The European Bulgarian Art
Printmaking with historical roots and promising future
A Private View on Contemporary Bulgarian Printmaking
25, Milin Kamak Street, Lozenetz
1164 Sofia, Bulgaria
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February 22 - March 30, 2007
A Mirror exhibition
in conjunction with the presentation of
Contemporary Bulgarian Art
in Amsterdam - kaadeKUNST Gallery April 13 - April 27
and in Cremona - International Biennial April 15 - May 27 2007
ANA ANTONOVA, ANGELINA TASHKOVA, BORIS KRUSTEV, BORYANA DONCHEVA, DARINA PEEVA, DESSISLAVA KOSTADINOVA, DIMITAR KARATONEV, DOROTEYA PETROVA, ELENA VUTOVA, EVGENIY PANTEV, GERGANA DONKOVA, IVAN NINOV, KALOYAN ILIEV, LILIYA EFTIMOVA, MARINA YORDANOVA, OLGA GEORGIEVA, PLAMENA DOYCHEVA, RUMEN RAYKOV, TODOR OVCHAROV, TRAYAN ANEV - TRAYANSKY, VELIKO MARINCHEVSKY
To make a selection for a presentation of 20 artists is not an easy task having in mind some hundreds working on the field of Printmaking: only the official figure of the members of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (printmakers) shows about 400; according to my personal research and dates of graduate students in the last 10 years the figure is going to come near around 1000.
There are established artists starting in the late sixties of the last century, as well artists from the so called "middle generation" with 15-20 years of printing experience and last but not least - the young wave of emerging talents graduated in the last few years or just graduating
the Art Academy in Sofia as well the Fine Art Faculty of the University in Veliko Tarnovo.
Living on the eastern edge of Europe, Bulgarian print artists have maintained an independence from the mainstream trends of Western art, preferring to emphasize spirituality over functionalism, and to fill their images with a message. Bulgarian printmaking grew out of decorative National Revival wood engraving, adopting both its techniques and its subject matter: pastoral-idyllic scenes. These early prints focused on traditional symbolism directly linked to Orthodox culture and folklore.
In the late 1960s and 1970s Bulgarian printmakers turned to associative metaphoric expression that bypassed strictly ideological subject matter and replaced distinct compositions with imagery that could be interpreted on many levels. This art of intentional ambiguity dominated for several decades, and still remains today. Associative metaphoric expression reverberated with worldwide trends and brought Bulgarian graphic artists into the international arena: Bulgarians participated in biennale, receiving high acclaim for their skill and dexterity of expression.
The new wave is going slowly but surely to overwhelm the rough sea
of Bulgarian Printmaking - rough and tempestuous not so much because of great inventions, but more because of the everlasting struggle
"Who Is Who?"
All these young girls and boys spending long days and nights in the printmaking studio of the Academy, toiling at the heavy stones for Lithograph, or burning their tender skins with acids by Etching did actually not realized quite well who is who - their "famous and established" professors came rarely and it is like a special chance to see also works of them; so these young people dreaming to become artists studied not so much thanks to the professors but more in spite of them!
And now they are here: Gergana Donkova (1980) with deep black and white Woodcuts, Lilia Eftimova (1980) with colorful and soft stone Lithographs, Ana Antonova (1977) and Marina Yordanova (1978) with their Etchings, Boryana Doncheva (1978) with Dry Point and Etching. Dessislava Kostadinova (1978) with Linocuts. The male artists from same generation have also their impressive contributions to the new trend of Bulgarian printmaking, knowing how difficult is now days in Bulgaria to be young and just to start to prove yourself: Veliko Marinchevsky (1979), Todor Ovcharov (1975) , Kaloyan Iliev (1979).
To keep the balance between the generations there are also 2 "older" artists: Ivan Ninov (1946) and Evgeniy Pantev (1966), both with precise, perfect Dry Points.
For both Ninov and Pantev is valid what happened by the late 80s with Bulgarian printmaking: several lines of expression had emerged. Some artists preferred to create a poetry-laden, introverted narrative, which offered an alternative to consumerism, permissiveness, and the endless nakedness of the modern world. Other artists turned to parody. Still another group took a journalistic approach, incorporating photographic techniques in their prints. Though their contents vary, most of these artists retain a respect for the white sheet of paper, the black smudge, and shading.
The 20 Bulgarian print artists selected for the Cremona International Print Biennial and for the presentation at kaadeKUNST Gallery in Amsterdam, present an encouraging picture for the future. Faced with endless alternatives and the new challenges presented by the ready-made, infinitely available images of mass media and the IT world with its visual aggression, they have broadened the range of their tools, expanded the possibilities of photographic expression, and searched for new expression through non-conventional approaches from other genres, especially new technologies. Yet each of the artists has also remained strong within the boundaries of his or her own categorical determination, own loneliness, and own response to events. Their prints on paper are the most objective answer to the durability and strength of art as an act of spirituality and responsibility.
Owner & Director of Lessedra Gallery & Contemporary Art Projects
Curator of Bulgarian Presentations in Amsterdam and Cremona.
The text is a combination of both articles written specially and separately for the catalogue of kaadeKUNST Gallery and the catalogue of the International Biennial in Cremona
Sofia, January 2007.
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