Dimitar Solakov

As a young Bulgarian artist, Dimitar Solakov has some big shoes to fill. His father is Nedko Solakov, one of the best known Bulgarian artists. That said, Dimitar is an artist in his own right, following his own vision, working mainly in photography and video.

One of his most interesting conceptual projects is The Story of Art. As the artist writes on his website, “I’ve never had a proper academic education on the history of art. Recently I decided I wouldn’t be ashamed of this anymore and even to use it as an “advantage.” Revealing my nearly total lack of knowledge about the history of art, I have dedicated a work to each chapter of The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich.” The aim was not necessarily to re-create the works of art from the book, but to re-interpret the styles and movements throughout art’s history. In some ways, this recreates the methods that are used in art school, as art students work through various styles before arriving at their own. But in Dimitar’s case this also serves another function – one similar to Ivan Moudov’s theft of pieces of artworks – and that is to provide a link between Bulgarian culture and the trajectory of world culture that is outlined in Gombrich’s book.

As an example of what these re-creations entail, chapter one, which focuses on cave paintings, is represented as a video work where Dimitar enters a cave and copies the paintings of bison from Altamira, Spain, from an image on his iPad, mixing the pigments himself and applying them to the wall with his fingers. He uses an inflatable “air dancer” (one commonly associated with car dealerships) to represent later Greek art, when artists and craftsman developed the ability to represent the human figure in motion. An interesting interpretation is of chapter 18: “A Crisis of Art,” which relates to Europe in the 16th century. For this chapter, the artist enlisted the help of his father, whom he asked how Breugel overcame the crisis of art at the end of the 16th century, and how his father was inspired by Breugel (his favorite artist) to overcome the financial crisis of the 21st century. The chapter consists of a 4’31” video of Nedko Solakov reading from the chapter, and discussing the necessity for artists – and society – of the collector, especially in times of crisis, be they artistic or economic (often both are related).

Another work that deals with Bulgarian history and its international connections is Walking in their Steps – a conceptual and performative piece that attempts to re-trace the steps of the Thracian people, who once inhabited the Bulgarian lands – by visiting ancient Thracian sites wearing “Thracian Step” brand socks. These steps are recorded in video.

Referring to recent Bulgarian history, Walks is a split-screen video of two walks – one taken in the forest, and one taken on Boulevard Tsar Osvoboditel, which leads to the National Assembly – a street that has recently been the site of nearly weekly protests in Sofia. The artist said that he preferred the type of walk in the forest, as the walks through the city hadn’t really accomplished much yet.

Dimitar also has an alter-ego: Ant Guy. Seizing on the opportunity provided by a GoPro camera, the artist decided to film himself doing various activities – chopping onions, running, walking, hopping, sitting in the sauna. Instead of filming the outside world from his perspective, he turns the camera around, and films his face to provide a view of him as a participant in these experiences, rather than the experiences themselves. The result is a man who looks insect like, because of the angle of the camera – Solakov’s alter-ego.

For his exhibition at the 0-GMS Gallery in the Institute of Contemporary Art in Sofia, he also provided an alternative view. Approaching the gallery, which is simply a drawer in the ICA kitchen labeled “0 GMS,” one hears the sound of a motor running, which invites the visitor to open the drawer. Upon opening it, one finds a panoramic photograph of an exhibition installation in the gallery, placed on a paper belt, rolling through the drawer. It is a compact and portable way of viewing an exhibition, after it has been taken down.

Dimitar uses both his camera and his keen eye to capture ordinary phenomena – be it the history of art or a walk in the woods – from a different angle, enabling the viewer to see the world from his unique perspective.