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How does Samuil Stoyanov see?


Thinking while looking, or looking while thinking - thus looking evolves into seeing, or into what Samuil Stoyanov is interested in - "thinking vision". This is a theme which lately, periodically and persistently, appears in his works, yet it has nothing to do with visual experiments or optical effects, but is fully associated with conceptualizing the visual action.

The work "My Garage for Bugatti Veyron" (2009) suggests that the artist in fact possesses the dream car, yet it is not actually visible. The audience is offered to see only the specially designed garage which has very real dimensions and is roughly similar to the form of its presumable content, and which is purposely made of the cheapest materials at hand (could it be the priceless Bugatti is actually inside?). Thus, ironically, the work marks the boundary between fantasy and reality, testing our ability to control our desires and asking what should come next if we do realize them after all. Or perhaps this comment is relevant to the advertising strategies where attractive packaging compensates for product quality.

In three of his works, Samuil Stoyanov has introduced an intervention into medical charts normally used for testing the eye sight. Thus he is transforming the chart into an artistic text to test out the visual abilities of the audience. Through the text, the artist's "vision" appeases the powers of intuition and thought (interpretation) in art. United and equaled, these powers begin to work to the advantage of understanding. "Understanding", however, is the concept following closely behind the concept of "seeing", waiting to step into action.

In 2006, Samuil Stoyanov was invited to participate in an exhibition on text and writing as a visual means of expression. He responded to the invitation by proposing an "anti-visual" 'work devoted to reading. "Eyesight check-up" is an exact copy of an ophthalmologic chart, only diminished to the size of a page from the catalog for the exhibition. It is implemented and exists only as part of the pocket-size book thus imparting to it the aura of an art work. The author does not determine the distance from which the viewer - reader should be looking at it, nor does he guarantee that good eyesight ensures adequate reading. The viewer is unable to verify their ability to read, unless they are given a text, because abstract symbols serve only the mechanical visual capabilities.

In his work "How do you see Bulgaria?" (2007) the artist has replaced part of the normally used characters with a black spot reproducing the shape of Bulgaria's map. The heading implies both meanings of the verb to see, thus it also stands for "Do you know this country, how do you feel about it, what is your opinion of its state of affairs?"

The artist is replacing the graphic symbol from the chart, which is devoid of meaning and has a simple practical function, with something that looks like a pictogram, a sign, or even a stamp. The standard scheme from the chart determines certain positioning so the shape of the country is there not as an image but as form. This is a geographical quotation taken out of the context of the land so that it does not depend on either gravity or politics. Thus one can verify if the viewers' perception will navigate the notion of the "State of Bulgaria" or it will stay as just a reminder of a piece from the world. Here thinking is modeled by the visual action.

In 2009, at the exhibition of the nominees for the BAZA award, Samuil Stoyanov once again uses the table in the form of an installation of two light boxes - "Eyesight Test Chart", which seem almost like the real medical tool. This time, the author has not revised their structure and size, or the shape of the characters. However, the contours of all the numbers and letters are blurred so that nobody can see them clearly, regardless of how acute their eyesight is. Of course, here again, there is no need to determine the distance from which to look at the work. But, with his typical sense of irony, Samuil Stoyanov assumes that the viewer will see a much clearer image from a distance, and more blurred as they approach, while, on account of the image, the idea will become more perceptible as one comes closer.

The act of seeing is also the point at which the interests of the artist and viewer intersect - a similar process, only with a different function and purpose. The artist sees while he thinks, but the viewer thinks while they look (at the work of art). The directions both of them look at come together where visual meditation becomes the object of the work. The contact with the audience lies in the idea of the installation A Mirror with a Counter, which mechanically records and saves the presence of anyone who has stayed before it for more than a second. In this device of vanity, the viewer is tricked by their own image, but as they approach, the mirror counts them as the next one in the multitude of public mass, thereby increasing the rating of the work. Whether the viewer is looking at themselves or the piece of art is looking at the viewer depends on the perspective.

In "Spectacles Sph/od: +3,75; Sph/os: +5" (2009) Samuil Stoyanov suddenly renounces his attempts to "test" the audience and reverts to his own natural vision, using it, absurdly and almost literally, to try to express how and what he sees. The beginning is set by his decision to undergo an eye examination without really having an urgent need for it. The main reason is artistic - the prescribed spectacles will be presented as an object, with everything, seen by the author in one year, passing through it. A substantial part of the work is that it (and everything seen through it) is on for sale as any other work. For some time (while the BAZA exhibition was on) the spectacles were exhibited, along with the medical prescription and a special certificate of authenticity and authorship, drawn by the author. Thus, not the things saved or treated in a particular material or artistic means, but those that are ephemeral and mechanically "seen" lie at the core of the idea. This is a continuation of the "optical" experiments and of the series of evidence and refutations of conformity in the meanings of the word "to see". The spectacles worn by the artist are not just the ordinary Readymade item, because they bear his own visual characteristics but also because from the very beginning they are on offer to be shared with the potential buyers as well as with anyone who can see them.

Daniela Radeva - curator
2010