Reflections in the mirror

Museum Gallery Anel in Sofia presents sculptures by Ivan Kostov

Ivan Kostov creates sculptures for architectural environments and architectural design. He studied ceramics at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia, from which he graduated in 1986. His works are module structures that he describes as meant to cause at a subconscious level “an exhilarating feeling of joy and satisfaction of what is happening in them”.

Ivan Kostov has sculptures in interior and exterior settings in Bulgaria, the US and Canada. He has won national and international awards and was a 2020 finalist for Merit Winner in Residential Category at the CODAawards sponsored by CODAworx, a platform promoted as a hub of the commissioned art world.

Similar to architecture, where there are clear and simple principles of fitting elements with each other, Kostov's artworks feature repetitive elements, and the different ways of arranging them is what creates an unlimited number of possible combinations. It is like a game of geometrical shapes that lend a particular space its unique look.

The artist is primarily focused on the potential of ceramics as an ancient building material. He sees it as a man-made stone that allows for endless options - in terms of shape, colour and texture - for shaping both the architectural environment and the interior. At the same time, in the era of industrialised production, the ceramics technology allows the making of one-of-a-kind items. Ivan Kostov believes his personal mission is to preserve the role of artists in creating a unique architectural environment despite the tempting profusion of ready-made solutions.

As a concept, his ceramics mirrors collection rests on the push of Bulgarian modern artists in the fields of architecture and design in the 1960s and 1970s, when, in the absence of the architectural materials and technologies we have now, artists were commissioned to infuse the urban environment or interiors with unique features through monumental plastic-art pieces. Ivan Kostov's collection of mirrors is a continuation of this practice. It can be used in its entirety as conceptual art decorating the interior or a business or public building and giving it a signature feature, a symbol, or its individual elements can be integrated in spaces, lending them character and a recognisable style.

Why mirrors? The mirror is a universal symbol for the arts, which are often thought of as reflection of real life. It is among the most mysterious items in our everyday life, viewed in different cultures as a solar sign, a symbol of self-knowledge and even a portal to parallel universes. The history of the arts is full of all sorts of representations of mirrors and the quality of reflection as an interpretation of reality.

Gazing into a mirror image, the human eye is trying to confirm the connection between the reflection and the real thing. Mirrors are items of dual symbolism thanks to their considerable power to not only reflect an image, but to generate it. Looking straight into the mirror, a person realises that what they observe is the “reverse” of what the mirror reflects. This phenomenon is also a conventional allegory for vanity - the empty state of self-delusion, of believing that the fake is real.

It is no coincidence that Ivan Kostov's collection consists of 24 mirrors. There are 24 hours in a day. The number 24 denotes the dual harmony of heaven and earth. The comprehensive meaning of the number 24 provokes a struggle between opposites that ultimately gives rise to structure and stability.

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