When I look at her paintings, I involuntarily do an association with the strange world of Boris Vian. They have something of Salvador Dali’s magical surrealism. And from Frida Kahlo’s squealed scream.
But she’s just Niya. Niya Yakimova.
And she paint incredible things. More than human, somehow out of the time and space as though, but still here and now. When we met, I did not know anything about her. If I judge at the appearance, my first impressions on this artist were that she was unusual. Interesting, colorful, and in no case simple. Niya use an expressive and artistic sign language in communication. Her attractive hairstyle was like a business card of the courage, a challenge and a wink towards the unusual — she wore her hair high up in a careless ball, but her head was shaved on both sides like a soldier. As a typical artist, Niya was on “you” with everything coming out of the conservative frames.
I knew a lot of artists with hearing loss and perhaps I was also expecting subconsciously and Niya to paint landscapes, flowers and nature. That’s why I was not prepared to see her surrealistic pictures and drawings in which nothing is such that it looks like. Images in which the human and the wild mix in almost perfect synchronicity. To say I was amazed will be too little. I was delighted, fascinated and very pleasantly surprised. Yes, Niya can definitely seem strange. And maybe a little wild. There is something from the Amazons in her grace and firmness. At least she does not look like the people you know, and her paintings are something you can’t see everyday.
Perhaps there is something remarkable in the fact that Niya was born on Easter in 1991. And on April 4th. And not where it is, in Vratsa — the city like the Balkan — ancient and young. Niya’s parents also do not hear, and when little Niya is born without a rumor, they are her first sign language teachers. All of young children like to paint in any way — in the sand, on the wallpapers and on any sheet of paper from whose outlines often come out. At age 2.5, Niya painted strange and inexplicable things for her age. The love of drawing, which most of the children lost with growth, keeps at Niya. At 5 years Niya and her grandmother moved to the capital Sofia in order to allow the girl to visit the Center for speech and hearing rehabilitation at the school for deaf children in Sofia.
Nia studied painting at the National School of Art “Iliya Petrov”, and is currently a third year student at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia, in Faculty of Textile Engineering. Painting, however, remains Niya’s greatest love. And with what passion tells about her favorite things!
“I love painting mostly, but all the subjects in the academy are my favorites — textiles, textile techniques, computer design, embroidery … I love all, all the subjects! I have not made a stand-alone exhibition yet. I have a lot of painting, but I do not know which from them are worth displaying in front of the audience”, Niya said last year.
If you ask me, all of them. Categorically! Niya can speak to you infinitely through the colors, through the rough lines of her portraits. And the imagination put in her paintings is difficult to reach up. It seems to be coming back from worlds where few people can step in to bring from everything there. And you leave stunned, silent, quiet. For us remains the gratitude of the initiates. And the admiration for the way a girl without hearing uses deep means of expression. Some call it talent. For me, it is intimate communication — it is hardly anyone to be more naked in human eyes than Niya with her paintings.
And for all sincerity, as well for the courage to be discovered, Niya deserves respect.
Now let me take you to the first individual exhibition of this exceptional artist.
19 June 2017. The warmt evening smells of lime. And generously spills the seductive scent towards the human flow to the Sofia University. It’s approaching six o’clock. In six o’clock every night, either or wonders or apocalypse happen. My footsteps are lost in the crowd of the Sofia University. I feel like some seeker of lost treasures, and in fact I am looking for a very specific miracle — the exhibition of Niya Yakimova. The miracle is about to turn into an apocalypse, because the exhibition is far from where I am. In fact, she is in the Alma Mater Gallery, where for the first time stand out 13 of Niya’s incredible canvases, full of magical surrealism.
I arrive almost in time to catch the opening of the exhibition by the director of the Cultural Center of Sofia University. The words of all painters who strove to congratulate Niya were translated specifically for her by a sign language interpreter. Here were Niya’s parents, her grandmother — the biggest promoter of this artist without hearing, guests, friends and teachers.
Photos, flowers. Niya is excited as never before. However, it is the first solo exhibition. All of the paintings of the exhibition have been painted at home. The canvases are very impressive — both as a technique, both as a message and as colors. They grab you and they moved you there where nothing is such what it looks like. In a world beyond the reality you know. In the space of loneliness, in which there is so much power and as many messages as you can hear. One learns to value loneliness as the only oasis where there is endless possibilities to listen to oneself, to get to know and to solve the spiritual wealth in solitude. Before he can share it with others through colors, shapes, images, a human must first go there where the silence is born.
Touching it all is electrifying. I can’t take my eyes off from the paintings!
I stand long in front of the sails, from which every moment will exited beautiful and fearless horses without the hoof, flying in the violet fields, with mane like a clouds. They are not horses, they are not. This is the Time, whose footsteps tread on the fragile countertop of the bubbling life. Disappearing time, which does not need of reason, only from sense and imagination, airy as flashy smoke. “And we melt,” the picture is called. Melting minutes and seconds in a purple half-twilight. The Time has a form of what you fill it with. It’s always new and always different, but still the same.
I’m going onwards… and I feel how I fall in love irreparably. In a breath-taking face, broken in pieces. With the fragility of egg shell, but radiating power, because of that impulse that is not violence outside, but birth within. Life, realizing itself to simply say “I AM”. The Nothing, which is all. Without masks, without make-up, only Himself. My God, what a meet! From the canvas I look at Niya’s face, it’s a self-portrait. But it can also be yours. “Incurable Passion”. A passion that peeks from the third eye. A consciousness that voluntarily is chose to paint only his realities. His brush trembles in the gentle thread on which inspiration flows. Love, Romain Gary has said, is probably the best form of dialogue, invented from the human to talk with himself.
I jump into the next reality. A few of tireless keys, closing hidden wonders in underground depths. They are yellow as the sands of time, and like the glow of those hopes that propel eternal demand. “Gold?” No. The priceless, which has no name.
Niya shines. She barely speaks, but it does not need this. The canvases around us speak high enough. “Three possibilities”, “Multifinctional”, “Soul in Pliers”, “Agony”. This painting show some of the ways towards to the End, whose turns depend solely on personal choice. They are just a marker for those places on the road that show more clearly the direction. Sometime you have to burn to be able to shine after.
For me was not enough to see just those 13 canvases. It was fatally insufficient for my insatiable eye, which is hard to return to the present. I do not want to make comparisons with either Salvador Dali, neither with Frida nor with Vian. It’s just Niya. Unparalleled!
I’m very thankful for the happiness to find this place, where nothing is that what seem.
Text and photos: Christina Tchoparova