and the portrait. In fact the real mirror is the spectator who is the “looking glass” of destinies, ambitions and achievements that, while being distant from each other in time, are kindred in a deeply intrinsic way.
Are reflections possible in this parade of mirrors? Will it be possible to catch the image or will the image dissolve and disappear into the infinity of variations? We count not on the categoricalness achieved but on diversity. The purpose of the exhibition is to multiply the reflections and to make the diversity, intricacy and even confusion of the reflections provoke a discussion.