Stefan Karadzha 35
Vishovgrad, Bulgaria



ARV.I is a place for artists
to find inspiration, focus
on their work and develop individual exhibition projects.


Exhibition space

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First Forms of Life, Installation view

Bacterial Survivors I, 109 x 133 cm, Oil on canvas

Bacterial Survivors II, 109 x 133 cm, Oil on canvas

All those Good Guys, 109 x 140 cm, Oil on canvas / First Forms of Life, Installation view

First Forms of Life, Intallation view

Mastereye, 50 x 40 cm, Oil on canvas

Dirt from Heaven, 127 x 89 cm, Oil on canvas

First Forms of Life
Sonja Arz

ARV.I presents, in collaboration with the city hall of Vishovgrad, a solo exhibition of new works by Berlin based painter Sonja Arz. Entitled First Forms of Life, the exhibition comprises of oil paintings Arz has worked on during her artist residency at ARV.I.

Sonja Arz (b.1977, Romania) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Arz holds a Fine Arts degree at Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig and Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. Her recent exhibitions includes Where is Philedelphia? at Gutshaus Philadelphia; Dirty Nails at Project Space Görsch in Berlin; Light at Alpinem Gallery in Lucherne, CH; and Summen Spüren at sk_140 in Berlin. This is her first time exhibiting in Bulgaria and it is the first time ARV.I initiates an exhibition in Vishovgrad.

Vishovgrad Center, 5239 Vishovgrad, Bulgaria
For further information please contact ARV.I: /

Through an intensive four-week residency, Sonja Arz’s solo exhibition displays a series of works through which she reflects on an encounter with a new environment. Within the historical dichotomy of abstraction and figuration, Arz evokes the statement by Francis Bacon, of walking a tightrope between figurative painting and abstraction. Certain iconic themes are found through most of her paintings, which draw upon the natural world. This format of repetition is also found in her previous work, albeit with differing themes, which gives the sense that the world she depicts is framed through certain symbols of the environment she relates to. The series of arches forming a connecting line through her paintings gives a sense of interrelation to the world as she experiences it.

At times Arz’s abstraction takes the viewer to surrealists such as Joan Miro’s suspended dream worlds, and Yves Tanguy’s desertscapes. However, the similarity is in the formal, stylistic, not necessarily in the attached meaning. As a viewer you are invited to decipher her, at times, abstract language, and in doing so find yourself remembering the sight of an unusually red moon hiding behind a wavy sheen of clouds.
- Hanna Gjelten Hattrem, 2018

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ARV.I представя, съвместно с кметството на Вишовград самостоятелната изложба от нови творби на художничката базирана в Берлин - Соня Арз. Озаглавени "Първи форми на живот", изложбата се състои от маслена живопис, над които Арз е работила по време на нейния артистичен престой в ARV.I.

Соня Арз (родена 1977 в Румъния) живее и работи в Берлин, Германия. Арз е завършила художествена академия в Лайпциг и Академията за изящни изкуства в Дюселдорф. Неотдавнашните й изложби включват Къде е Филаделфия? в Gutshaus Philedelphia; Мръсни нокти в Project Space Görsch в Берлин; Светлина в Alpinem Gallery in Lucherne, CH; и Summen Spüren на sk_140 в Берлин. Това е първото й изложение в България и това е първият път, когато ARV.I стартира изложба във Вишовград.

По време на интензивното си четириседмично пребиваване, самостоятелната изложба на Соня Арз показва серия от творби, чрез които тя отразява срещата си с новата среда. В рамките на историческата дихотомия на абстракция и фигурация, Арз изобразява изявлението на Франсис Бейкън за предвижване по ръба между фигуративната живопис и абстракцията. В повечето от нейните картини се откриват някои емблематични теми, които черпят вдъхновение от природата. Този формат на повторяемост може да се бъде открит и в предишни нейни творби на друга тематика, което изобразява усещането и за света чрез символиката намерена в заобикалящата я среда. Поредицата от арки формират една свързваща линия през нейните картини и разкриват възприятието, което тя има за света.

От време на време абстракцията на Арз отвежда зрителя към сюрреализма на Хуан Миро - "Спрени светове от сънища" и "Пустините" на Ивс Танги. Обаче приликата е във формалното, стилистичното, а не непременно в прикрепения смисъл. Като зрител сте провокирани да я дешифрирате на моменти и по този начин се озовавате на необикновени места - с червената луна, която се крие зад вълнообразния блясък на облаците.

- Хана Гелтен Хаттрем, 2018 г.

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Conversation piece between Hanna Gjelten Hattrem and Sonja Arz

Dear Sonja,

Really enjoying immersing myself in your world! I have a few questions for you. Some things I am wondering about as I write: The title First Forms of Life, to me, this title leads me to read your work as a reflection on the organic world, and possibly the built environments mirroring of it. However, I also have a lot of visual associations to the surrealists, like Miro and Tanguy. But I don’t feel like you are trying to make the things you depict strange or surreal. So I guess my questions to you is: what do you mean by this title? Or if you don’t want to be so explicit, how does the title relate to your experience here in Bulgaria?

I am also wondering, to what extent you feel that your connection to Romania affects your experience of Bulgaria. And do you have a sense of how or whether that translated into your work in some way?
 - Hanna

Dear Hanna,

The title emerged after I did the paintings. Miroslav, a friend in Vishovgrad, came to the studio, saw one of the paintings and said something about a planet without life or a desert with two moons or a planet where life could just begin. I am interested in deserts, (almost) empty land, silence, simple forms, reduction and abstraction. First forms of life have to be very simple I guess. And when it comes to complex things or motifs, I want to reduce their shape, to stylize them to the simplest form. In the end the form becomes independent and the connection to a known thing isn't important anymore. Every form becomes a "something", a thing.  That’s the way young children draw and paint. They take or perceive the forms they created as a real "something", as real things. Names or words are not necessary. Emotions and their transformation into the unspoken language of form take over. Forms in children’s interaction to the canvas become independent too. As if they start to move, dance and jump around. Painting is very close to the movement and rhythm of the body. I have to get close to the canvas to apply the paint and then step back to view it from a distance. So I am constantly moving.

The relation between my paintings and my experience in Bulgaria is not easily put in words. At least maybe not for me, because that leads to self-interpretation. And it’s not as simple as, I saw a tree with apples and then I painted it, neither did the idea emerge like written words to use this or that color and form. That could happen sometimes but mostly I don’t need words to lead me from inspiration to a visual idea. I try to avoid words so that there is more space for the emotional and visual world.

Of course it is not to be missed that my decision to recently visit Romania (which changed a lot/maybe too much for me since my childhood) and now Bulgaria (which I think didn’t change so much and that’s what I hoped and expected before I came here) brought with it a recollection of my earliest experiences and memories. I always missed something in Germany. Of course one could call that nostalgia. I guess people who actually live and people who used to live in a country or region many years ago see it very differently. So I am looking for familiar aesthetics which have been shaped by Eastern European history, decayed things and the way of life in a small village. Not everybody appreciates that or is able to see the beauty in it but I do because those things can be connected to very warm and strong emotions and memories.

The life form of a child is in my eyes totally different to the life form of an adult. So in a way I reach back to my own first form as a living being. So that’s what is going on in my mind these days.
- Sonja