Noogal, 2010, Iva Gueorguieva
Acrylic and collage on canvas, 100″ x 150″
Photo: Courtesy LUX Institute
Bulgarian-born, LA-based artist Iva Gueorguieva is exhibiting her work through March 17 as an Artist-in-Residence at the Lux Art Institute. The Lux provides an ideal setting for 35-year-old Gueorguieva to exhibit her vast, multifaceted works, as visitors to the Lux can experience Gueorguieva’s nature-themed paintings amid a meditative landscape of indigenous plants, situated above the San Elijo Lagoon in the coastal San Diego town of Encinitas.
Gueorguieva’s dizzying paintings encourage viewers to lose themselves through rich color and sensuous brushstrokes. Once seduced however, viewers may become disoriented and devoured through kaleidoscopic layers and passages where creatures lurk. Themes of technology vs. nature and seen vs. hidden emerge through the interplay of abstraction and figuration. Gueorguieva’s resident painting, tentatively titled Noogal (the reverse of “lagoon”) directly responds to Lux’s site, where the lagoon’s complex systems and endangered species share close proximity with Interstate 5. Gueorguieva began Noogal aware of the irony that a site once destroyed by development is now being preserved through technology. Due to its vast size, (roughly 8-by-12 feet) Gueorguieva had physical difficulty reaching the center of the canvas, a challenge that echoed her experience attempting to access unfettered nature. The result is an ominous work dominated by dark grays symbolic of early photography used to document Western expansion, mixed with pink forms referencing colonial architecture and fragmented bodies.
The dominant works do not hold back when it comes to color or complexity. Monocle (2006), offers tunnels and vortexes providing a mindscape for exploration, dominated by swirls of pinks and reds contrasted with serene blues: a wooded passage evoking a dreamscape. Peering out of the composition is a menacing male figure with a monocle, juxtaposed with a fleshy pink female form. Amidst the abstractions, hybrid forms provide hints of narrative. Growing up in Bulgaria, Gueorguieva was drawn to political caricature described as starshel (wasp), meaning biting humor and the name of a popular satirical Bulgarian newspaper. Gueorguieva explains the male with monocle “is a caricature of reason and technology being our collective salvation.” In contrast, “the female figure is distorted and exploding. Her womb contains a forest caught in an eternal night.” Gueorguieva explains, “To stop and look at a painting means to interrupt one’s individual participation in the dominant flow of commodities, information, etc. It is an occasion of resistance that allows one to engage. It’s not to say that aesthetic experiences necessarily mean freedom, but at least they constitute an act.”