Boryana Petkova, Another point of you

All those eyes that rest on her, and with which she now seeks to come to terms, shape the armour or corset that protects or constrains the body. Each correcting of vision acts like a magnifying glass that amplifies or distorts the vision, enhancing it with a singularity. As the horizon of our gaze, the gradient images appear as a range of viewpoints that look at the world through a prism. Inclusive and breaking down the cultural boundaries of good and evil, her work flirts with the taboos of our societies by confronting us with sometimes illegal or amoral borderline experiences. Her images are derived from carefree moments shared with her daughters, from her everyday work or a social event, but also from scenes in which she replays her past, when drugs, prostitution, begging and theft were part of her daily life in the suburbs of Sofia. The blurring embodies the tipping point where the brain either believes it sees, or refuses to accept, the evidence of what is happening in front of it. Because it is up to each of us to maintain our status as members of a class, consumers, voyeurs or, on the contrary, to share the sum total of these extreme experiences, be they confused, fantasised or repressed. 

As though putting a filter on the brutality of reality, the Bulgarian artist Boryana Petkova performs her past, which she re-photographs through various correction glasses, not to sublimate it or out of nostalgia, but to reveal its masquerades and intensify the fictions that constitute us. This means she uses photography not as a documentary tool, but as an optical play through which she superimposes the camera and the psyche, reality and fiction, seeing and looking. By crossing biological, mechanical, social, individual, conscious or unconscious perspectives, she tears the veil of appearances, and in so doing highlights the norms that rig our gaze.

 Boryana Petkova does not seek to illuminate the obscure; rather, she confronts us with our own prejudices and complicit silences – and does so looking us straight in the eyes. So much so that, in reality, what we see depends exclusively on what we are.

 Marion Zilio, February 2024


Burnt. Burn. Will Burn.

Boryana Petkova’s performative practice is characterized by its durational nature and cannot be separated from the craftsmanship of drawing in an expanded field. Both painful and painless, her performances often evoke a sense of poetry, stoicism, and transcendence. For this exhibition, dozens of drawings on white paper are spread across the water tower floors. They are the result of Petkova’s most recent performance, partly conducted and documented in the courtyard of the gallery without an audience and partly at the opening of the exhibition, performed live.

For several consecutive hours, the artist was surrounded by burning coal, trying to write three words on paper using hot coals––the past, present, and future tenses of the verb “to burn.” Literally burning herself with each new attempt, the artist could often barely make more than a few chaotic strokes, which is why some drawings resemble doodles or children’s drawings. At times she patted her hands on the cold paper to ease the pain, at others, she dug them in the soil under her. She admits to having been puzzled, feeling that her hands were wet as if they were crying, which helped her go more smoothly. The resulting works on paper are hung in the gallery in the order of writing and the visitors can sense when Petkova has had a surge of energy and when it has “left” her, finally ending the hours-long drawing process. The video recording of the performance, filmed by Nadezhda Oleg Lyahova, is shown after the live performance throughout the duration of the exhibition. The performance Burn.Burnt.Will Burn. is directly inspired by the rituals of Nestinarstvo, a dying Bulgarian culture from the region of Strandzha. Since the ancient times of the Thracians, it is believed that a society of Nestinari existed in that region, including men and women, who were devoted to their saints. They would “free” themselves from the gods only when walking on fire, blurting out predictions, and enduring excruciating pain for the good of society. The last Nestinarka is said to have died in the 1960s, and firewalking has now taken up that tradition leaving out some of the more sacred and spiritual aspects of this old ritual. These “games,” as they call them, of walking on fire were largely performed by women. They marked important rites of passage, an act of extreme benevolence toward the younger generations whose past, present, and future pain and suffering they attempted to alleviate by taking it on themselves and crossing the fire barefoot. The real Nestinari were said to become ice-cold for hours when “the gods” possessed them, entering a trance-like state while dancing and singing. Often involving others in her works, here Petkova collaborates with Aurora Timev and Stefan Hristov (MR.SMiFF) to produce the accompanying music. Timev’s powerful voice fills the gallery space in the often incomprehensible manner of the original Nestinarki. Small glass objects follow the whorled shape of the water tower, spreading across the entire length of the building, representing pieces of the original coals collected by the artist after a fire-walking ritual, which are wrapped in glass. As Petkova describes it, when the cold coal collided with the boiling glass, it ignited again and burned out, shaping the glass around it. In many ways, what we see is a time capsule of energy, painful or otherwise, caught in the fragility of the glass, menacing or, on the contrary, promising to release the highly inflammable thoughts it contains.

 Snejana Krasteva


Boryana Petkova, Another point of you

Gulliver’s Sketchbook KAI 10 Arthena Foundation

Boryana Petkova submits the process of drawing to strict experimental set-ups or instruction codes. The artist is particularly interested in what takes shape when control over the hand, by the eye for instance, is largely lost. This becomes apparent in the drawing performance Guardian II (2022), which took place in KAI 10 without audience – as is usual with Petkova – but was recorded on video. The artist is seen standing with her back to the wall, confined inside a sculptural structure made of glass and metal. The object’s form was inspired by metal tree guards. The name for these grilles in French is corsets d’arbre, alluding to the protection a corset purportedly gives the female body, but which is in fact tantamount to captivity. In her performance Petkova is standing on the tips of her toes, endeavouring to draw with obsessive movements at the highest point she can reach. The performance concludes when the artist’s hands go numb and she can no longer hold the pencil. At the same time, the fragility of the glass suggests the risk of injury should Petkova hit the grille too forcefully with her movements.

Alongside this piece, placed across a corner of the exhibition space, Petkova has created a wall drawing as part of her series Desire Lines (2021), which likewise relates to her outstretched arms and legs. The physical actions and sets of movements involved in the process of drawing themselves become an expression of the drawing. They can be read, for instance, as a metaphor for life’s journey with all its high and low points, with the continual yearning for something one feels forced to achieve.

Ludwig Seyfarth


Hyperdrawing is about the expansion of the drawing outside the sheet of paper in the exhibition space through the artist’s body. Wall drawing, performance and installation make up the exhibition, which is constructed as a dialogue between two artists, Boryana Petkova (BULG) and Katrin Ströbel (DE).

Drawing is here an exploration of the self through others and the world. Both living between several cultures – French and Bulgarian/German, in particular – Petkova and Ströbel are sensitive to the way in which the foreign body takes its place in a territory, a space, a culture. Thus, above each of the two doors that nevertheless lead into the same space, their names have been written by the artists with drawing tools, thus demonstrating that the notion of belonging can be common and shared. For them, drawing is indeed a tool for communicating and sharing singular experiences, relying on the exhibition space and a broad conception of the drawing discipline, including tattooing, wallpaper, performance and ephemeral wall drawing, among others.

A dialogue implies a face-to-face positioning, with opposing perspectives that nevertheless meet in the centre, a focal point that is nevertheless ephemeral. The centre is everywhere and therefore nowhere – it is, in the end, where you place it. This exhibition is a testimony to a dynamic and fluid dialogue with places and other humans, which reflects our condition, always in the process of becoming.

In order to establish a dialogue, it is necessary to understand a perspective that is not our own, but also to position ourselves. This search for an identity is therefore constructed not only within us but with the bodies that form and influence us (urban body, human body, political/social body), their living places, as well as the effort of parallax (to leave one’s own perspective) necessary to be in relation with the world.

The conversation between Petkova and Ströbel is reflected in the way the works communicate with each other, in a free language, from simple tracings to drawn portraits. This conversation drawn in space shows the dynamics of a possible relationship with others and the world, rather than representing them as unfathomable, mysterious, or even threatening. Rather than keeping a distance, the artists propose a committed positioning of critical immersion.

This is the feminist positioning of the artists and the curator of the exhibition, which is understood as a dialogical openness, an embodied psycho-social construction, made of differences that speak to and confront each other, of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Joana P.R. Neves  Artistic Director of Drawing Now Art Fair and curator of the exhibition Hyperdrawing

Boryana Petkova est une artiste bulgare vivant en France. Elle marie avec intelligence les pratiques artistiques avec la réflexion sur notre condition humaine. Son médium de prédilection est le dessin à la mine de crayon qui exprime les limites de son corps, son rapport au monde ainsi que sa résilience. D’ailleurs ses dessins sont intimement liés aux performances qu’elle réalise. Subtiles mais marquantes, elles expriment le dépassement de soi nécessaire pour affronter désirs et contraintes, conscience et inconscience, ou limites intérieures et extérieures.

J’y vois l’Illustration subtile d’une vie, vie de femme, vie d’artiste, vie d’étrangère.

Artiste complète, elle explore également cette quête à travers la sculpture, la video et des installations toujours avec la même qualité. Son travail est délicat mais incisif; il nous demande de porter nous-mêmes attention à ces instants fugaces qui révèlent les forces contraires de la vie.

Texte par Agathe de Rocca-Serra pour le prix des amis du Palais de Tokyo 2022


At the occasion of Boryana Petkova’s first solo exhibition in Paris, the video series Spit it Out is a recording of a performance in which the artist struggles to pronounce the three words « please, » « thank you, » and « sorry » in English. A single video shows her mouth making the plaster mold of each word that she uses to shape a glass sculpture of each. These three pieces follow the shape of the words in her mouth. On the other side of the room, three videos show the three glass sculptures in her mouth attempting to speak the same words, but in Bulgarian, her native language this time. The obvious — almost sickening — struggle that the viewer observes and hears coming out of the artist’s mouth, is an allegory of the daily gap in a social as well as political way, that we find in language when we live between several places. The question of displacement, both voluntary and forced, is at the heart of Boryana Petkova’s work and she uses language to represent the importance it can have in our mutual understandings. In Spit it Out, the artist uses the heterogeneity of language as a tool of resistance that becomes physical and that she puts to the test in the act of performing.

In the exhibition space, the installation of the three glass sculptures resulting from the performance recalls the microphones of a chorus of three choristers. The sculptures, positioned at mouth height, are an invitation to embrace one’s own vision of the world through the form of a word that has been frozen in glass. Will it be adapted to the mouth of each person ?

In front of the three videos, a brick wall hides a concrete arm. You have to look closer to notice the broken finger attached to the hand that is now pointing at itself. With this hand turned over and broken, the artist tries to deconstruct the notion of judgement and the discourses that result from it, encouraging an invisibilization of the other. This faculty of judgment is questioned by Arendt in the last decade of her life highlights issues of morality and the ambiguous notion of truth.

« The prerequisite for this form of judgment is not a highly developed intelligence or great sophistication in moral affairs, it is rather the disposition to live explicitly with oneself, to have a relationship with oneself, that is, to be engaged in that silent dialogue between myself and myself which, since Socrates and Plato, we generally call thinking. This form of thinking, though at the root of all philosophical thinking, is not technical and does not concern theoretical problems. The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore must judge for themselves, and the others transcends all social, cultural or educational differences. »[1]

Together, the installation of videos and sculptures create a link between language, translation and judgment. Indeed, translation plays an important role in Boryana’s work, as it creates an ongoing tension between what is said and what is done, as evidenced in her performances that use words and the human body as subversive tools. In Spit it Out, she uses language and her language to highlight the dichotomy between the signifier (the acoustic image of the word) and the signified (the concept of the word). If the word’s acoustic and its concept are already two different things, there is also a level of understanding in the translation that any displaced person is confronted with on a daily basis. Boryana thus invites us to rethink the value we place on words and judgment through the construction and deconstruction of matter and sound.

[1]Hannah Arendt, Responsabilité et jugement, Édition Payot & Rivages, 2009, p47.

 Chloé Bonnie More

Worst Case Scenario

Guardian II  est une reproduction en verre et en métal des corsets de fer que l’on peut trouver dans nos rues autour des arbres. Censés protéger la nature, ces structures la tiennent au contraire prisonnière. C’est l’idée que Boryana Petkova développe dans sa performance en se plaçant dans le corset. Une fois le corset dévissé, l’artiste se positionne face au mur, les bras en l’air, avant de le revisser pour l’y tenir prisonnière à son tour. Étroitement installée dans son corset, les bras tendus en l’air et contre le mur, Boryana active le geste du trait de crayon – tel un dessin frénétique – aussi longtemps que sa condition physique le lui permet. L’artiste explore les limites corporelles dans sa pratique, et plus précisément avec sa performance pendant laquelle elle se place sur la pointe des pieds pour dessiner à l’extrémité la plus haute qu’elle puisse atteindre. La fragilité du verre qui l’enserre reste paradoxale quant à la dangerosité dont elle est également capable, si dans son mouvement de haut en bas, Boryana venait à le toucher. Désormais, la fin de la performance est a priori annoncée par l’engourdissement des mains de l’artiste qui ne sont plus en capacité de tenir le crayon. Cette tension entre une forme de violence et son intimité dans l’oeuvre n’est pas sans rappeler le travail de Jana Sterbak qui elle aussi engageait son corps dans des dispositifs énigmatiques.

Comme une réponse à la sculpture, le dessin Lignes de Désir, installé en face, est une toile que Boryana Petkova vient tisser sur place pendant plusieurs jours voire plusieurs semaines. C’est à la seule aide de son crayon et de ses limites physiques que l’artiste se réapproprie l’espace tout en déconstruisant à travers le trait du dessin. Ses appuis et la limite de ses efforts vont conditionner la trame qui se dessine sur le papier, puis sur les murs. Traçant des motifs plutôt menaçant, l’artiste dit elle-même que le dessin prend parfois le dessus sur elle, ce qui la force à s’arrêter à répétition. En plaçant son corps toujours au centre de sa technique, l’artiste nous invite dans un espace d’intimité où nous sommes enveloppés.

Chloé Bonnie More curatrice

Moving images/Moving bodies

Stella Geppert and Boryana Petkova use the medium of video only in connection with other artistic means of expression, with drawing and performance.

 The investigation of the human body and the choreography of its movement, as well as the exploration of its somatic and psychic condition, play a central role in Stella Geppert’s work. InsideT (collective) is a performance on a white ground in which three dancers follow the energetic and emotionally charged actions of the artist. Their patterns of movement are determined by costumes specially designed by the artist, which become a kind of drawing instrument. Tentacle-like strips hang from head to foot and have carbon rods attached to the ends. The dancers’ bodies tumble, swing, turn, fall, touch each other and communicate with each other. Their actions result in traces of carbon on the white ground, which produce a ‘blind’ and unconsciously created complex linear drawing.

 Boryana Petkova also subjects the drawing process to strict experimental arrangements or guidelines. From the physical actions carried out mainly by the artist herself, only the drawing hand reaches into the fixed-position camera shot.

In 31.41.07 a sheet of drawing paper hangs from a wooden construction, which swings the paper back and forth so that the drawing hand reaches it only with difficulty. The traces the artist leaves on the paper and the wall are thus a manifestation of the unattainable and cannot be fully controlled. In 2Hands drawing, two hands from different people draw on two off-set walls simultaneously. From the camera’s position, they are beside each other, drawing two halves of a circle, which eventually fit together optically.

 In Stella Geppert’s work, the drawings result from the loss of control that occurs, not least when the performers shift their bodies’ centre of gravity. Boryana Petkova, on the other hand, concentrates on the reach of the body and what ’emerges’ when it tends to lose control of the hand, which also deprives it of coordination with the eye. Both artists work with the conscious restriction of movement in drawing, which becomes an externally controlled and mostly blindly executed activity. They both thereby succeed in letting the body and movement qualities of a drawing process become an expression of drawing itself.

Ludwig Seyfarth  curator, art critic

De la ligne, sur le fil du rasoir

Boryana Petkova et Michail Mihailov ont momentanément lié leurs destins d’artistes à travers une exposition pensée comme un lieu de dialogue, où se confronterait une réflexion sur leurs usages respectifs des moyens mêmes de l’art : ici, bien davantage que le dessin depuis longtemps établi en pratique acculturée, la ligne dans toute sa primitivité. A lui seul, le livre d’artiste qu’ils ont conçu ensemble pourrait résumer leur démarche, en dépit ou plutôt à cause de son dépouillement extrême. Rappelons-en brièvement le principe : à distance, puisque Petkova vit et travaille à Paris et Mihailov à Vienne, d’après un repère établi au préalable et au millimètre près – l’un en marge droite, l’autre en marge gauche –, chacun a introduit un trait de crayon dans l’espace d’une suite de pages blanches dont il avait la charge. Par cette effraction qui passe d’une surface à l’autre, le trait se prolonge et se reprend, en franchissant ce qui pourrait, une fois toutes ces pages rapprochées et reliées ensemble par les bords opposés, ressembler au franchissement du pli central d’un livre par des coureurs se passant un témoin. De la sorte, les deux artistes annihilent ce creux de rupture – contre lequel les producteurs de livres se bagarrent depuis l’invention de cet objet –, qu’ils retournent comme on retournerait un gant et transforment en un lieu de contact, où transitent néanmoins des variations d’énergie et d’intensité, des dynamiques gestuelles.

 Entre tension et complémentarité, ce livre blanc conçu à quatre mains pourrait tenir lieu de blason à l’exposition Craving nothing, dont chacun des deux termes a été choisi – et dans cet ordre – par Boryana Petkova et Michail Mihailov pour être d’abord accolé, avec la nécessité de les monter en charnière dialogique et de les faire jouer ensuite, afin d’en combler l’espace typographique et sémantique. C’est aussi le sens des deux vidéos qui, dans l’accrochage de l’exposition telle qu’elle fut visible à la galerie Structura de Sofia, à l’été 2020, ouvraient et fermaient ce dialogue, d’une part sur la juxtaposition de leurs visages filmés en plan serré et fragmentaire, fixant chacun d’un œil le spectateur, et d’autre part sur la fusion de leurs corps imparfaitement capitonnés de tuniques blanches, s’étreignant et se disloquant dans le tournis de transes chorégraphiques données sur fond blanc, d’où émergent pourtant des trajectoires linéaires, au fil de séquences enregistrées en plan continu. Entre le livre et la performance filmée, à travers une série de pièces et de dessins frôlant l’installation ou la performance, Craving nothing propose une réflexion sur la ligne qui fait songer à ce que l’anthropologue Tim Ingold a souligné dans sa Brève histoire des lignes (Lines. A Brief History, 2007) : « Où qu’ils aillent et quoi qu’ils fassent, les hommes font des lignes, en marchant, en parlant ou en faisant des gestes » ; on pourrait allonger indéfiniment la liste : en chantant, en brodant, en produisant des plans, en écrivant, en dessinant…

Boryana Petkova et Michail Mihailov, eux aussi, font des lignes – parce qu’ils dessinent, bien sûr : l’une l’extrémité de ses doigts cherchant à atteindre voire dépasser une limite physique située en hauteur, comme tenue à bout de bras et presque hors d’atteinte ; l’autre des minons de poussière, de minuscules rebus ou des moisissures infra-minces qu’on croirait pouvoir toucher, mais qui se révèlent tissés de lignes de crayon dès qu’on s’en approche et qui se soustraient à toute préhension, définitivement cristallisés à la surface de grandes feuilles de papier posées à même le sol d’où émergent puissamment ces petites scories, prisonnières du visible. Surtout, Petkova et Mihailov tracent des lignes par lesquelles se conjugue leur désir commun et obsessionnel du dessin, quoique leurs moyens diffèrent en partie : chez Mihailov dont la maîtrise graphique renvoie aux mythes fondateurs d’Apelle, de Protogène ou de la fille de Dibutade, le trait est un moyen de convoquer la mimésis attachée à toute représentation, tandis qu’il est une voie ouverte vers la péremption du réalisme, chez Petkova qui propose d’en percevoir la gestualité fondatrice au risque de l’empêchement auquel elle oppose une énergie brutale. Car, au-delà et en-deçà de l’imitation dans laquelle la tradition académique a enfermé le dessin, Mihailov et Petkova explorent les ressources expressives de la ligne promise à son retour vers le trait comme phénomène ontologique, c’est-à-dire primitif et minimaliste, qu’il soit gras, épais ou, au contraire, de la finesse d’un cheveu. La machine à dessiner qu’a inventée Boryana Petkova le rappelle : accroché très en surplomb, le bras d’un mécanisme rudimentaire mais infatigable met en mouvement une feuille de papier, sur laquelle l’artiste tente de porter des coups de crayon, en sautant depuis le sol. Elle y parvient souvent, elle échoue aussi. Réussite, fatigue, ratage et rature : les traits débordent et maculent la blancheur de la cimaise, finissent par percer la feuille qui s’use et se déchire, de même que le défi et la fatigue mettent insensiblement l’artiste à l’épreuve. Le trait retrouve là ce qui le constitue essentiellement : la précarité de tout geste, le caractère entropique de l’énergie, la variabilité des intensités, la maîtrise relative des techniques et processus. De la sorte, la machine de Petkova à qui l’on doit aussi une sorte de déambulateur optique – montée sur un cadre à roulettes, c’est une paroi de verre sur laquelle sont collés des verres de lunettes produisant des effets de grossissement changeants pour voir avec les yeux des autres (et à travers leurs corrections dioptriques plus ou moins adaptées) – invite le spectateur à regarder autrement. In situ, la leçon de Boryana Petkova s’applique immédiatement à ses dessins classiques de fragments anatomiques (doigts, orteils, crânes) et aux dessins monumentaux et hyperréalistes de Michail Mihailov, constitués des petits déchets qu’échouent à ramasser ses propres machines à balayer : la poussière qui, telle une écume des jours, échappe à ses pelles largement trouées.

Les « machines célibataires » de Petkova et Mihailov, que Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari (L’Anti-Œdipe, 1972) auraient sans doute appréciées, incitent à s’interroger sur le sens et la finalité de la ligne entendue comme amont du dessin dont le trait est l’anatomie première, ainsi que le rappellent parallèlement les grandes toiles monochromes, dans le vaste champ blanc desquelles Petkova paraît avoir tracé une ligne aussi nette qu’elle est courte et tranchante. Dès qu’on la regarde de près, elle se met à rougeoyer, dans une sorte de saignement de lumière incandescente. En se décalant légèrement sur le côté, le spectateur découvre la véritable constitution de cette ligne : il s’agit d’une lame de rasoir enfoncée dans la toile, comme un coin dans une bille de bois. On pense aussitôt à la scène de l’œil blessé dans Un chien andalou de Luis Buñuel (1929) ou aux fentes des toiles lacérées par Lucio Fontana dans sa série Concetto spaziale (1949-1968), en regard desquelles Petkova déploie son geste. Quelles que soient ses finalités, le trait demeure une incision pratiquée à la surface d’un support, une intrusion dans un espace dont l’unité se trouve ainsi perturbée, avec le dessein d’ouvrir des aperçus sur des réalités microscopiques révélées comme autant de frictions infimes ou de minuscules conflits. C’est dans cet à rebours conscient de la grande tradition du dessin que se situent Boryana Petkova et Michail Mihailov ; c’est là qu’ils nous proposent de nous poster.

Bertrand Tillier  professeur à l’université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

All those eyes that rest on her, and with which she now seeks to come to terms, shape the armour or corset that protects or constrains the body. Each correcting of vision acts like a magnifying glass that amplifies or distorts the vision, enhancing it with a singularity. As the horizon of our gaze, the gradient images appear as a range of viewpoints that look at the world through a prism. Inclusive and breaking down the cultural boundaries of good and evil, her work flirts with the taboos of our societies by confronting us with sometimes illegal or amoral borderline experiences. Her images are derived from carefree moments shared with her daughters, from her everyday work or a social event, but also from scenes in which she replays her past, when drugs, prostitution, begging and theft were part of her daily life in the suburbs of Sofia. The blurring embodies the tipping point where the brain either believes it sees, or refuses to accept, the evidence of what is happening in front of it. Because it is up to each of us to maintain our status as members of a class, consumers, voyeurs or, on the contrary, to share the sum total of these extreme experiences, be they confused, fantasised or repressed.


MarionZilio writer, art critic and independent curator

How we look, how we recognize, how we notice what is happening around us?

 Boryana Petkova‘s video 2 hands drawing from 2017 ends with several phrases among which: “The way of seeing is a kind of touch” and “To see is a contact at a distance”. There exactly I find the artist‘s philosophy and her attempt to look (and the spectator together with her) beyond surface perception of a racing pace of present time. It is not only about looking of an eye but mainly about looking of mind and heart, as an alternative to an empty wandering of a glance, of inner blindness, of cut ties with simple rules and norms of living.

How we look, how we recognize, how we notice what is happening around us is at the root of Boryana Petkova‘s works. Looking is a strong tool equated to touching and the energy given by this physical act. The artist wants to draw different dimensions of looking – far from simple seeing. She tries to oppose to a mad rush of millions of images that we are daily surrounded with; to make us stop; to bring back our capacity to concentrate and recognize signals. Contemporary world is a machine for production of images but the speed of their appearance and their passing in front of our eyes like a fast paced cadence turns them into a kaleidoscope – beautiful, coloured, playful but without a possibility to see through beyond it.

 The way in which Boryana Petkova makes us change our own attitudes is by using the most fragile tools – pencil drawing, porcelain, glass, an ordinary moving image. To a high extent they represent instability, vulnerability and delicacy of vision. They are initial materials far from sophisticated and complex technology. This is by itself already a message and a warning – a kind of return to the initial, to an initial substance, a move to facilitate a change of our inner attitudes toward everything that surrounds us.

 In the video Link (up-down) through drawing there is an attempt for a dialogue, for an entering intimate spheres of the mind, where screaming is easier than trying to speak out loud. In IN VIVO the porcelain bleeds – there is an advantage taken of its fragility in the most brutal way but a comparison of material‘s thickness to that of human skin is an obvious reference to a world of animate objects. In Trying to touch the sky, 2019 and +220 cm, 2018 the author tries to overcome herself, as well as human nature in general with its inclination to undervalue, be distracted and miss the signs.

Boryana Petkova‘s hand is easily recognizable, no matter what kind of media she uses. A feeling of organic whole of idea, material and performance is found even in the smallest of objects. Her work is definitely distinguished for an original hand and without being placard or declarative, it performs a serious analysis, as well as it carries a powerful message to the world we live in.

Maria Vassileva  critique d’art, curator, directeur Structura gallery


The most laconic description of the drawing as a process is to leave a trace with a tool selected by the artist on a material specified for the artistic intervention. The drawing is the shortest and quickest way to visualize ideas, and in this sense, the spontaneous reaction leading to the appearance of lines on the drawing surface as well as the unintentional gesture, is sealed directly into the final result. The American anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake formulates the making of art as “the ability to shape and thereby exert some measure of control over the untidy material of everyday life ». For Boryana Petkova, drawing is an act of understanding the world, and not an artistic practice with particular media. She documents the drawing process from different points of view – physical movement of the hand and interaction with architecture and its surfaces, the sounds produced by the one who is drawing and the music derived of these sounds, or computer-modelled three-dimensional shapes, the specifics of observation in drawing, or briefly – Boryana analyses the line’s ability to follow the movement of thought. In one of his studies, the British professor Tim Ingold, presented the development of the idea of the line through Indian communication systems, along threads in fabrics and quipu, ancient ceramics, the sand drawings of the Australian tribe Walbiri, geographic maps, musical notation, the writing system and calligraphy, the pattern of connections that are used by research and genealogy and so on. In conclusion, one of his findings is that “the fragmented postmodern line does not progressively pass from one destination to another, but from one point of rupture to another. These points are not locations but dislocations, segments out of joint.” The hand that holds the pencil in Boryana’s works does not just draw lines on the white plate, it scours territories, creates paths, gives a meaning to surfaces, leaves traces of work in limited spaces, traces describing emotional states, traces of immediate reactions to the physical environment, traces of the effort to overcome borders. Along these routes, the artist tracks the possibility of restoring missing links or reflects on the cause of their loss in the context of an increasingly fragmented world.

Irina Batkova curator, artistique directeur Plus359 gallery

Les œuvres de Boryana Petkova proposent une nouvelle perception de l’espace si subtile qu’elles interrogent notre capacité à prêter y attention. Elles convoquent les liens entre les êtres et nos possibilités d’aller plus haut, d’avancer, pas à pas. Une vidéo montre des mains qui se rencontrent en dessinant. Une tension émane de ses sculptures, entre force et fragilité, une envie de toucher dont il faudrait se méfier. Elles renvoient aux relations qui peuvent si facilement se détendre ou se briser, suggèrent la distance et la proximité. L’artiste intervient dans l’architecture pour donner la sensation d’une ascension poétique, d’un certain trouble et en même quasi imperceptible. Ses dessins de mains, à différentes hauteurs, surgissent comme des présences, fantômes de ces premières pièces. Boryana Petkova invite à prendre conscience de chaque geste, comme une étape pour accéder plus loin et toucher nos limites. Ses œuvres contiennent du temps, un potentiel changement. Ses installations in situ, qui surélèvent l’espace, provoquent un basculement de nos points de repères. Par ces insertions quasi invisibles dans l’architecture, intérieur et extérieur, l’artiste nous amène prendre le temps de regarder : une métaphore du soin qu’on peut apporter à chaque moment de la vie pour leur donner toute leur importance. En nous mesurant à l’espace, nous nous mesurons à l’autre. Ses œuvres se relient ensemble par leur transparence, finesse et préciosité et nous convient à des allers-retours, du sol jusqu’au plafond.

Pauline Lisowski

La relation du dessin à l’espace et au corps est au centre de la pratique de Boryana Petkova. Pour elle, le dessin est comme un horizon des possibles et sert d’outil de dépassement de soi et d’exploration. Elle appréhende le dessin dans sa multidimensionnalité, cherchant aussi bien à en décrypter l’essence sonore, le volume, que les limites. Elle s’astreint souvent à travailler sous contrainte pour pousser son expression plus loin. Loin de contrôler le dessin, elle le laisse la modifier. Son langage minimaliste est à l’affût du moindre instant où le dessin bifurque, sort de lui-même pour signifier davantage. C’est un peu comme si elle le prenait à contrepied… comme si ses dessins en creux révélaient autre chose, pointaient du doigt ce qu’on a tendance à ne pas regarder ou à sous-estimer.