Stela Vasileva

Curated by Boyana Dzhikova

18.06 – 27.07.2024

…an architect internalizes a building in his body; movement, balance, distance and scale are felt unconsciously through the body as tension in the muscular system and in the positions of the skeleton and inner organs. As the work interacts with the body of the observer the experience mirrors these bodily sensations of the maker. Consequently, architecture is communication from the body of the architect directly to the body of the inhabitant.

Understanding architectural scale implies the unconscious measuring of an object or a building with one’s body, and projecting one’s bodily scheme on the space in question. We feel pleasure and protection when the body discovers its resonance in space.

When experiencing a structure, we unconsciously mimic its configuration with bones and muscles; the pleasurably animated flow of a piece of music is subconsciously transformed into bodily sensations, the composition of an abstract painting is experienced as tensions to the muscular system The structures of a building are unconsciously imitated and comprehended through the skeletal system unknowingly, as we perform the task of the column or the vault with our body.

– Juhani Pallasmaa, “The Architecture of Seven Senses”

Stela Vasileva’s exhibition at +359 Gallery deals with how the body experiences architecture. As a continuation of a long-standing site-specific practice, the artist concentrates on the properties of the water tower, such as its verticality and spiral structure.

Her work is both a response to the form of the gallery, absorbed into her muscles and then transferred into a work of art, but also one that refers back to the tower. It is an invitation to deeply understand the architectural space, engaging all your senses through the body.

 The exhibition’s starting point is the ground floor, from which a large-scale sculpture made of metal and glass begins. The location also indicates the only place from which the visitor can see all the floors and the ceiling of the tower at the same time, creating a mental projection of its vertical.

 The work explores the dynamics of the building, climbing to its dome, but also the phenomenology of perceptions in this experience – the soft forms sequentially trace the oval of the tower, the visitor’s route through the floors, and the trajectory of his gaze.

 Stela Vasileva’s installation can hardly be seen in its entirety – climbing up, the audience assembles fragmentary images, completing the art object in their minds. In this sense, several visual fields intertwine here – that of the work, constantly observed but from a different perspective, and the changing tower, focus, and background mutually replacing each other. Through the work of Stella Vasileva, the tower refracts; the gallery and the work are here in symbiosis. Thus, the artist concentrates on the natural way of experiencing architecture – through movement.

Compositions of concrete, rebar, glass, and stone are arranged on the floors, affecting the primary indicator by which we perceive changes in architecture: time. Stela Vasileva’s works are both a touch with reality through the perishability of materials and their qualities – weight, shape, and color, but also the interweaving of this reality with the imaginary, the ephemeral, the invisible. The transformation of matter into form and vice versa points to the organicity of our environment, in which we find both construction and decay, natural elements and industrial debris woven into their new ecology.

The path continues to the small black staircase leading into the dome. Climbing puts pressure on the body, puts it in a state of stress, vertigo even – in the narrow metal ladder, a person rubs himself almost around his axis. The end is not visible upon entering, and the ascent can seem endless. Reaching the top, the viewer is relieved for just a second. In the dome, the temperature is much higher than the rest of the tower, especially in summer. Stela Vasileva’s works reflect this temperature change, finally reflecting the sense of closeness – the warmth melted on our skin.

About the artist:

Stela Vasileva (1983) lives and works in Sofia. He graduated from the “Mural Painting” specialty at the National Academy of Arts, Sofia. He won the “Gaudens B. Ruf” award for New Bulgarian art in the category of young author; First prize of the Foundation “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” (2009); as well as various residencies including KulturKontakt, Vienna, Austria (2012), Krinzinger Projekte, Petomifalfa, Hungary – Vienna (2012), Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France (2014). Stella Vasileva participates in numerous group exhibitions and projects in Bulgaria and abroad.

Her solo appearances include: [ Lait ] Via. Art space, Polygraphy office center, Sofia (2023); Lines of Deconstruction, Roam space, Berlin (2022); Transposition, Posta space, Sofia (2022); Lines of Time (in pencil and paper), Arosita Gallery, Sofia (2019); Colorful Gravity, Night Plovdiv (2019); Signs of Sound, +359 Gallery (WaterTower), Sofia (2018); “Palace” Cultural Center – Balchik (2017); “Tunnel”, the underpass of ms. Vardar (urban environment intervention) (2017); “Under Construction”, Contemporary Space gallery, Varna (2015); “5 Boxes”, The Fridge, Sofia (2015); “Work and Leisure”, Un Cabinet D’Amateur gallery, Sofia (2014) and others.