Poetry in the Post-Human
drifts (there, is always ground even at night)
Using the Anthropocene as her main inspiration, Nika Neelova’s works exist in a universe where manmade objects, architectures and materials no longer serve their original purpose. The artist imagines what our geological landscape will look like when structures which are created for our own comfort and proportions are rendered obsolete. In Neelova’s world, these elements become integrated into the natural scenery, and ruins of chairs, radiators and architectural items become purely formal aspects, resembling geological strata or skeletons more than industrial objects. The aluminum frame of the artist’s studio becomes a maze of abstract lines, and jesmonite casts of ikea chairs become a natural formation, reminding us of waved hoodoos or sea stacks.
Working with materials such as jesmonite, plaster, and recuperated objects from homes slotted for demolition, Neelova blurs the lines between synthetic and organic aspects. Her interest for jesmonite also stems from the transformation which the substance undergoes in the creative process. Existing in its raw state as a natural powder, jesmonite can be mixed with an acrylic polymer to become a sort of hybrid between plaster and concrete. Having the advantage of being quite versatile, the cast objects made with this substance have an inherent material ambiguity. This ambiguity is a constant in Neelova’s work. For her monumental sculpture Stratigraphy (2018), underfloor polystyrene insultation, recuperated from an old building, is coated with a mixture of cement, pigments and marble dust to give the impression of an abandoned architecture that has been taken over by layers of moss and vegetation. The apparent weight of this sculpture is offset by the fact that the materials are quite lightweight, and one realizes that the surprisingly organic texture of each panel is pure illusion created by a mixture of largely non-organic materials. In her newest series of two-dimensional works, Stratigraphy (studio maps), the artist works with jesmonite to create stones born from her own atelier. As rocks are created in the natural world by layers, time, and pressure, Nika Neelova’s studio maps are created by around one hundred layers of jesmonite, built up over multiple months of studio work and compounded by the effort of the artist. While each layer is drying, the artist carries on creating the other pieces in her studio – casting jesmonite and plaster, adding pigments, and finishing works. The dust created by these processes, along with small pieces of cast objects and other fragments, is then transferred into the studio maps and frozen in place by the next layer. Neelova then scrapes back the successive layers to reveal the colours and objects underneath. The result gives the viewer the impression of being in front of an unknown type of marble or exotic stone, which is in fact the witness of months of creation of a whole body of works.
With this body of works, Nika Neelova aims to create a human geology, evoking natural formations, textures and processes with forms taken from the realm of mass consumption. Rather than ending up in landfills, elements made of plastic, Styrofoam and metal are imagined as incorporating themselves harmoniously into the layers of the planet, transforming themselves and the world around them in the process. Neelova’s view of the world is one where these objects, which have lost all structural purpose, exist in harmony with our natural surroundings, outlasting their creators.