Nika Neelova: Beghost

Nika Neelova: Beghost

NIKA Project Space

May 30, 2024
Nika Neelova
May 17–October 5, 2024
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NIKA Project Space
19th Street Road—Al Qouz 1
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The United Arab Emirates
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Sculpting time through the lens of transformation, Nika Neelova’s solo exhibition mirrors the constant flux of material exchanges that define our world by merging chemistry, alchemy, and geology.

NIKA Project Space presents Beghost, a solo exhibition by London-based artist Nika Neelova, on view from May 17–October 5, 2024. The show will feature sculptures, crafted from various materials including glass, clay, and fossilized shark teeth, offering a speculative view of the ancient marine life that once inhabited Buhais Geology Park and Jebel Buhais, an archaeological site in Al Madam Plain (Sharjah, UAE). Narrating a story of transformation and decay, the new works are placed in direct dialogue with fossils from Nirmal Rajah’s collection, the archaeologist, who in 2015 led an expedition to discover fossils in the Ariyalur district in Tamil Nadu, contributing to the production of the first English documentary focusing on India’s remains. 

Beghost traces the history of Sharjah region backwards, endowing the desert with the spirit of water that has long disappeared, but has left its fossilized traces in the geological record, encrypted in the rocks. The artist engages with the vast materiality of the geological history, exploring further how rock erodes into sand and clay, sand with silica becomes glass and clay petrifies upon contact with air, hardening into form. Reflecting these natural sequences, all materials of Neelova’s sculptures are engaged in a constant cycle of metamorphosis, alluding to the never-ending recycling of matter on the planet, merging chemistry, alchemy and geology.

Following the impressions of Neelova’s research trip to the UAE in August 2022 supported through the Residency & Research programme by NIKA Project Space, the artist reflects: “This terrain was, in fact, the site of a prehistoric sea that covered most of Arabia until geologically recent times. I imagined the ancient waters buried under the sand dunes, the landscape changing slowly over 93 million years, descending into the blue underworld. Among the layers of sedimented time and these prehistoric rocks, the exhibition conjures the oceanic subconscious of the desert, of the sand dunes haunted by the memory of water, and their watery ancestors.”

The glass medusas’ sculptures titled Medusa series, 2023, are crafted from antique chandelier fragments, fused with handblown flame-like glass elements. Inheriting their shapes from fire, the sculptures remind us of the primary purpose of their forebears, the chandeliers, to provide light, and at the same time reflect the transparent qualities of the animal itself. The inverted fragmented tree-like sculpture And their phantoms, 2023, holds hundreds of decapitated rose stems made from fossilized shark teeth of extinct species dating over 30 million years, set into hardened clay, thereby bridging the futility and short life span of flowers with the vast temporalities of deep time. The ripple stone piece titled Stones, 2023, created by fingerprints left in soft beds of petrified clay, witnesses the moments of interaction between humanity and nature, mimicking the pockmarks on the planet’s skin, a vast network of now dying lakes. Strewn across the upstairs floor of the gallery, the skeletal lemniscate sculptures, Untitled, 2021, reference the ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a mythical snake devouring its own tail, representing the eternal cycles of destruction and rebirth. Reminiscent of the remains of prehistoric creatures, the sinuous flowing sculptures are made from reclaimed handrails from several flights of stairs. 

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May 30, 2024

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