Create! Magazine is pleased to share an exclusive interview with painter and performance artist Galina Hristova. This feature is the first in a new recurring series of in-depth conversations with contemporary artists generously sponsored by Altamira.
Galina Hristova was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria in 1989, is currently based in London, UK, and works across Bulgaria and the UK. Galina is a multidisciplinary artist with main focus on painting and performance art, investigating subject matter centered around psychological dualistic manifestations of the personality. Her rich and extensive background in fine arts, theatre, film, dance, music, and writing, shapes the vibrant use of different mediums, settings, and visual language in her practice. During her developing art practice, Galina has curated and co-curated collective exhibitions, assisted in the organization of various art projects and events, coordinated workshops as well as presentations. Between 2008 and 2018, she was a Member of the Union of Plovdiv Artists and Union of the Artists in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. In 2008, she was granted the Annual award of Gabrovo Municipality and the City Art Gallery, and she participated in two international residencies – one in Bojentzi, Bulgaria and the other in Nowy Sącz, Poland. Galina has had six solo exhibitions in Bulgaria as well as a number of collective exhibitions in Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up & how did you begin your journey in the arts? Where did you study?
I was born in Bulgaria and started studying art professionally at the age of 13, with a very clear idea to pursue that path, which at that time, in the economic environment I grew up restricted by, seemed like a distant dream.
My mother says that it all started with a fox. I made a drawing of a fox based on a fable in the nursery that drew some considerable attention :D Since then, I pretty much never stopped drawing and the fox appeared to be chasing me through the years. My training started with five years of intense drawing and painting classes at a fine art high school, followed by a BA and two MA degrees. Almost by accident, I started working as a portrait artist at the age of 17, which accidentally turned into my regular job for ten years. Meanwhile, I continued my education in fine arts and set and costume design - a journey that ended back in the fine arts when I moved to the UK in 2018. It was finally ‘sealed’ this year, two years after the official graduation due to familiar reasons, with the MFA degree show at Chelsea College of Arts / UAL/ in the middle of July. During the course, I endeavored an interplay between painting and performance art which I hope will shape the stylistics of my work further.
Your work is visceral and emotional, where a woman's figure is often the central focus. Can you share more about the themes you're exploring through your paintings and performance art?
The presence of the female in my work, as I try to communicate her qualities of mutability and sensitivity, portrays the implicit forces associated with human nature. I am intrigued by the dualistic psychological manifestations within the personality, defined by the dichotomy rationality-instinct. My concepts are influenced by the Jungian theories about the archetypes and the collective unconscious, where dream translation, mythology, and transcendental experiences confront the individual’s restrictions of norms and reason. The figurative element weaved with the surreal in my paintings, embodies matters of passion and power, desire and restrain, delicacy and inner strength, and the visual language narrates a transition between fiction and reality. Similarly, in my performances, notions of isolation, vulnerability, tension, and endurance are communicated through the qualities of the body.
In addition to being a practicing visual artist, you are also an independent curator. How did you begin curating? Do you have a specialty as a curator?
I think that curation naturally evolved while developing my practice and having the chance to gain experience in different subjects and different roles in the art industry.
It is also a result of academic art education, background and passion for the history of arts, and of course, interest in other art practitioners’ work and creative processes. I began assisting in different projects and co-curating art shows and events, thus building knowledge and confidence to curate shows independently. In a very dynamic and competitive art scene, with expansive production, and subjective criteria, I am trying to evaluate the subtle balance of technical proficiency and raw creativity, which, I believe, addressed with equal responsibility should define high standards in art. I am yet to argue and defend those values, but it is part of the journey and I accept that with patience and respect.
What projects are you working on currently? Any goals you'd like to achieve before the end of the year?
I had just curated a show at Candid Arts Gallery. It was a multilayered project that sowed the seeds of a creative platform aimed to inter-connect artists within different art subjects. During the exhibition Muse, the works of 22 artists responded to the concept of the muse as an invisible force and engaged with the live event theme of masquerade during the show. Masquerade, theatricality, disguise, and various implementations of the invisible was suggested as metaphors to raise the matter of twisted reality. The show was accompanied by a masquerade ball and live music, I guess this is an approach I explore to unite creatives from different art disciplines and reach diverse audiences.
Now I am planning to focus on my practice and re-start my performance art projects, but also to use this flowing collective energy and plan the next curated exhibition.
I discovered your work through Altamira. When did you join the platform and what has been your experience using it thus far?
I joined Altamira quite recently and it was a matter of very selective attitude, to be honest. I am quite old-fashioned and even reserved in terms of approaching platforms and representation opportunities, and it might sound funny, but what drew my attention to Altamira, was at first the name. It implied to me the idea that the art generated by the platform will be of high quality as an advantage over the potential purely commercial side of online presentation. It is not a secret that an artist's sustainable practice depends on both, of course, but critical evaluation sets some necessary boundaries to filtrate strong creative achievements. To join Altamira required an application process, which suggested such an agenda. The platform is accessible and organized, and easy to use for artists.
Altamira is a social commerce platform that assists contemporary artists in gaining recognition and selling their work online. It allows art fans, lovers, collectors, critics, and novices to discover the top art of today, each day. Altamira welcomes new artists to apply and join their exciting community, for details and to submit your work please click here.
Alicia Puig has been a contributing writer for Create! Magazine since 2017. Find more of her work: www.aliciapuig.com