Lunds konsthall, 16 December 2017 – 4 February 2018
Cocurated together with Emil Nilsson and Åsa Nacking.
The soloexhibition with Vassil Simittchiev at Lunds konsthall, consisted mainly of new works, which were put into context through a retrospective look at Simittchiev’s production from the 1970s until today. The ambition was to offer a many-facetted and in-depth survey of his much-appreciated oeuvre.
Simittchiev left Bulgaria, with its explicit political and artistic rules of conduct, and moved to Malmö in Sweden 1975, where he still lives and works. Art in the People’s Republic was supposed to materialise the glorification of power, but Simittchiev wanted to use art as freedom of thought. His thought-based practice has since yielded a series of significant projects, realised in nature as well as in the city. A quay covered in plate glass; a street given the entire colour spectrum of the rainbow – works reminiscent of the wrapped buildings by Christo, a fellow Bulgarian of similar age, and of Robert Smithson’s ruminations on landscape.
For Simittchiev’s latest solo exhibition at Lunds konsthall, in 1981, the whole façade was covered in silvery foil, allowing passers-by to see themselves and all of St Martin’s Square reflected by the building. Thirty-six years later Simittchiev was back at Lunds konsthall, and this time as an artist who has scaled down his large gestures in favour of concentrated studies of artistic processes, the laws of physics and the conditions for life.
On the façade of Lunds konsthall, looped to infinity, one could find the projection of a film of the artist’s hands shaping a lump of clay. Other new works also focused on the gallery’s architecture and its place and role in the city. Simittchiev’s penchant for glass was also a recurrent feature. Large swathes of plate glass were covering the gallery’s inner courtyard.
The gesture of covering the ground with glass can be recognised from an earlier project, a performance realised in 1985 at the Hjälmare Quay in Malmö’s harbour, where Simittchiev directed heavy trucks to drive over the temporarily glazed flagstones. Documentation of this action was in the exhibition shown together with other works that are central to his oeuvre. As for example Possible Dissection: Project for the Dimitrov Mausoleum in Sofia, 1999, which proposes at cut through the mausoleum where the embalmed remains of former Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov used to be displayed. Simittchiev’s proposal for deconstructive conservation was presented in the year that the Bulgarian government dynamited the building.
The exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, distributed free of charge to visitors, with a new essay by critic and writer Dan Jönsson.