what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New painters - and wine

I’m not the only one casting my mind back to the murderous behaviour from which this part of the world has suffered in the past century as Empires came unstuck and national fervour gripped men’s minds. Eastern Approaches and Open Education both have postings on the Balkan Wars of a hundred years ago.
These (and other) wars were, of course, an important focus for many Bulgarian painters some of whom were official war artists.
My booklet on Bulgarian Realist painters was very much a first draft – I felt if I waited for the missing information on various painters, nothing would ever be produced. And it’s only now that I’m back in Sofia that I can think properly about its distribution – so far it has been sent only to the Sofia galleries, to Regional municipal galleries and to EC Embassies in Sofia. With encouraging responses (apart from the Embassies!) It’s a useful calling card to show how serious I am! Now I need to approach the big Hotels – and the National Gallery who (amazingly) don’t really have anything for the foreign visitor.
And, slowly I can update the entries both on artists and galleries. Yesterday was a good example. The Inter Nos Gallery (sadly its website no longer seems active) is just at the junction of Bvds Levski and Ignatieff  (just round the corner from where Alexander Bozhinov built his house in Nikolai Pavlovich St) and has I think the best collection of the Bulgarian Realist painters in the country.
This wasn’t obvious to me on my first few visits – and I got to feeling guilty about visiting more since I haven’t so far bought anything.
But when Dr Stephanov saw my booklet, he opened up and I discovered some great paintings – and promises of more since (like many other Sofia galleryists) they have more stuff stored away in inaccessible places than on display.
So, for example, one painter whose name was known to me - Constantine Mikrenski (1921-1999) – suddenly started to look very interesting (eg the one at the top of this post). My entry about him in the book is no more than his date of birth and death.
Why is it that I want to know more about the (dead) painters I like? Technically, it adds little to my appreciation - perhaps its intimations of mortality?

There are a lot of articles (and books) predicting the disappearance of the book. New Criterion has published an article with a very elegant (and passionate) defence of the book (and elegy to the death of second-hand bookshops) which I thoroughly recommend   
Once, staying overnight at an airport hotel in Los Angeles, I found myself without a book. How this happened I can no longer recall; it was most unusual, for by far the most useful lesson that life has taught me, and one that I almost always heed, is never to go anywhere without a book. (In Africa, I have found that reading a book is an excellent way of overcoming officials’ obstructionism. They obstruct in order to extract a bribe to remove the obstruction; but once they see you settled down for the long term, as it were, with a fat book, Moby-Dick, say, they eventually recognize defeat. Indeed, I owe it to African officialdom that I have read Moby-Dick; I might otherwise never have got through it.)Reduced in my Los Angeles room to a choice between television and the yellow pages—no doubt now also on the verge of extinction—I chose the yellow pages, and there discovered just how unusual my obsession with books was. I looked up bookstores, and found no more than half a page. Teeth-whitening dentists, on the other hand, who promised a completely renewed existence to their clients, a confident smile being the secret of success, and success of happiness, took up more than twenty pages. Not poets, then, but teeth-whitening dentists, are now the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Now sipping a superb new Bulgarian Chardonnay - Ethno - produced in the village of Sungurlare inland from Burgas on the Black Sea.

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