Clothing holds the key to the deep meanings in Simona Ruscheva‘s vivid paintings. Inspired by the traditional outfits of her Bulgarian heritage, the London-based artist renders enigmatic young figures in glittering metallic jewelry, ornate headdresses, and layers of oversized fabrics, and sets each one against a mysterious ruddy setting to explore the idea of life, death, and reincarnation.
In the Galactic series of paintings, Ruscheva's heritage is a starting point for examining universal ideas. “I use my Bulgarian culture to explore various subjects, using different motifs and stories that subconsciously unlock deeper levels of meaning,” the artist tells My Modern Met. Each item of clothing and all of the many accessories contains its own symbolism, which Ruscheva repurposes in her art to explore from a visual perspective. “Reading and learning about various rituals or practices is really fascinating as they confirm to me that there is more to the world than what we see with our own eyes.”
The strong use of red and black unite all of the disparate characters under the series title and describe part of what the artist wants to convey. “We all possess the ability to see beyond the physical matter if we turn to ourselves and see our inner universe,” Ruscheva says. “I am using a glittery and textured black paint for the body as it reminds me of a galaxy, which emphasizes my idea visually. The geometric design around the background is inspired by a folk costume from North Macedonia, which again symbolizes multiple incarnations.”
Dressing her subjects in complex, thoughtful outfits is particularly important to Ruscheva and the ideas she wants to convey. Not only does it help emphasize symbolism, but it also describes who these people are. “The clothing is also what holds the figure together and what gives it a physical shape,” she adds. “I really like the concept of layering, which includes clothing, and that each layer conceals more and more of our core, which is our true self.”