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Europe: Polluta Residents Portraits (+ 1 Middle East)

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

The exhibition “Welcome to Polluta!” highlights the international cultural exchange in a global art ecology. The hosting Quarantine Film Festival and the Hong Kong team invited Hong Kong, European, and other international artists and filmmakers to “join Polluta” as artist residents, asking them to fill out an entry form and express their opinions on an artist’s role during social conflicts and art’s impact on gentrification.

These two questions are timely reflections of the local history of the Quarantine Film Festival in Bulgaria. The body of 22 “Polluta Residents’ Portraits” features 22 artists’ portraits as animals, reflecting the subject’s own artistic practice.


For each portrait, I conducted extensive research into the artist or filmmaker’s practice, involving reading every single word on their website or all the materials on the internet. For filmmakers, I always watch every available film, often reaching out for more.

I worked on more than one portrait at a time, overlapping research and painting. That means, sometimes I finished no portraits in months and had several portraits in progress. On average, each portrait took about a month.


Adelmo Togliani, actor, director and screenwriter, comes from a long illustrious family of artists and is represented as a canary bird, renowned for its beautiful voice.

The VR device on his face is a reference to his newest sci-fi short film “Néo Kosmo”

Director Statement: “In a dystopic future, Néo Kósmo is the virtual reality to which an ordinary family connects every day.”

Mattia Mura Vannuzzi is an Italian documentary filmmaker and a traveller. His works are dynamic and packed with actions, but I was most drawn by all the traveling eye-candy images Take one look at his stunning Instagram page, and you will understand.

His confidence and sense of adventure were palpable. I based his Polluta portrait on a photograph he sent, keeping the sunglasses and scarf and turned him into a colourful display of energy and colours as a parrot.

And of course, travellers need to carry a backpack.

Aneta Ivanova is a photographic artist based in Varna, Bulgaria, and is also part of the Quarantine Film Festival’s core team. The composition came from her signature portrait works which employ the digital technique of double exposure, superimposing two images together. The elegance of her portraits’ form reminded me of slender silhouette of big cats, especially lynx.

As a starting point, I found a photograph on her Instagram to base the composition on.

I also found her personality to be gentle and chose the soft medium of watercolour pencils for her portrait.

Hamid Ghodrati is an independent filmmaker based in Iran. His films are poetically understated. That quietness permeated into his portrait.

Through his films, I understood him as a person embedded into his culture and society instead of an individual with an exploded ego.

I used simple drawing materials (pencil and paper.) His body (an armadillo) occupies a small portion of the composition. He is portrayed with his camera, perpetually an acute observer.

Cypriot artist and professor Sophia Hadjipapa-Gee’s major work “Book of Hours” is a contemporary version of the medieval illuminated manuscript by the same name, and investigates the concept of liminal identity and the intermingling of cultural identities and heritage.

As a starting point, I looked at the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism and picked two: the golden fish (happiness and spontaneity) and the lotus flower (purity.)

The simple composition is loosely inspired by Tibetan Thangka, and the rendering style is inspired by medieval manuscript.

Spanish painter Cayetana H. Cuyás makes delicious geometric visual eye candies.

It usually takes me a month of research before even picking up a pencil or paintbrush. I was so in love with Cayetana’s paintings that I waited for her reply on the edges of my seat and finished her portrait in one sitting the afternoon I received her response.

Stephanie Black is an elegant Professor of Illustration based in Plymouth, UK. She advocates the use of illustration as research methodology, sketching insights and thoughts onto post-it notes to derive new knowledge.


See all the Polluta Residents’ Portraits in flesh.

“Welcome to Polluta”

7-27 August 2022

Curated by Musthavekeys

Solo exhibition at Varna City Art Gallery "Boris Georgiev", Varna, Bulgaria

Invited Guest Artist of The Quarantine Film Festival

Supported by

Hong Kong Arts Development Council

Special Thanks

Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation

Pure Art Foundation


This is the second edition of Polluta Residents’ Portraits. The first edition (19 in total) was exhibited at solo exhibition “Polluta, Floating Artist Colony in the Sky” at Firstdraft Gallery, the oldest artist-run gallery in Australia in 2019.

All 33 Polluta artist residents will make cameo appearances in Polluta, an animated short (2018 - ) to be finished in 2023. Follow the progress of the film on Instagram or Facebook.


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