Angels also take a bath Maria Djelebova | exhibition City Art Gallery-Plovdiv Halls for Contemporary Art-Ancient Baths | 2019

Human and celestial habitations...Text by Associated professor Boris Danailov (General History of Art)

In terms of conceptual decision and realization in practice, Maria Djelebova's project "Angels also take a bath" is a contemporary visual arts event. The paradoxical name of the installation provokes the senses and depends on the spectator's intellectual effort in terms of the artist's main message – the encounter of the quotidian and the routine with the extraordinary and the inexplicable, between the roughness of the earthly and the incorporeal sublime of the ideal, between the known and the unknowable. The deliberate choice of the bathhouse for these encounters unclothes the human being (literally as well) who, stripped down of the attributes of his main social and class characteristics, becomes anonymous; however, this anonymity creates a sensation of distinctive difference from the rest of the overly material, organized outside world. At first glance, this trivial distinction turns the bath into a place that is different and protected from the outside world. The passage into this other space results from a routine action and people sense the fragility of such a distinction. From a wider perspective, through the lens of human existence, the differences accumulated as a result of routine human actions introduce such fragility into the existential dimensions of being as well. The frontier between these two worlds – the available, known and ordinary one and the one beyond it – the one that is different, unknown, invisible, has thinned as well, it is fragile and unexpectedly serpentine. Already, this is a precondition for extraordinary and unexpected encounters between them...

The bath is the place of a particularly corporal practice; it is also a meeting point for communication where the barriers of social hierarchies have faded and only the human's (literally) naked presence remains. In this state of naked existence, the ideal world of angels also responds inexplicably. The installation presents photographic images of angels, the way they look in our views. Photography presents them as materially visible, distinctly delineated by light and shadow, immobilized in their supernal unknowable self. (This is why they are so similar.) This even angelic serenity is disrupted by an element of color – the angels carry pink pills in their palms. Here, it seems as if the ideal angelic world is faced with a challenge, which may destroy it – the medical intervention, commonly represented by a pill, is a harsh reality and a clear symbol of human neurotic conditions. Nevertheless, when placed in the hands of the members of the celestial hierarchy, the pink pills play a different role and carry out another meaning – they are the collective expression and idealized image of our human ideals and desires. When laid into the palms of the angels, they are an essence of sorts of the human projection in its urge toward the divine. Angels, in their human form, are the closest to us of the entire celestial hierarchy and they guard tenderly these pieces of our striving for the heavens. Angels do not provide us with these small objects (they are not therapists), the same way that they do not offer solutions to our problems – they show them to us albeit from another place and thus they fulfill another one of their core missions – to announce our wishes not to grant them. Our wishes and intentions remain solely in the realm of our earthly efforts. In the hands of the angels, the pills symbolize the care, which sustains and balances the harmony in the Universe and indicates the place of the human being in it...

The symbolism of the ceramic pattens used in the installation is similar. (They were crafted especially for the installation by the ceramic artist Sylvia Mitovska.) These objects are impossible from a practical and functional daily use point of view. They cannot be worn and used as part of the paraphernalia meant for use in a bath. Nevertheless, their presence has multiple meanings – their shape is imbued with the gracious whiteness of the ceramic, their fragility is similar to that of glass, they resemble an object but are actually its ideal projection with precious dimensions. Their importance is significant if we accept this stylization of common trivial objects as an intentional symbol within the larger context of the installation. The pattens (such a coarse word!), elevated to the level of a graceful image, are also some kind of frontier between the material and the ideal. In this case, it is between water, on the one hand, the element that envelops the space of the bath, and, on the other hand, the world of the ideal. Not only do they extricate the human being from water's constant embrace but also, they play an important role – that of ascending steps alluringly presenting the possibility of a vertical elan upward, towards a release of the corporeal and an overpowering desire to touch the sublime ideal.

Bath, water and pattens, on the one hand, angels guarding the humans' ideal desires shaped as pills, on the other; the triviality of the everyday object or situation changes when presented in the style of the lofty symbolism, as well as vice versa – the ideal is represented via the imagery of the popular objects. This transfusion, an exchange of roles and conditions, suggests undoubtedly that the ideal cannot exist without the material and the other way around but this obvious fact has been delivered in a remarkable artistic language. One finishing touch underlines the complex metaphor of the artist's message – the photographs of balloons, either optimistically inflated or listlessly deflated, illustrate the rise and fall of human aspirations. Again and again, we see in these conditions the angelic figures that serve an additional function – to guard the light threatened by the influx of darkness. The final result is the unveiling of an artistic message, which moves delicately and oscillates between ideal and real, lofty and low, divine and human. All the while, it does not mix these opposites in the search of an approximate average as a result; on the contrary, it blurs delicately the delineations of these opposite states. The most accurate description of the artist's approach to the search for such a complex expression is the creation of a magical state built with light, space, and details with a hypnotic optical influence. When delivered this way, the artist's concept reminds us powerfully that the world we live in is an assembly of complexly interweaving causes, dependencies, and effects, which do not render themselves to a complete and conclusive analytical explanation. Rather: "One never knows where something starts and where it ends..."

Lenticular tryptich:
a. Size 270/180 cm
b. Pigment photo-print on Canon Pro 4000
c. Print media: Canon Photo Paper Pro High Gloss 320 gsm
d. Base: Aluminium composite, 3 mm
e. Lenticular Lens, 72 lpi