14 Dec 2023 - 11 Feb 2024
WaterLANDS Bulgarian artist-in-residence Maria Nalbantova exhibits new works in "Paradise Marsh". The exhibition is on display from December 14 2023 - February 11 2024 in Kvadrat 500, the National Gallery in Sofia.
The exhibition Paradise Marsh draws us into the territory of the marshland as an artistic metaphor, but also as an ecosystem where all its inhabitants are continuously connected, maintaining or changing the state of the wetland environment and its future.
Maria Nalbantova was inspired by the WaterLANDS Artistic Engagement Residency programme at the Dragoman Marsh, a four-year part-time residency that she began in 2023. She explored the intertwined existence of the variety of biological species inhabiting this protected area and questions our established perception of the concept of wetlands, introducing us literally and figuratively to an unexpected and unfamiliar matter. A marsh that synthesises, generates and reflects, breathes and multiplies, clogs, entrains and rots.
With a pronounced sensitivity to spaces, shaped by sculptural physicality and a sense of purity, tranquillity, harmony, balance and experiment, Nalbantova confronts social reality and hints at our attitude towards the surrounding environment and the care and responsibility we bear by existing.
The three sculptural objects in the centre of the gallery are composed of reeds, carefully harvested and collected by the artist when the ecosystem of the Dragoman Marsh allows such actions. Subsequently, the plant matter was subjected to a labour-intensive treatment and complex organic processes, until it reaches this transparent and mysterious biomatter resembling the skin of embryos that seem about to develop and become living creatures. As if in opposition to the 4th-century Roman tomb permanently displayed in the chamber, or as its natural extension: for where there is death, there has been and will continue to be life. The light and sound emanating from these spatial objects form another ‘living’ element of the organic matter created by the artist. Their presence challenges our sensitivity to the exhibition environment and raises the question: what is it that we are looking at?
‘Certain Aspects of Unsteady Walking’, a work shown in the smaller gallery, accelerates our orientation in the marsh and alludes to natural everyday life, when man is absent. The boots in which the video installation Is projected were used by the artist during her field research, and the video material itself is a sample of the photo traps set by the researchers of the Dragoman Marsh. Although she does not claim to be an eco-activist, Maria Nalbantova constantly explores the topic of ecological balance, so important to our common life, and presents a critical look at the present and the opportunities that open up before us with our every action or inaction.
For we are all floundering together in the marsh.
Text from Martina Yordanova, exhibition curator