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Juxtapoz Magazine, Stefania batoeva: Divorce @ Public Gallery London

Public GalleryWe are pleased to present Divorce, a solo exhibition by Stefania Batoeva. The gallery has nine new oil paintings, which are displayed on two floors. These works are subjectively personal and explore the limits of knowledge – the zones between the real and the imagined.

It is difficult for me to describe Stefania’s paintings as either figuration or abstraction. This binary model is too rigid, too steeped into common sense. If pushed, I would have to say that Stefania’s works are surely both abstract and figurative and maybe neither. The paintwork is filled with ambivalence, despite clearly defined figures, architecture, and natural. Stefania leads us into corners, to the edges, and back. Conventions do not guide us in understanding these works. Emotions have a reach, and a breadth. Time and space change constantly, and are both expansive and immediate. Experiences seem to occur through sleep and wake, fairy tales, science fiction, and back onto concrete streets.

To describe this ground, Mark Fisher would use the strange and the eerie. These are the areas Fisher calls the “strange”. The strange here isn’t the horrible, but the outside, the fascination with that which is beyond our normal perceptions and cognition. These spaces are both unfamiliar and familiar. This is Stefania’s seduction – the paintings arrest with their lack of familiarity. The use of motifs and paint changes in pace – that fast/slow undeniability medium – to reveal intentions and manipulate the eye. This codifies an approach that simply won’t settle for the world to be only what it appears to be.

Why is there something when there should not be? Why is there nothing when there should be? I think about the unseeing eyes that the dead have, the broken bridge that connects the external and internal. What was once an active conduit has become an opaque object.

I accept the fact that there are things which are and things that are not. Some people have ghosts in the ontologies. I wonder about the limits and extensions in Stefania’s – the abstraction that appears in the work serves as the very representation of these perceptive limits, as if at some point the eye can only relay so much information, as if at some point paint is ratifying into reality these very spaces that exist beyond sight.

Caravaggio’s The incredulity of Saint Thomas, depicts the doubting Thomas. Untrusting of the visual reports of Christ’s reappearance, he can only confirm the existence of Jesus by touching the crucifixion wounds. This physical confirmation of a ghost is quite fascinating. Stefania continues to return to the question about touch and how it affects without it. Figures can appear in pairs. Yet, is there a shared reality among them? This affect touch seems able to bridge ontologies as well states of consciousness. It is here where we find both the possible and the visceral. It’s here where we live and interact, open, fuzzy and suspended in extension. —Isaac Lythgoe

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