Tanya Abadjieva

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body, border, people, sexuality, transformation
Visual Arts (drawing, graphic, installation art, object, performance, printmaking)
Europe, Eastern, Europe, Western
Bulgaria, England (UK)
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June 8, 2003
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Delicately displaced

the spatial poetics of Tanya Abadjieva

Tanya Abadjieva was born in 1969 in Bulgaria and studied graphics at the National Academy of Fine Arts. She now works in installation and performance art, as well as printing, drawing. Abadjieva´s installations encourage intensely physical responses by incorporating the viewer entirely: she allows subtle spatial and tactile experience to convey the sense of her work. This lightness of touch effused Abadjieva´s work ´Drawing Wood´ conceived during the Visiting Arts´ Spike Island residency she won in 2001. For the project, she constructed an indoor bowling green inside the gallery space to recreate her sense of outsiderness on arriving in Britain.
Born in Bulgaria in 1969, Abadjieva studied graphics at the National Academy of Fine Arts but now works with installation art and in performance, as well as printing, drawing.

Prior to graduating in 1996, she had already made a debut on the art scene in 1994 with her contribution to the exhibition ´In Search for the Self-Reflection´ in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Located in the Old City, her installation ´Road Signs´ (1994) was sited in the Roman Amphitheatre, drawing upon its powerful cultural and historical atmosphere. As Abadjieva re-composed the space, the amphitheatre became, as Luchezar Boyadjiev has said, an ´enormous historical´ ready made´.

Abadjieva´s installations encourage intensely physical responses by incorporating the viewer entirely: she allows subtle spatial and tactile experience to convey the sense of her work. It is perhaps for this reason that Boyadjiev has described her artistic language as ´delicate´. This lightness of touch effused Abadjieva´s work ´Drawing Wood´, conceived during the Visiting Arts´ Spike Island residency she won in 2001, in which she recreated an indoor bowling green inside the gallery space.

Abadjieva´s proposal, as Claire Doherty points out, might at first appear to contribute to a prevalent strand of contemporary art practice, in which recreational activities are taken into the gallery space. This approach to art-making emphasises the importance of the audience in consummating the artistic process by encouraging viewers to become active participants in an event rather than passive consumers of an object. In Abadjieva´s project, however, visitors were prohibited from entering the space of the bowling green and participating in the game. The green became an off-limits zone on display.

Despite this, the indoor rink was built to exact specifications, by enlisting the advice of members of the local Bristol Arrow Bowling Club. The lengthy discussions between the artist and the bowlers opened relations between the art gallery and the club. In the exhibition guide accompanying ´Drawing Wood´, Sally Shaw at Spike Island described the show as bringing together two essentially alien establishments. "One is wrought from ritual and demonstrates fastidious compliance to rules and regulations which have been passed from one generation to the next; the other continuously seeks to push boundaries, to reinvent and re-present the commonplace" she wrote. The participation of the club members did not stop at advice: experienced members were invited to play on the indoor green as a kind of ´away´ game.

As Clarie Doherty asks, however, "if ´Drawing Wood´ engages the viewer through the accessible language of everyday play, but only permits spectatorship; and gathers participants only to reinforce, rather than subvert, their customary behaviour, what does this project signify as art?" She suggests that, ";whilst relational or dialogical aesthetics are primarily about inclusivity, Abadjieva´s project is resolutely about exclusion."

Indeed, the trip to Spike Island was the artist´s first visit to Britain and her installation replicates her first baffling sight of a game of bowls. The mystifying process that makes up this quaint and quintessentially English past time comes to represent the experience of cultural outsiderness.

Abadjieva stated that her objective to celebrate the performative beauty of the bowling game and the active spirit of a group of retired people. In conversation with Doherty, she has highlighted the contrast between the elderly generation of her hometown, Plovdiv, who dress in dark clothing and usually remain at home and the animated character of the bowling club members in Bristol.

However, for most of the exhibition the bowling green remained empty: a video replayed the opening match and Abadjieva´s studio became a repository for memorabilia and photographs from the club´s history. Doherty again,

"The pervading spirit of the work, then, is not so much an emphasis on the players, but rather on the visitor as outsider. The bowling-green, diagrams and clubhouse are objects of anthropological investigation. Abadjieva, as Visiting Arts Resident, was always going to defined as ´Other´. Here she plays upon a notion of ´club aesthetics´, whereby the boundary between membership and non-membership is strictly defined. The work resonates, of course, as a slice of Middle England, yet ´Drawing Wood´ speaks more widely of the experience of alienation. It does not engage the visitor through the provision of a service or recreational activity, nor does it claim to facilitate new possibilities for its participants, rather it creates a subtle tension, which asks us to question preconceptions about how and where we belong."

Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts


Tanya Abadjieva was born in 1969 in Bulgaria. After her education at ´Tzanko Lavrenov´ Art School in Plovdiv, she went on to study at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia and graduated with an MA from the department of graphic art in1996. She has exhibited widely, extensively in Bulgaria, but also in a number of group exhibitions in the USA, Canada, Romania, Germany, Poland and other south east European countries. She has had solo shows in Bulgaria and the UK. She currently lives and works in Bristol, UK.



Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ´Changing Places´, Center for Contemporary Art (ATA), Sofia, Bulgaria ´Shop - Art ( women at ( on ) the market ) Underpass "Saint Sofia "´, Sofia, Bulgaria ´Open Studios´, Spike Island, Bristol, UK 2000 ´Bulgaria, NY´ The Elizabeth Foundation for the Art, New York City, USA ´Hold your Breath´, Montreal, Canada ´Subjects and Shadows´ ATA Center for Contemporary Art, Sofia, Bulgaria ´Mirror, Mirror ´ Minicapital Gallery, Russe, Bulgaria 1999 ´Culture/Subculture´ Annual exhibition of the Soros Center for the Arts, Municapital Gallery Varna, Bulgaria ´Communication Front´ along with Yohannes Artinian, Center for Contemporary Art, Plovdiv, Bulgaria ´Periphery 3´, Old Turkish Bathhouse, Iassi, Romania 1998 ´BulgariaAVANTGARDE´, Kraftemessen II Munich, Germany ´From an Object to a Square´, Municapital Gallery Sofia, Bulgari ´Back and Forth´, III International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Cetinje, Montenegro 1997 ´Ars Ex Natio Made in Bulgaria´, annual show of the Soros Center for the Arts, Plovdiv, Bulgaria ´III International Biennial (Dry point)´, Ujitze, Yugoslavia ´Intergrafia´, International Print Triennial, Cracow, Poland 1996 ´Man/Document´, Week of Contemporary Art, Old Turkish Bathhouse, Plovdiv, Bulgaria ´IV International Print Biennial´, Belgrade, Yugoslavia 1995 ´Video-Hart´ SCA-Sofia, annual exhibition of the "Soros" Center for the Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria


Exhibition / Installation,
2003 ´Conversation´, along with Angela Baum, Crypt Gallery, St George’s, Bristol, UK 2001 ´Drawing Wood´, Spike Island, Bristol , UK 1997 ´Bruch der Grance´, along with Yohannes Artinian, Gallery Ata-ray, Sofia, Bulgaria 1995 ´The Stratas´, Gallery Art 36, Sofia , Bulgaria


2001 Spike Island, Bristol, Visiting Arts, London, UK
2000 New York, USA, Grant of Russian-American Culture Center

1995 KulturKontakt, Vienna, Austria
1995 Graphic studio/fellowship Smederevo, Yugoslavia

1995 First Prize at The 1st International Triennial of Graphic Art, Sofia, Bulgaria
1994 Diploma, VIII International mini print Biennial, Seoul, Korea


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Spike Island International Fellowship 2001

(01 April 01 - 31 August 01)
Air Inside
Inner Space
Drawing Wood