|Eva Nikolova, Untitled III, 2016|
|detail, Untitled III|
|detail, Untitled III|
Her methods have matured and will continue to do so, but her project remains. This past summer she embarked on a series called 21 Fragments of Yesterday and Tomorrow, one of which, Untitled III, was a selectee in the recent Alternative Process Photo Competition at Soho Photo in New York. We decided to investigate what goes into making these pictures, just how they are formed. Unsurprisingly, it turns out they begin as drawings (we were right), but the tools she is using now are chosen with a view toward a bleach-etch and glassprint endgame, so that as she works, photographic constraints and opportunities are forefront in her mind. It's best to let her tell it.
'I start on a medium-weight drawing paper using graphite, charcoal, white chalk, and thin sharpies, often overlaid with a cross-hatch of white gel pens and maybe even a touch of white oil pastel. I like to mix different materials when I draw, but because the visible tones of the materials do not coincide with their opacity - this is what matters when making a negative to print from - I photocopied the drawing onto ordinary printer paper, then contact-printed it under the enlarger.'
Since the resulting print had plenty of blacks, it was easy for her to bleach-etch, most apparent in the dramatic upper part of the picture. The reader may wonder why the blacks in the lower part didn't bleach-etch as well and the answer lies largely in her strategy of mixing tones in the original drawing, that dense cross-hatch of white and black lines that she spoke about. She articulates it so well: 'What preserves some of the blacks from lifiting off are tiny islets of white that act as anchors.'
Because the black areas therefore were impure, the etch was insufficient to affect them to any great extent. Furthermore, she brushed on developer to these areas after the first etch to solidify the blacks found there. For the upper part of the picture, the sky, now dense with veils, she delicately applied a weak and contaminated developer in an effort to bring out color, then left it to redden in the summer sun.
There is a lot to admire here for practitioners, and to learn from. And we haven't begun to speak of the impact of her work on a viewer, which can be altogether staggering.
Contact the artist at her site, www.evanikolova.com for more information.