Boyana Aleksandrova graduated from our Theatre and Performance Practice BA (Hons) and is now studying on our Public Art and Performance MA course. She talks about the transition to postgraduate study and using her art to express herself.
Hi, Boyana. Could you start off by telling us why you picked London Met and particularly your course over other institutions and courses?
I studied my undergraduate degree Theatre and Performance Practice BA at London Met. Towards the end of my second year I turned to my tutors for guidance as to what options I might have for my career after graduating from the BA and whether I should even stay in London. I was informed about the new MA that I might be interested in and two years later, here I am. It was definitely the best decision for me to stay another year at London Met and it’s been an honour to be among the first students to have gone through a one-of-a-kind course like the Public Art and Performance MA.
Did you feel supported by the lecturers on your course?
It has been lovely to work with tutors I already knew from my undergraduate course, but the highlight has been really delving deep into the professional side of making art, rather than focusing solely on the creative aspects. I’ve also met new and inspiring tutors from other courses, such as the Fine Arts MFA, who I just want to keep learning from.
Our Public Art and Performance MA is certainly a unique course. What attracted you to studying it?
The fact that there are no restrictions on creativity. Every single person on the course comes from a different background or has a unique take on the type of art they like to make. The space (virtual or not) truly becomes a creative hub.
I also really like the professional side of it. I knew how to be creative but I had no idea how to promote myself, apply for funding, write a proposal – all skills that are very important when being an artist. You need to be good at making impactful art, but you also need to be good at getting yourself out there.
How is this MA course helping you to develop as an artist?
It has helped me to define my practice without limiting me. I always felt like I didn’t have my “thing”, I didn’t know what made my art unique and different from others. That doesn’t matter anymore because what is important is how you express yourself and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t just stick to what you know. Maybe I’ll do some pottery for my next project – who knows!
Why did you decide to continue your postgraduate studies at London Met after completing your undergraduate degree here too?
I felt like there was more I could learn. I didn’t feel ready to go out into the real world by myself. And I was right. I am so much more confident in myself and I know that any failures along the way are not really failures. They’re an opportunity to look back at my work, find flaws, re-evaluate, re-think and see how it can be improved, how the concept can be even stronger. I am excited for the "noes" I’ll get. I also feel supported because I know I can always drop my tutors an email and ask for advice, even after graduation.
Do you work on any personal projects alongside your studies or have you done any work experience while studying?
As uni work is usually quite hectic, I don’t have much time to work on personal projects. I enjoy painting and drawing whenever I can and craft kits have been an escape from the world, especially the past year. I have been able to pick up skills such as crocheting, carving, printmaking, embroidery and cross stitching. All at amateur level but still very fun!
However, I am currently developing a project for an open call, which is a first of mine. I never thought that I would be brave enough to do that, but having gone through the MA definitely gave me that confidence. I’m so excited to do even more after graduating.
What has been your favourite project or piece of work you’ve worked on so far?
During my MA studies, sadly due to the current state of the world, we were unable to physically make much work, so most of it was conceptual. That was still fun in itself, just in a different way. With that in mind, I proposed a multi-layered artwork with the help of North London schools, inspired by the V&A’s current work of X-raying historical paintings from their exhibitions and collections. This new technology and method of studying old artworks allows for people to get a glimpse into the artist’s lifestyle, emotions and thoughts at the time of creating, and the attitude art collectors used to have towards pieces.
Looking specifically at stories that children from immigrant families have been told by their relatives about their personal history, each individual canvas would contain a painting, made by the children, based on stories and moments they know about their ancestors.
Once all layers are finished, they would be placed one in front of the other, with an old painting of London from the V&A’s archives at the very front. Through a backlight, when viewed from the front, all images would be combined into one unique painting. The idea is that all these personal stories would become almost a shadow behind the image of London, highlighting their importance to the town’s narrative and history.
As Bulgarian born and raised, I moved to the UK in 2017, just a year after the Brexit decision, and I feel very passionately about the importance and the influence that immigrants have on British culture. Not only is this historical event an economical and political issue, it is an interpersonal one. The idea that an immigrant, a person who has legally moved to another piece of land on Earth, could feel that they're nationally unwanted and almost frowned upon when seen on the streets, is very dehumanising. As a country built on colonialism and “foreign” cultures and traditions, I believe it is hard to define "British" as separate from the “foreign”. We are all connected and we all have a right to be here.
Do you have a favourite place in London?
I love Greenwich. There is just so much open space and the view from the top of the hill is stunning.
Any tips for new students who might be thinking about studying at London Met?
Come here to experiment. Please, please, please, don’t just focus on calculating your grades or wanting to just pass. Of course, a good result is important, but that comes with good work ethics and effort. Enjoy the opportunity to have tutors to whom you can ask questions and for them to guide you, and try out new things. Write in a style you’ve never done before! Research a topic you don’t know much about. Create a piece in which you yourself are getting to know the character as you’re writing them.
In my first year my mentality was “I cannot fail unless I don’t submit my work, don’t turn up to class or have bad work ethics, so I might as well take this opportunity to try things I haven’t before.” And it was so much fun. Best decision I’ve ever made for myself.
Do you know what you’d like to do in the future or which career path you’d like to take?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Of any kind. I have so many different mediums to explore. I can see myself in my 60s taking up ballet classes just because I fancy it. I’ve always wanted to be well-rounded in many mediums, so I know I’ll just continue to learn.
Other than that, I truly don’t know. I don’t have an exact vision for myself. I want to give myself the time to fail and try again, and fail, and try again, and so on. I just want to be happy and have a little studio where I can make my art.
Thank you for such a passionate insight into your work and studies, Boyana! Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at London Met?
Talk to your tutors. Not just about your uni work, but get to know them as well. They’re most likely lovely and will be so incredibly willing to help. Don’t be scared to ask questions, you’re most likely not the first person in history to have asked that specific question, you are not silly.
Good luck to anyone starting their career journey with London Met!