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Nedko Solakov

Stahldoodles, 2016

Site-specific drawings

The Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov (born 1957 in Cherven Briag, Bulgaria) is an ingenious storyteller. His drawings and paintings with handwritten comments, videos, performances, and installations demonstrate not only the absurdity of human existence, but also the pitfalls of daily life and the art world, always with a large dose of empathy and humor.

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Nedko Solakov, Stahldoodles [steel doodles], Site-specific drawings, 2016. Photo: Peter Baracchi

When Museum Haus Konstruktiv hosted the exhibition of its collection “Um die Ecke denken” [Thinking Outside the Box] in 2016, it invited Solakov to express his own view on Concrete, Constructive, and Conceptual Art. Using a characteristic form, he drew miniature drawings in the exhibition rooms that were accompanied by short, poignant comments.
His drawings of figures barely one centimeter in size, which are themselves now part of the collection, can be found on the steel beams and in places that would otherwise hardly ever be noticed. One drawing on a steel screw is of "a constructivist’s legs" disappearing into the ceiling, while just below a “conceptualist” and an “action painter” are each sliding off a steel nut. Are the latter two less restrained than the Constructivist, or simply freer? On a ceiling girder, we see another figure, presented as always by the artist in silhouette, who is pulling a bulky load on a kind of sled. A comment next to it that reads “An artist dragging a constructivist memorabilia (for recycling)” demonstrates how the legacy of the Constructivists may weigh heavy but is still useful after all.

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Nedko Solakov, Stahldoodles [steel doodles], Site-specific drawings, 2016. Photo: Peter Baracchi
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Nedko Solakov, Stahldoodles [steel doodles], Site-specific drawings, 2016. Photo: Peter Baracchi

In this “guest intervention,” Solakov not only addresses the main themes of the museum, but also the workings of the museum itself and the unique features of its architecture. He breathes life into minute details. For example, an unremarkable spot where a chip of paint has fallen off is turned into a “lonely heart,” while two curved lines on a steel nut transform it into a peacefully sleeping face. While another figure can be seen crawling up between two steel elements like a free climber, a motion detector states “all visitors are equal for me,” and a female figure next to a sensor for monitoring the room climate muses about “a hot artist in a humid, hard to be regulated, art world.”

Solakov studied mural painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia. After he graduated in 1981, he studied at the Nationaal Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerpen. He then went on to receive several artist in residence grants in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Japan. Since 1992, he has taken part in the Istanbul Biennale three times, and the Venice Biennale (1999 and 2007) and documenta in Kassel twice (2007 and 2012) respectively. He has also had many solo exhibitions in prestigious institutions, including the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (2003), the Kunsthaus Zurich (2005) and the S.M.A.K. – Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst in Gent (2012).