“A world gone mad...”

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Sofia City Art Gallery presents the exhibition “A world gone mad...” - 110 years since the declaration of the Balkan War and 140 years since the birth of Vladimir Dimitrov – Maystora.

The exhibition will run from February 22 till May 29, 2022. The story of the Balkan War is preserved thanks to archival and museum funds, documents, diaries, letters, photos, paintings, poems, books and periodicals, which recall the history and exploits of those generations of Bulgarians who sacrificed their lives in the name of national values, unity and a bright future. Many artists from different generations are either called upon or enlist as volunteers, inevitably linking not only their lives but their creative work with the Balkan War, as well as military art and the historical painting genre later on. Some of them are professors at the National Arts Academy or high school teachers, others have just completed their art degrees in Sofia and other European capitals, and the remainder are yet to pursue a degree.

For most Bulgarian artists warfare (military art and historical painting) is an entirely new theme for exploration. Some of them are strongly attracted to its creative potential and manage to evolve within the genre in time, while others are unable to relate and remain aloof as a result. These artists are diverse in their creative depictions of war, as well as their perspectives on front lines, battles, trenches, convoys, camps, campaigns, and soldiers. This diversity is mirrored by their unique personal lives and creative work.

A significant number of artistic testimonies on the war were left by renown Bulgarian artist Vladimir “The Master” Dimitrov. It is a little-known fact that as an up-and-coming artist, the Master creates a large cycle of pencil and ink paintings, watercolors and oil paintings that preserve the memory of the Balkan War of 1912-1913. As a volunteer in the army, he marches with the Seventh Rila Infantry Division and covers the war on a daily basis in drawings with carefully labeled dates and locations, the same way war is chronicled by Shtarkelov and Stanyo Stamatov.

The artist’s stories are concise. There is nothing incidental about the plots of his works. They are all well-chosen depictions of momentary reality. He builds images of soldiers who are close to his heart. As he draws them, he draws himself through them, completing an image of suffering heroes who amaze the world with their bravery. Their representations are marked by strength, fatigue, suffering and faith.

One artist who manages to create large-scale panoramic battle works at this time is Yaroslav Veshin. His work is also shaken to its core by the hurricane of the Balkan War, which leaves a trace on many of his works. His canvases become a symbol of war and the Bulgarian soldier. Not only does Yaroslav Veshin leave behind a significant and exciting legacy, but he paves the way for next generations to elevate military art, building upon his genre conventions and techniques.

Apart from paintings and graphics, sculptural works dedicated to the war can also be found. Young sculptors Ivan Lazarov, Angel Spasov, Anastas Dudulov and Yanko Pavlov are involved in the Balkan War, with Ivan Lazarov being the only one with a complete and consistent series of sculptures, namely They’ve Won, On a Knife Edge, At the Watering Hole, Superpowers and others.

The National Museum of Military History’s funds have the richest collection of works by artists who participated in the wars. Some of Vladimir “The Master” Dimitrov’s war-related works are stored at the Kyustendil Art Gallery. The National Art Gallery’s collection also houses some of the best examples of military art. Works related to the Balkan War, albeit fewer in numbers, including singles, can be found around collections of art galleries in the country – Varna, Plovdiv, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Sliven, Kazanlak, Kardzhali, the State Archives Agency, and some in private collections. The project comes to fruition in partnership with The National Museum of Military History and Kyustendil’s Vladimir “The Master” Dimitrov Art Gallery. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog and a collection of documentaries owned by the Bulgarian National Film Library, the Bulgarian National Television, as well as Venelin Shurelov’s multimedia project Vladimir “The Master” Dimitrov: Light and Spirit, realized in 2014 as commissioned by the 13 Centuries of Bulgaria Fund.

The visits to “The war! A world gone mad...” exhibition will be fully compliant with all current anti-epidemic measures. Sofia City Art Gallery is located in Sofia, on 1, Gen. Gurko Str.

Text and image: official website of Sofia City Art Gallery