Sarieva/Gallery is pleased to present the solo exhibition HOME by the gallery-represented artist Stefan Nikolaev, which will take place between September 29 and November 12, 2023 in the newly opened DOT Sofia.

“When we hear the word home, an image pops into our heads: a combination of shapes, smells, and sounds. It carries an atmosphere. A feeling. It speaks, often confusedly, of shared history, of half-forgotten rituals, of lost faces. Created especially for the collaboration of Sarieva/Gallery with the new building DOT Sofia and curated by the gallery, Stefan Nikolaev’s exhibition Home explores fragments of that image through series of recent works bind together by a particular contradiction of symbols and materials.

The title comes as a word game in Bulgarian linking dot to dom (‘home’) as DOT Sofia beyond gallery space offers housing. But it also connects that first idea to a game-changing phenomenon of modern times: art works become an integral part of homes. Themes, lines, colours, materials, everything changes to accommodate the new way of seeing art. Nikolaev reflects on that phenomenon by examining stylistically and symbolically some key subjects and by continuing his exploration of meeting points between sculpture and painting.

In our post-pandemic era, as in those before, sense of life, of destiny, of home comes under even more intense scrutiny, questioning, doubts. In the artist’s habit of creating dialectical spaces, the exhibition seduces with earthly delights (Nu aux arabesques, 2023, Composition avec Omar, 2023) before sending us into spiritual introspection (I 1, 2023, What you see is what you got, 2022). But there’s more to that primal opposition. Nikolaev uses it not without mischief to make us rethink our perception of what hangs or used to hang on our walls.

More than nostalgic symbols floating between periods, the works examine their own subjects. Still-life paintings became a must-have in Western homes since the 17th century even if they were considered the lowest of genres. They also used to adorn the walls of Egyptian tombs (to be enjoyed in the afterlife) and Roman villa floors. Depicting everyday objects links us to home, to life, to its fragility and let us compose our own imagery of pleasures. In parallel, the artist takes on the most vivid representation of our anxieties in art – the vanitas, and reduces it to their three essentials – Time, Death, Life. If vanitas became too blatant and gloomy to be a crowd-pleaser in time of eternal progress and youth promised by capitalism, they found rehabilitation in our post-modern disquiet. 

Stefan Nikolaev goes further into what makes these subjects so familiar to us by examining their material essence. Most of the still-lifes ever created used to be seen in the trembling light of a candlestick, corner by corner, detail by detail. It’s the invention of electricity that completely transformed our way of seeing colours, shapes, matters. Nikolaev uses one of its further inventions and what might be one of the lasting symbols of the twentieth century – the neon light to question how and what we see. What for instance makes us imagine a timeless Madonna with child in I 1, 2023? Not unlike neon signs, the contours in Nikolaev works outline the most essential part of an image, of a symbol. As if the artist has been repeating a gesture that many repeated before him in search of its truest form.

Since that first barber’s shop sign light up in 1913 in Paris, neon signs witnessed all the transformations our world went into in the last hundred and so years. It is also a sign of transformation in Nikolaev’s art. From his earlier uses of neon to write idiosyncratic phrases emerge a desire to see how far light could go as a creator of forms, of symbols. Or even how that quite modern and affordable light could cohabit with some of the oldest and most noble materials and techniques used to create artworks.

In Cold bird, 2023, it’s the dusty grey veining of a soft white Arabescato marble that seems to flow differently in the blue neon light encapsulated in Murano glass. Nikolaev favours even further the ancient technique of hammered copper to give a new sense of materiality to his neon works. Copper’s lustrous beauty has for centuries been associated with the goddess Venus. And aren’t her seductive forms emanating from Nu aux arabesques, 2023?

With these new works Stefan Nikolaev pursue his interest in what makes images part of our collective imagination and thus of a shared place. Home. An image that has the characteristics of a neon sign: flashy, moody, dubious, and desirable.”

– Desislava Mileva



It's good. Dot, Capital, 22.09.2023

Stefan Nikolaev chooses the newly opened space DOT Sofia for his new exhibition HOME, Impressio, 25.09.2023

Tiled HOME, an exhibition by the french-bulgarian artist Stefan Nikolaev, Novini 247, 26.09.2023

An exhibition by Stefan Nikolaev acompanies the offical opening of DOT Sofia, Nash dom, September 2023

Sarieva Gallery presents exhibition by French-Bulgarian artist Nikolaev at DOT Sofia, The Sofia Globe, 2.10.2023

What to do at Sofia in October, Boyscout, 5.10.2023

Vesselina Sarieva: Creating new spaces at off-spaces is my passion, The Girls from the City, 10.10.2023

New space in Sofia develops the first Bulgarian private collection in a public space, Pro News, 11.10.2023

HOME - New exhibition by the artist Stefan Nikolaev, BNT, Kultura!BG, 12.10.203

20 questions, Capital, 14.10.2023

Stefan Nikolaev at Sarieva @ DOT, Art Viewer, 11.11.2023