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Blending her dual passions regarding science and art, Kratzer’s new exhibition reflects to the natural landscape
“Historically, the photogram has usually provided a playground designed for experimental artists, ” Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer explains, referring to the likes of László Moholy-Nagy and Guy Ray, both famous for their own darkroom experiments. Nikolova-Kratzer dropped in love with the darkroom process following a BA in environmental science and a MA in public areas policy analysis. Now, demonstrating her photograms in a solitary show at HackelBury Art work, London, the scientist-turned designer combines her passions, looking into ecology, nature, performance plus perception.
Nikolova-Kratzer’s Elemental Forms, Landscape – which ends on 30 October 2021 – comprises new functions by the Serbian-born artist. Summary landscapes, painstakingly created with the rigorous wet plate collodion technique, meditate on “the still point of the switching world, ” a quote the artist lifts from T. S Eliot’s 4 Quartets . Here, the artist develops on concepts taken from poems, literature, science, philosophy, and art. The breadth of influences includes Japanese notan design, Matisse paper-cuts, and the organic landscapes of Georgia O’Keefe, as well as more medical endeavours such as materiality, ecology, and the anthropocene. “An idea that obliquely finds its method into my work may be the concept of identity in the face of spiritual and transcendental experiences, ” she says. “One easily experiences this in the presence of nature; a sense of the deeper connection and meaning; the felt experience that we are not. ”
“Growing up in the eighties and nineties, I thought the heavy burden associated with natural devastation, ” Nikoova-Kratzer explains. This burden, a term known as “Solastalgia, ” led to her working as an economic development research analyst in the Global South. “I was in my mid-thirties when a major shift occurred. While painting in my spare time, Also i took an interest in pictures. When I discovered wet plate collodion, I decided to dedicate all my energy and time to artwork, ” she remembers.
Wet plate collodion “pulled” her in. “The solid smell of chemistry that will repulses most people somehow thinks familiar and exciting [to me], ” she states. The artist dwells in the California Redwood Forest every day, reflecting on her local Oakland surroundings. Then, she returns to the darkroom with drawings, and builds her pictures with paper cutouts, steel plating, silver nitrate, plus various chemicals. She exposes the image again and again, sometimes as much as 20 times. The resulting work is an abstract reflection to the natural exterior, realised through a scientific, ritualistic, and performative process. “ I actually find this part of the process thrilling… sometimes it feels like I am holding my breath with regard to four minutes – I am completely in the moment, ” the lady says.
“The photogram offers limitless possibilities for exploration, ” she explains. “There are usually no second chances; every single decision is final. But when an image emerges from the fixer that makes the heart beat a little faster, the experience is thrilling, ” she says. She compares her darkroom procedure to watercolour painting, the measured process that still allows for chance, chaos, plus spontaneity. For Nikoova-Kratzer, this technique is deeply personal, one particular mirroring the “incredible sadness” present across the world as we edge closer to global ecological catastrophe. “Not giving into despair or distraction, but choosing the courage to hope, and also to imagine and claim an alternative future is central in all my works, ” the girl says.