"Winter in Paris"

Stefania Batoeva

APRIL 2022 – MAY 2022


The London-based artist Stefania Batoeva presents a new series of work that draws the viewer into deconstructed rooms of mesmerizing figures and objects, made with her characteristic thick layering of paint. Batoeva’s works possess an electric tension; a buzzing noise with unsettling effect. Flickering between loud and brash brush strokes, allowing for intimate and fragile viewing.

Looking at Batoeva’s new large-scale paintings, we enter an ambiguous and fragmented space where any sense of scale collapses. Here our visual experience is structured solely through lines of expressionist colour. At times Batoeva applies paint straight out of the tube, leaving traces of immediate touch through colour onto the white of the freshly primed canvas. In these gestures, she smudges the line between abstraction and figuration, always presenting the knowable with the unknown: we see large-scale figures, objects and lines making up formations. In doing so, a closer look reveals new things for us to see ad infinitum, inviting a viewing experience of constant exploration.

As objects her works command autonomy, the subject matter appears associative; not a direct transcription of reality, in which personal memories, observations and shared signs in an almost graphic-like simplicity are at play, creating an often-claustrophobic visual space.

Batoeva’s working method is defined by her working/reworking/doing/undoing of the paintings until the moment they leave the studio: she moves between the canvases, leaving some works waiting as she embarks on new ones and later returning replete with new substance. As a result, her ideas and motifs travel between the images and reference each other, creating a serial-like production that echoes across different works.

Yet in doing so, she disrupts the stability of her imagery. In her most recent production, Batoeva compulsively returns to a muse figure: a self-portrait and/or an unidentifiable person in distress. Often found covering their face, this figure seems to dematerialize in front of us, disappearing into the paint as we struggle to hold onto any singular narrative imposition.

In light of such mystery, our interpretation of her works is a mere intervention. What the viewer also adds and takes away becomes an equal part in a maze of meaning. For example, the painting H(Reverse optical thought) is deceivingly straightforward. We see two figures: the repeated motif of the muse standing up with their back towards us and the second, taking up the central place, reversed across the canvas positioned upside down. This is disorientating. The disruptive element is made potent by Batoeva’s stark blue outline of her reversed figure that appears striking against the illusion to space, more so considering that this figure looks directly at us. The sparse paint creates uneasy tension between movement and stillness; occupation and redundancy.

In contrast, the upright muse stands with their back to us, arms tightly folded, in a colourful costume of green tartan chains and a light purple shirt. The figure disputes any basis of the scene’s meaning. Presented in a moment of inner reflection in which we are not invited to participate. We are left with our own experience of the painting. This figure is repeated across her exhibited works such as C(Within a voiceless heart). Both could be self-portraits, asserting the artist as both the creator and creation. Yet rather than providing clarity, this gesture reflects the illusive multiplicity characterising Winter in Paris: the fluidity of the knowable and the unknown. We all must accept our position as equal participants in the construction of meanings that will never be conclusive.

The title of the exhibition is taken from the song Rehab (Winter In Paris) by Brent Faiyaz

Stefania Batoeva’s virtual solo exhibition “Winter in Paris” will be open from the 11th of December until the 10th of January 2021 on our website

One can live in Paris—I discovered that!—on just grief and anguish. A bitter nourishment—perhaps the best there is for certain people. At any rate, I had not yet come to the end of my rope. I was only flirting with disaster. … I understood then why it is that Paris attracts the tortured, the hallucinated, the great maniacs of love. I understood why it is that here, at the very hub of the wheel, one can embrace the most fantastic, the most impossible theories, without finding them in the least strange; it is here that one reads again the books of his youth and the enigmas take on new meanings, one for every white hair. One walks the streets knowing that he is mad, possessed, because it is only too obvious that these cold, indifferent faces are the visages of one’s keepers. Here all boundaries fade away and the world reveals itself for the mad slaughterhouse that it is. The treadmill stretches away to infinitude, the hatches are closed down tight, logic runs rampant, with bloody cleaver flashing.

Henry Miller