The beautiful weather continues here in Sofia – 24 yesterday – and, invigorated by the exercises and swim at Rodina hotel, I strolled for some 4 hours visiting my small galleries
First the Absinthe gallery (where I bought this aquarelle of a view from a window - by a young woman - Klementina Mancheva);
then Vihra at the Astry Gallery (tempted by this fetching Kostadinov figure in the red dress on the right):
My friend Yassen was showing his latest oil at his Konus gallery;
A rarer visit to the Kristal gallery had me tempted by an Alexandrov and a Zhekov;
and, finally, a first visit to the Grita gallery just past the Opera for a Vernissaj - one of four apparently which were taking place that evening in the capital.
A lovely little area this last – between the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and General Dondukov Boulevard – with a tiny gem of a classical disc shop just outside the Opera house on Vrabcha St from which I emerged with 20 odd discs – mainly Dvorak. Incidentally, I was shocked to see the extremist party Ataka offices prominently sitting ajowl the Opera!!
Earlier I had purchased some charming Bulgarian ceramics and also reproductions of the irresistable Angela Minkova - at Albena's wonderful tiny but joyful shop- Art Magazin at the corner of the Catholic Church and Skobelev St (number 38); and popped into the Raiko Aleksiev gallery on Rakovsky St which turned out to be celebrating the works of one Nikolay Rostovchev (1898-1988).
Rostovchev was an officer in the Russian dragoons who was part of the residue of the White Army which landed in Varna in 1921. In 1925 he enrolled in Boris Mitov’s class at the Art Academy in Sofia and graduated in 1930, exhibiting in the annual exhibitions of the Association of Independent Artists until 1945 – at which point the new communist authorities stripped him of his membership of all associations. His past was against him – not only presumably his time with the White Army but his religious painting during most of the 1930s – for example his work on the St Nedelya Church. What a turbulent life he had - fleeing from the Bolsheviks only to land up 20-odd years later facing their successors who at least only ostracised him. It was appropriate therefore that the exhibition is in the Raiko Aleksiev gallery since Aleksiev died in custody a few weeks after the communist takeover.
On this historical note, I was aware of the slaughter which took place in 1925 at the church but had not properly connected it with the September 1923 communist uprising. I remember passing a monument to communists at the roadside near Vratsa in the north-east of the country – and wondering about it. I posted last year about the massacres which took place in the communist takeover of September 1944 - 70 years ago next year. I wonder how the period will be remembered next year??
My evening finished with another nice discovery as I took a side road back to the flat – a small bookshop which had a copy of a remarkable 500 page book on Bulgaria – Bulgaria Terra Europeansis Incognita by Ivan Daraktchiev. Original both in its provocative text and superb photos of old ceramics. There's an interview with the author here.