Ivilina Kouneva

Ivilina Kouneva

An artist using painting and cut-out compositions to deepen understanding of the fragility of life in current times, and working with communities to ‘de-pollute’ our minds.


I am a Bulgarian-born visual artist with studio practice in the South East of England. While my main focus is on painting I also ‘draw with scissors’ to create paper cut-out compositions. Both ways serve my need to deepen my understanding of different human conditions and the fragility of life in the current times. My writing I would describe as narrative nonfiction. It is just another way to express my immediate observations.

My recent research is triggered by studies on how creativity raises awareness in the present moment and how it reflects on our sensations, thoughts and feelings. I work with communities to promote well-being and to ‘de-pollute’ our minds. Through my visual work I best articulate the complexity of climate change and how it reflects on our everyday lives.

My process of making cut-out compositions is informed by continuous folding and unfolding of stories, putting the abandoned into use, giving it new life. I use paper cuts from a pool of discarded drawings and paintings. Through the narratives I express my concern about the breakable connections among systems. I realise there isn’t one only right solution.

‘Fragile Balances’ is one of my most repeated themes, staging an exhibition with the same title as early as 2001. In 2020 I took part in the Great Leveller virtual exhibition initiated by Sweet’Art, London, with paper cuts compositions dedicated to the endangered communities inhabiting islands.

The impulse to experience how creatives live in an environment under immediate threat of flooding stands behind undertaking an art residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point, on the Toronto islands (postponed to 2022, due to the pandemic). Through the past decade I have created a series of artworks inspired by the biblical story of The Flood, Noah and his wider household. Thus I aim to bring attention to the mythical survival of humans, often staging them in one of the most powerful and loaded-with-meaning elements — Water. Linking my work with these models I look for the archetypal scenarios and how they relate to our current lives in the Anthropocene.

In the autumn of 2020 I initiated a residency, near Queens Park, Glasgow. I self-distanced in an apartment full of plants of different sizes and books about climate change. I started my work with a fresh view, from scratch, with no high expectations. I relied on my spontaneous response of how the interior and exterior would inform my work, what I was to learn about the modern environmentally sensitive inhabitant. Two of the paintings were given to an ethical food cooperative for their new spaces. The others I have used as a starting point for a new series, celebrating the Circle of Life and us being part of nature.

In the beginning of 2021 I contributed to the first Rebel Zine, an issue entirely dedicated to climate change and the environmental crisis. There I shared my belief that ”creatives of all fields help enormously in provoking public views over saving our environment locally and globally. Being sensitive and progressive they may bring awareness and a new mindful approach.” My biggest inspiration comes from the younger members of my family who in different ways actively promote sustainability for communities in the new realities of climate change.

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