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Sofiya Nikolova -transforming fear, anger and anxiety into colour and light

United Kingdom / Bulgaria

Website | Instagram

Sofiya's career as a full-time artist began after a long stint in the corporate world, driven by a need for creativity, balance and harmony. Expressing herself through fine art became a natural pursuit and a way of life. She eagerly devoted herself to rediscovering and refining her technique. Her travels around the world enriched her artistic expression with influences from various styles, cultures and periods. She found her voice through painting when her drive and creativity were muted by a life-threatening diagnosis. Holding a brush, she learned to channel her fear, anger and anxiety and transform them into colour and light.

Sofiya, you’ve worked in the corporate world before becoming a full-time artist. What was your journey into the artworld like? Can you talk about your background a little?

My upbringing was very prescriptive. Behind the Iron Curtain, we had a tickbox list for what made women valued, productive members of society - and a desire to pursue an art career was certainly not on it! But even as a student, I was drawn to art. It gave me great pleasure and an escape. I was always driven by a need for creativity, expression and harmony.

Changing established careers to pursue art is a brave step and one that is often not understood by our relatives and friends. How was your decision received?

Working in the corporate world is its own kind of battle - you have to prove yourself in your work, support your family, and build your career without compromising your principles. And one day, you wake up and realise you have been fighting for the wrong thing all along! When I reached that point, I had to make a choice: keep plodding along, or change course completely. It was not an easy choice, and it may not be the right choice for everyone. My decision certainly wasn't understood and accepted by everyone around me, but I learned to make peace with that and focus on the unequivocal support I got from those who matter most.

Your bio mentions that you found your voice through your art when you were diagnosed with a life-threatening diagnosis. I believe art has healing powers as it helped me overcome difficult times in life too. What did that transformation look like for you?

The diagnosis turned my world upside down. At the same time as feeling all the fear, anxiety and despair that such a life event brings, I was overwhelmed by a sense of urgency. I had to fight - for the people I love, for myself, and to live because life is this amazing, fleeting, wonderful thing! It was inevitable that I would start painting again - the love for art was always there, but this turning point in my life flicked the switch into action. Through painting, I learned to channel my fear, anger and anxiety and transform them into colour and light. I feel my courage and inspiration grow the further my paintings reach.

You’ve also changed your approach to your art from dark pieces to works that emphasize light and colour. How did that shift come about?

I still adore the vibrant intensity of dark, richly pigmented works. But my true passion is chasing the subtle colours of light. A single ray of sunshine may be refracted through droplets of water, it may turn a window into a gilded focal point, or it may completely transform figures and objects into something ethereal and elusive in that liminal space between blinks.

You describe yourself as a loving and proud mother, artist and entrepreneur. Recently, we had an online exhibit called Artist, Mother, Proud & Serious that addressed the issue of artist mothers not being taken seriously by some industry professionals. Have you ever experienced anything of the sorts?

The view that "serious" art and motherhood are mutually exclusive is, unfortunately, alive and well in many art circles. There is a lingering view in the industry, as with many other spheres, that the nurturing role of a mother is the only facet of her personality and the only thing she is interested in pursuing. I have found myself on the receiving end of assumptions people make about how my motherhood status affects my drive, ambition, talent, skill and work ethic. But barriers are there to be overcome, and outdated perceptions are there to be changed.

What is the inspiration behind your work?

Inspiration can come from anywhere - a scent, a sound, an emotion, a conversation. I am at my most creative when travelling around the world. The energy of adventuring and discovery enriches my artistic expression with influences from various styles, cultures and time periods.

What is the message behind your art?

Life is precious, fragile and fleeting, easily weighed down and tarnished by excessive reality. My art is all about shining transformative light on its incredible beauty.

What does your art do for you?

When painting, I establish a visual language of colour and light. For me, art has always been a means of creating, experiencing and sharing a liberated kind of beauty.

What has been the most exciting moment of your art career so far?

My first solo exhibition, The Woman, which I dedicated to my daughter. It was a phenomenal experience and a moment of euphoria.

What is the number one advice to emerging artists who are coming to the art world after years spent in a completely different field?

To constantly seek new challenges, find their style and nurture it patiently. Knowledge is power, but so is community - which is why inclusion is so important in our field.

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