It has become somewhat cliché to talk about how the past years have turned our collective sights inward, forced us to recalculate how we interact with one another, what it means to be together, what it means to be alone. For most painters, the truth has always been a lonely one: a solitary conversation between artist, brush, canvas, and whatever specters emerge in the process. SOMETHING TO ME, Stefania Batoeva’s fourth solo exhibition with Nicodim, is a direct dialogue with the ghosts she conjures in her studio—voices that have always been there who suddenly find themselves with the bandwidth to articulate their own aspirations.
The paintings in SOMETHING TO ME compositionally resemble Lacan’s graphs of desire, conscious and subconscious longings forever bound in Freudian double inscription. (All works in this series are untitled, inviting viewers to link their own signifying chains to the ideas presented.) They are segregated, yet entwined dualities competing to determine which side is more real. Here we have a ballerina in relevé on the right side of the canvas, hunched in fierce concentration to either expel or match gazes with a much darker, ethereal version of herself. Here we have a man and woman standing back-to-back on the left half of a painting, arms folded in disagreement, while a ghostlier version of the male reaches to embrace his despondent love from the right. Here we have a central nervous system on the left, its blackened soul opposite. The pathos is palpable, but so is the spark of life.
There is an irony inherent to a state of universal loneliness. We may be forced into isolation from one another, but we’re alone together. With SOMETHING TO ME, Batoeva and her ghosts join in opposition to form a community of separate-but-equals, a populace unified by longing for physical contact, personal connection. It is a mantra for these times: the loneliness is a life force, our signifying chain.