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Enlightened by the Decisions

Solakov, Nedko1986

Serralves Foundation

Serralves Foundation

'Enlightened by the Decisions ' is a suite of seven drawings produced by Nedko Solakov in 1986. They were first shown publicly in 1988 in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Union of Bulgarian Artists in Sofia. The title, inscribed on the lower part of most drawings, refers to a common phrase of propaganda rhetoric used by communist party apparatchiks in official statements that appeared in the media, subsuming government measures to the guidelines issued by Bulgarian Communist Party congresses. Solakov used this clichéd wording as an ironic accompaniment to the graphic scenes represented in drawings that depict situations and states of being that reflect the antithesis of enlightenment, whether philosophical or empirical.
The drawings reveal rapidly drawn and exaggerated silhouettes and roughly shaded forms evocative of party leaders in meeting rooms, waiting in queues, or bent over in a state of blackened despair. In one of the drawings (no. 4), the expression 'enlightened by the decisions' was replaced with the phrase 'temporarily not enlightened by the decisions', an allusion to the frequent power cuts imposed by the government to save electricity that forced the population to use candles. The violent absurdity of Solakov’s expressive scenarios is summarized by the recognizable self-portrait of the artist (drawing no. 7) engulfed by a black mass. This visual parody of the notion of a bright future points to the original title of this series, 'Past #1', which, according to the artist, alluded to the idea ‘that all these problems in the socialist society were already in the past. Which, as we know, was not true but, still, in this way was defendable’.
Along with the 1987 suites 'Endurance of a Nation (Past #2)' and 'Historical Decisions (Past #3)', also shown in the 1988 exhibition, these works belong to a period in which the artist directly approached the political situation of the time, particularly the failed utopias of totalitarian regimes. Life under communist Bulgaria formed the context in which the artist was working in the 1980s after he finished his classical education in Mural Painting at the Sofia Art Academy. In their impulsive gestural quality, these drawings reveal a critical, humorous deviation from figurative representation and narrative structure, which were favoured by the official culture of socialist realism. According to the artist, the presentation of the suites of drawings, unframed and installed on a single wall in three rows, was also a radical departure from the conventions of art exhibitions organized under the communist regime.
Solakov’s work would henceforth be marked by the questioning of collective values and beliefs, the way in which societies deal with their own contradictions and the intersecting of his country’s history with personal events. The 26 April 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, whose radioactive effects reached Bulgaria after 1 May, and were hidden from the population for several days by the authorities at the request of the Soviet Union, fostered a climate in which the growing disaffection towards the regime, which had been brewing since 1983, mingled with certain factors in the artist’s personal life, at the time expecting the birth of his first daughter. The drawings 'Enlightened by the Decisions' were made in the autumn of that year, and the artist has described making them on the floor, working very quickly, in a cramped attic space of a house belonging to the parents of his wife.
From the 1990s onwards, Solakov abandoned the exclusive use of painting and drawing and his expressive media extended to video, photography, assemblage and large-scale installation, which he explored with a narrative intention that often includes texts and written comments. With the widening of the context for the reception of his oeuvre in the post-Cold War global world, the characteristic political tone of his previous work was aimed at the artistic institution and its protocols of attribution of value to art, while he continued to keenly investigate the idiosyncrasies of democratic systems always from an understanding of art as a ‘social act; a statement against the system’.

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Details

  • Title: Enlightened by the Decisions
  • Creator: Solakov, Nedko
  • Date Created: 1986
  • Location: Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 71cm x 95cm
  • Provenance: Col. Fundação de Serralves – Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto. Aquisição em 2013
  • Medium: Charcoal, graphite and red chalk on paper (7 elements)

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