In conversation: Valentin Bakardjiev
by Joana Alarcão
In conversation: Valentin Bakardjiev
Can you start by giving us a bit of background regarding your artistic practice?
As an artist, I have always been inspired by cultures from around the world with the intention and ambition to connect them and show the world as a unity without borders. Within my work, I search for new and different ways to apply ancient techniques and crafts to create contemporary art that connects the past with the present.
Using natural, recycled, upcycled materials and applying ancient crafts is putting my work in a new context of sustainability and multidisciplinary art. For most of my projects, I research and apply techniques from an era when our planet was still clean.
You mention that “Learning to understand a culture that is different from your own is important to broaden the individual's perspective and connect with others.” Can you develop this statement forward?
Cultural exchange and appreciation are core values for me as an artist. Learning to understand a culture that is different from your own is important to broaden your individual perspective and connect with others. Developing the skill of cultural or cross-cultural competence is challenging, but worth the journey as it is an important way to provide an opportunity to share ideas, knowledge and cultural awareness.
If you aspire to appreciate instead of appropriate, you’re already on the right track. I want to remind people to be mindful, still- do not stop being curious, keep learning and appreciating other cultures. Do it properly, with guidance and mindfulness and you will be the change needed to uplift, strengthen and amplify the world around us. My goal is to share ideas with others in order to help others learn more about the world.
As an award-winning multimedia artist working towards sustainability, you use natural, recycled, upcycled materials and ancient techniques. When and why did you start working with these materials and techniques?
Back in 1998 during the International Symposium for Plastic Arts - Via Pontica - Iasna Poliana/Bulgaria- I created the Textile on Water- environmental art project. The time was different- sustainability wasn’t a public topic at the time and there was no internet, no social interest in this kind of project during the communist period in Bulgaria.
The project was made from fresh green water reed and dry corn leaves weaved together and
displayed on a water surface. Textile on water: made from nature – made in nature – stays in nature.
What can you tell us about the series The Butterfly Effect?
My ‘Butterfly Effect’ addresses the problem of climate change as a result of overconsumption and waste. With all challenges we are facing regarding the environment and our planet, it is key to focus on a sustainable way of working by using all possible leftover materials.
Now is the moment to act is becoming a popular phrase. With my project, I want to show that we don’t have to wait for someone to come and do something big and save the world. I want to show people that, really, everyone with very small steps can make a big change happen- unity is one of the key elements to making a change for the better!
I found new ways to incorporate for instance corn leaves and avocado peels and seeds to
my art, and to make us all experience nature in a different way. Focusing on what is around us and what could be usable and/ or reusable. In a way, making art from garbage. I try to inspire people into searching for new ways to better the future of our planet.
In your practice, you search for new and different ways to apply ancient techniques and crafts to create contemporary art that connects the past to the future. How do you specifically implement this within your practice?
During my project research I’m discovering and learning techniques and crafts from different cultures- combining and applying them I’m creating unique techniques for my art projects. Sometimes we have to look better around us and see that the things we need already exist…we just have to see them with fresh eyes.
I was quite taken by the visual impact and concept of the work series entitled Le Grand Bleu. How did this project begin? Can you lead us through the artistic process?
One of the early and main inspirations came from Delfts Blauw ceramics. I did a series of painted objects in calligraphy technique, exploring the vibration of the blue pigment and ornaments, cracks and shades on paper. Later, I applied the Shibori technique with Indigo and ink on paper to create an extra deepness to the artworks. At a later stage of the project, I start collaging extra layers of semi-transparent Washi paper exploring the possibility of creating the deepest blue color as a symbol of endless sky and deepest ocean. Growing my own Japanese Indigo- from seed to extracting pigment is also a very important and exciting part of the project.
Do you have any particular moment in your artistic career that was the turning point for you to become the artist that you are today?
In 2016 I started working on an El Aumento -upcycle art project. It originated because of my conviction that the figurative paintings I had made in the past did not have the right form and shape anymore. I felt the need to reinvent myself and work abstractly, giving expression to all symbols and colors used in my paintings in a new and different way. In other words, my creative process continued even when my oil paintings were completed. I made a courageous decision and started to cut up my oil paintings and reuse/ upcycle the pieces. It results in 3-dimensional art objects starting with an old idea transformed into a contemporary piece of art. I used my figurative art and made them into abstract art, where all the symbols are repositioned and yet remain recognizable. I changed the vibrancy of the artwork by regrouping the colors. There is a parallel between rearranging the world order so to say and creating a different point of view, to help explore the world in different dimensions.
How do you incorporate your artistic practice within the general public? What methods do you use to spread the concepts investigated in your work?
My artworks are starting to walk out of the frames, they are now between the viewers, the public can interact with the art - understanding better the character of materials I use to create, the the story behind the concept and the outcomes of my research. Lately, I gravitate towards creating and translating previous projects into 3D objects, interactive installations, performances etc., that are also exciting for the audience.
Art can take many shapes, forms and roles. What is for you the societal role of art?
I found new ways to make us all experience art and nature in a different way, stimulating sustainable thinking and living. Focusing on what is around us and what could be usable and/ or reusable. I try to inspire people into searching for new ways toward a better future for our planet. With my art, I feel a responsibility to contribute to this greater purpose.
You had numerous solo and group exhibitions in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, Shanghai, Milan, Toyota city, Chicago. What is for you the most important part of an exhibition?
The first reaction of the public- is a magical moment. When you open the doors and let the audience see an exhibition, you open the doors to your worlds. In a way, it is an intimate, emotional and exciting process.
Do you have any new projects coming up? Can you speak a bit about it?
One exciting project I can mention is a series of installations New Horizons as part of my Le Grand Bleu project with which I want to create different interactions with the viewer and open new dimensions and directions of the project.
The idea is to remind us that the blue sky is not only above us but also around all of us…we are breathing it. Then we can see the world without borders. Reminding ourselves that we are living under/in the same sky.
What is the most challenging part of being an artist? How do you overcome it?
To be an artist is a wonderful and exciting journey that is not easy but each step is worth it. You have to embrace constant change and emotional participation, which makes it sometimes challenging but always rewarding- to see the audience's reaction. It is a responsibility to guide, educate and inspire the viewers to new worlds. Sometimes it is challenging to find the right material or form to express your idea… and this is also great because most of the time it brings you a piece of new knowledge.
As an artist what would you say is the moment that brings you the most joy?
When you see your artwork completed in front of you. Then you realize that you have created a new gate between you, the viewers and new worlds. Connecting people, connecting worlds.
Links to social media:
Cover Image : The Cube Univers by Valentin Bakardjiev. Image courtesy of Valentin Bakardjiev.
Image 1: The Butterfly Effect by Valentin Bakardjiev. Image courtesy of Valentin Bakardjiev.
Image 2:The Butterfly Effect by Valentin Bakardjiev. Image courtesy of Valentin Bakardjiev.
Image 3: The Butterfly Effect by Valentin Bakardjiev. Image courtesy of Valentin Bakardjiev.
Image 4: The Cube Univers by Valentin Bakardjiev. Image courtesy of Valentin Bakardjiev.
Valentin Bakardjiev is an award-winning multimedia artist working towards sustainability: using natural, recycled and upcycled materials. Creating contemporary art that connects the past with the present. He followed his art education in Bulgaria. Valentin has lived and worked in Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Italy and is now holding residency in Amsterdam.
In his career so far, he has had more than 15 solo and many group exhibitions in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, Shanghai, Milan, Toyota city, Chicago amongst others.
More than 10 publications and lectures about his art researches. Valentin always been inspired by cultures from around the world with the intention and ambition to connect them and show the world as a unity without borders.
For most of his projects he is researching and applying techniques from an era when our planet was still clean. Focusing on the nature, framing the nature, and reminding us that we are part of nature, he is creating awareness on the importance to keep the planet clean.
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