Sunday, January 30, 2011
Back into the tiny gallery on San Stefano St (at what I think is the north-east corner of Doctor’s Sq at the University area) to have another look at the large Tomev coastscape painting.
Then into the marvellous Alexander Nevsky church and am shocked to see the deterioration in the Nouveaux Arts paintings – many of which have large patches of white (dampness?) spreading downwards.
I stroll to the City Gallery to try to buy another copy of their large catalogue which has a (black and white) reproduction of every painting they have in stock. Only to find that they have some sort of problem with their little shop and they can’t sell its books! All that seems to be missing is a key – and the authority and/or the goodwill for the 2 people lounging at the reception! It reminds me of the situation in Bucharest where – despite the cutbacks – there are apparently many small heritage buildings and facilities with surplus staff.
I have a nice wander around a (quiet) centre – wondering once again why the young Sofians profess to disliking the place. To me it’s a painter’s paradise – not just the friendly little galleries but also the charm of the urban landscape with a mixture of old houses and 4 storey blocks – the space between always revealing a nice perspective. And almost no high rises – as if the supremely ugly 20 story M-tel block on Hristov Botev opposite the majestic beauty of the Ministry of Agriculture building is there to serve as a warning to modernists. The 2 towers of the Ministry building are unique for me. Sadly, however, there is a huge hole in the ground on the corner with Macedonskiya Bvd.
I look again at the painting of Varna port in the gallery at the top of Tsar Samuel(it’s a contemporary - by Lubomir Arnaudov – for 220 euros)
A visit to the small music shop at the end of Solunska St (beside the Methodist church) confirms my fears about the consequences of the change in ownership – a year ago it had in the basement one of the best collections of classical music I had ever seen and now that is gone and the choice much restricted. I need music when I’m working or reading – and forgot to bring some with me. I manage to fiind a nice collection of Bassoon concerts and an historical recording of Richard Strauss and Belle Bartok.
The Assen Vasilev gallery is just across the road and, although its stuff is more superficial, I pop in – after all I have bought a couple of things there. And, indeed, I recognise a Mitko Dimitrov painting and indeed pick out one of his without realising its his – a rather stormy slightly surrealist one with a country church at the top of a hill and a view down a valley to a distant village. Has a nice symbolic touch for me – and only 125 euros. Not quite sure…...My collection is now at the stage I have to be careful about having too many landscapes with houses; I need more seascapes and, above all, paintings with people! And one picture catches my eye – with lots of people in a square, It’s by 74 year old Ivan Manoilev – but a bit pricey for me.
14.00 sees me at Konos Gallery for my meeting with Yassen and his other gallery friend who are bringing some more paintings in for me to look at. This time I’ve brought a wine – I tried to fiind a Brestovitza but could only manage a Telish. Nothing can be better than a bottle of wine, cheese, bread, friends and paintings! I’m introduced this time to Todor Kodjamanov (born the early part of the 20th century) whose 1940s quiet river scene with some beached canoes has a lovely soft pastel colouring. He’s sought after – but I can get this large painting for just under 1000 euros. And there are 2 seascapes for me to inspect – a large Petar Boiadjiev and smaller more dramatic Boris Stefchev which I quickly go for. The Russe Ganchev they have for me is not very exciting – he’s on my list because I liked the exhibition of his work I saw 3 years ago at the National Gallery but have not really taken to the 10 or so I have seen so far for sale. The tiny 1911 Alexander Mutafov river scene still entices – but is, of course, pricey. Clutching my Stefchev, I say goodbye with another session fixed for Monday afternoon – when, hopefully, they will have an Emilia Radusheva for me which has something in common with the one I already have (see top).
Amazingly I stumble across two more antique shops on the way home – one in a tiny basement next to the Assen Vasilev gallery. As I emerge, my attention is drawn to a river scene which is hanging outside (!) and it’s mine for 100 euros!
So ends a very pleasant Saturday flanant (wandering).
Today’s Observer has a touching article by a young Egyptian woman about the developments there and in some other countries of the Arab world