Ikon Gallery
West Midlands

Optimistic Stories 2009, The work I have chosen to look at is a series or 123 drawings created in sepia, black and white ink and wash on paper displayed in a clinical and regimented manner, this part of the work really interests me because the work has no recognisable patterns throughout other than the colouror should I say lack of, some have borders others have Black or grey backgrounds and then others have nothing at all except small figures or splodges. I chose this work as the focus of my critical review as I feel that of all the work I visited it is the most relevant to my practice the use of black and white interests me greatly, I feel it makes me focus entirely upon the skill and technique that has been put into the work, and although I use paint within my practice I can still appreciate the technique needed to create these works, they have a very childlike quality they remind me of drawing stick men, I think this gives them a very nostalgic feel that everyone can relate to having been a child a surely drawn stick men, intentional or not it tugs on the heartstrings.

I like the piece as a whole (all 123) but do not like the individual frames alone, because they are loosely narrative and alone would not make sense, also I feel singularly they are a boring the images don’t have enough going on to keep and audience or viewer interested for more than a few seconds. It is unclear from a distance what the piece is about, the images don’t make a lot of sense, and even once having read the text still is unclear many of the sections of text and nonsense. Without knowing the title of the piece it alters the whole perspective of the work the same as on the images themselves the text gives them whole new meaning, It is very confusing, so much going on in every frame different text to read giving of different messages.

close up of image one from Optimistic series, I had not seen any work by Solakov before I came to view this exhibition because it is his first major exhibition in the UK because he is a Bulgarian artist, his work was very unexpected especially when I considered he used to live in a communist country I expected thick traditional oil paintings or fine and intricate landscapes, instead I got sketchbook doodles in frames and words written everywhere even into the toilet above the toilet role holder on the mirrors and hand dryer.

The location for the piece is well presented the white frames on the white wall with white paper, they aren’t surrounded by anything which means you entirely focus upon the content of each frame, which is what I think Solakov intended. Solakov had the whole gallery space two floors and the bathroom, therefore it meant he could give this piece a whole wall and without a worry of overcrowding his other work, the sheer scale means it needs the space anyway, this is one of the pieces more appealing qualities it is so vast because of the amount of frames that you can’t help but be impressed, especially when stood viewing the piece, it somehow makes you feel very small and insignificant.

The story has an ironic examination of optimism with its pessimistic surrounding. Personal experiences alternate with fictional and excellent accounts on the reflection of bad vs good. All figures in the sequence try hard in loosing against the dominant negative influences, the artist remains at the end only to wish good luck to his beloved people – a concession of helplessness against the evil in the world and the only dawn of hope that “the bad guys/things will ignore us”.

another piece by Solakov from ‘All in order, with exceptions’. (I included this image because I feel it is a great example of his melancholic, light hearted irony, it was also my favorite image in the whole exhibition, simple and yet effective.)

Solokov appears to have a knack for satirical and ironic work, I believe this is where the appeal in Solakov comes from his ability to make people laugh at his work, It offers the opportunity for the viewer to ignore the underlying meanings and messages to the work and just enjoy a light hearted approach. For example in ‘optimistic stories #93’, a black-ink sketch of a giant breast that took a boating holiday. This again has a childish quality that people could laugh at something so immature, but still tickles us all the same.

Overall, I feel this piece is well linked to my research and practice because I enjoy creating anything controversial and satirical, the irony in his work is exciting and makes me want to challenge my audience even more, push the boundaries and in fact question them. I will also keep in mind his presentation as I like the idea of the white frames which puts the work in a frame but because it is white the same as the wall you almost dismiss the frame from view, which works well with the narrative because it still has the whole feel. I will keep in my the idea of using text although it does not appeal to me I like my work to speak for itself and for the title to be short and to the point, not giving to much away. I like to make the audience and viewer work, if I the artist has put effort into my work then why shouldn’t the viewer.