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, July 27, 2014

Dealing with Sofia's Past

The day started early with the urgent chimes of the venerable Church Cyril and Methodius and the 5 disciples – whose birthday it apparently was.
I’m not normally in Sofia in summer – although the currents around the Vitosha mountain and the trees in its streets and courtyards do offer relief from the summer heat which has not been as evident as usual. Lots of rain – indeed severe hailstones at the beginning of the month. Cars were banged shapeless.
The flat I’ve been renting (from December 2012) is a West-facing attic flat in a very central (Khan Krum St) classic 1922 building – with a leafy courtyard, gratefully populated by cats who are well looked after by the city’s older citizens.

The Sofia City Gallery has now introduced entry charges - but at such a reasonable level I can forgive them. 1 euro for adults – 2 euros for a family ticket – and free for senior citizens. So I had no problems parting with 5 euros for a book about “unknown artists from one picture” which focuses on a famous 1952 painting by one Asen Vasiliev of some 20 Bulgarian painters examining and discussing a painting. The magisterial figure of Vladimir Dmitrova – known as “the Master” – dominates the group and the book identifies each of the painters, sketches their lives and gives an example of their work.

The book is exceptional, however, in being the first I know to detail (in English) the circumstances of the cultural crackdown in the late 1940s on Bulgarian painters. But it does so in the strange elliptical fashion I have begun to recognise as the true Balkan way…..
I know something about the events – and the artists affected…..starting in the early (but vicious) days of the September 1944 communist takeover with the unexplained death in prison of graphic artist Raiko Aleksiev and soon affecting such famous artists as Boris Denev, Nikola Boadjiev and (royal aquarellist) Constantin Shtarkelov – none of whom figure in the book. Instead the text focuses on Alexander Zhendov, a good communist satirist who strongly objected to the wooden bureaucrats who were foisted to lead the cultural struggle against modernism…..Other good communists such as the great Ilyia Beshkov are simply not mentioned………
The nepotic (or "Balkan") nature of the editorial process is still evident in many of the new art books produced here.....eg the large one celebrating 120 years of art produced by the Bulgarian Union of Artists a couple of years ago. The images are great but the text tells us little beyond of the dates of the various artistic Associations, some of the names of the key artists and vague hints of struggles and conflicts.....And some curious omissions - perhaps these were the more independent-minded artists who weren'y "belongers"?

I had hoped to see the exhibition in the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery – a largely unknown branch of the Sofia City Gallery in a lovely garden beside Boulevard Dondukova. It was supposed to be open – but wasn’t. Coincidentally, the Loran Gallery was showing paintings of Shtarkelov and Boadjiev and will mark September 9 1944 with an exhibition of banned artists.   

No comments:

Post a Comment