"Art is not just about another beautiful painting that matches your dining room floor. Art has to be disturbing, art has to ask a question, art has to predict the future."
The path that Katiyana Nova traveled to become the artist known for the vivid, emotive artwork she creates today was not a clear nor straight one. Though some of her earliest memories are joyful moments spent drawing on the floor of the one-bedroom home she shared with her mother in her native Bulgaria, it wasn’t until years later, after exploring different career options, that Katiyana Nova would realize art was her deepest calling.
Attending the rigorous St. Sofronii Vrachanski School in Vratsa, Bulgaria, Nova’s talent for art was first recognized by the art department after an evaluation placed her in the highest skill level. Yet, that first encounter with art was taken as a hobby by her parents as Bulgarian society didn’t offer many opportunities for artists, leading Katiyana to be encouraged to pursue a more standard and stereotypically lucrative career. After receiving her LLB in law and her MA in Nonprofit Leadership, it was her time in England and eventually Texas that opened Nova’s eyes to the art world.
Nova explored worlds where art was valued, encouraged and celebrated unlike it was in Bulgaria and having created an oil painting as a gift for her friend, the joy she saw it evoked from others inspired her to pursue the love of art she had harbored since childhood.
Today, Katiyana Nova’s work has been exhibited several times in Texas and is held in private collections in Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria, England and the United States. Often painting with palette knives, her experimental work incorporates texture and depth, even using casts of her own body, to create the unexpected and passionate imagery her work is known for. Nova draws on her international travels, knowledge of Bulgarian folklore, and love of history when creating her artwork.
Katiyana Nova currently lives and creates from Austin, Texas.
Having traveled most of my life and lived in several different countries, the feeling of being a foreigner and finding my place in a new culture has given me a first-hand understanding of the human need to belong and connect. Through my artwork, I’ve explored my own identity and created a micro-culture that uses the universal language of art to offer anyone who looks upon my art a moment of what all humans crave: togetherness.
Inspired by my Bulgarian background, I blend the history, folklore and political life from my childhood, such as remnants of ancient Roman and Thracian civilizations alongside more jarring memories of a communist past, with modern issues and emotions, like feeling frustrated or out of place. My art is a melting pot of unique traditional elements combined with universal human experiences.
Often using a combination of oil, acrylic, and palette knives on canvas, I create deeply textured works with vibrant, contrasting colors.
My subjects can be entirely abstract or figurative, but always explore the intensity of human experience and emotion. Expressionless or shouting faces are a recurring subject in my work; the power of a face to connect and communicate intrigues me. They are not one specific person - I see them as the emotional translation of the world around us, a mix of many people in one, including myself.
In creating casts of my own body to create 3D mixed-media artwork, I focus on the one element every human has in common, regardless of location or culture: the body. My work invites you to find your own understanding in it, and its multifaceted effect on the viewer is one of the things that fascinates me the most. The emotions my paintings evoke are never one dimensional, rather they’re complicated such as we as individuals are, so one piece can bring nostalgia and hopefulness, chaos and peace, or be provocative and soothing at the same time.
More about Bulgarian Folklore
Bulgarian Folklore has shaped my childhood and early understanding of "monsters". The video that you see above is from the Surva Festival in Pernik, Bulgaria, where kukeri come to the streets to perform rituals that have been handed down over thousands of years.
The word ‘kuker’ comes from Latin (‘cuculla,’ meaning a ‘hood’) and it denotes a folkloric ritual monster, a person dressed in an elaborate suit of fur and ribbons, feathers and beads. These kukeri wear carved wooden masks with the faces of beasts and birds; hanging heavy copper or bronze bells around their waists as they dance and jump in arcane rituals intended to dispel the evil spirits which might otherwise bring “loshotiya”, or ill fortune, to a community, and invite the good.
So the Surva Festival of Masquerade Games at Pernik was started in 1966, then celebrated every other year until 2009; at which point it became an annual event. As many as 5,000 performers appear in the festival each year, and since 1985 the event has been welcoming international entries too – with teams arriving from Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Albania and Greece. Some performers come from still further afield, including past entries from Palestine, Spain and even Indonesia. Perhaps that is one of the reasons you can see "scary" or eerie abstracted faces in my art. I regard them as friends and protectors rather than anything else.
The costumes, traditions, performances and even the date of these festivities vary from one end of Bulgaria to the other. Roughly, the kukeri arrive between Christmas and Epiphany (on 6th January).
Eyelids closing, enraptured, I listen:
dreamy forests behind us remain,
as we fly over oceans and cities.
Evening’s bleeding in flames to the left,
to the right, darkness burning and rising.
Whereto, is the dawn breaking yet?
Does the road lead beyond the horizon?
To the place where freely entwined,
merging separate sparks in one essence,
constellations adorning the night –
like a twin star we’ll shine, incandescent?
Do you know where, and how? Nor do I –
but lead on, and together, we’ll fly.