30.11 - 07.01.2022
Curated by: Suzana Nikolova
Opening: 30.11, 5 pm
The exhibition presents works that are new or not shown. After periods of rapid transformation in the field of non-conceptualist forms, Svilen Stefanov turned to painting in the late 90's. He deliberately created a cold conceptual approach in which he used expressionist means in a secondary way. His methods are conceptual, and at the same time classically picturesque, as conceptualism is a way of thinking.
Ever since the 90s, this has been a different style, which has been developing in parallel with the conceptual strategies, and which is part of them. It is not a denial of conceptualism, but a continuation of it. The artist creates conceptual works by classical means, because conceptualism is a rational form of art, but the sensuality of the painting surface is reminiscent of its material nature and it is precisely this that is at the center of his artistic practice. In contemporary art, the goal is not to find something "great", but the way you interpret it.
Afterimage is not a new topic (see Andrzej Wajda's film of the same name) but it affects the artist's overall work. Residual images from existing or future paintings that remain in the visual memory as obscure images that are superimposed as filters, as shadows and reminiscences. This theme gives a cinematic layer while reading the image. There are no unambiguous things here and the interpretation of the picture depends on the viewer.
Stefanov is known for using conceptual strategies in painting, such as inserting text into an image, which is not a literary basis, but rather an idea. At first glance, large, colorful inscriptions that we perceive with a sense of humor ("The Spirit of the Chapel", "Wolves cross the Danube ice", "A vague lesson in geometric abstraction"), are in fact related to cinema, art history, music. The images linked to these texts are not an illustration to the text, but rather a synthesis between an image and a text with alternating dominance. In short - the texts do not explain the images, and the images are not an illustration of the texts. Everything is flown with irony and it is difficult to find a direct, concrete, unambiguous meaning. The hidden meanings can be read differently by each of us.
In Svilen Stefanov's paintings, the inverted perspective is the right point of view. Shifting the focus injects a surreal psychologism to inanimate objects. Watermelons and bananas become central objects, loaded with emotion and psychology. The tension in the staticity of the objects comes from the strong values of the color in the canvases. He builds up the image through rich imprints and velatures. Slowly, Svilen forms light tones, which are applied as transparent veils. The "blissful" effect of oil paint is missing. It is only in the inscriptions that we can find a definite and pasty application of the paint.
On a wide panoramic landscape we find various objects, part of something organized. Little people without faces are engaged in insane processions, funerals, gallows, welcoming aliens. Svilen Stefanov achieves absurdism in painting by shifting the emphasis of people on objects, raising the materiality in the basic sense, portraying objects - a large leek, two watermelons, bananas. His work is characterized by intelligence, sense of humor and any lack of pretense. He has the ability to shift important topics into profane ones and vice versa, but without underestimating them. Just with a smile.
Its characteristic elongated formats suggest horizontal development, and the composition of two objects suggests symmetry. Svilen Stefanov goes beyond the standard reflex of an academically educated artist to seek the golden ratio, a central axis or a composition of three objects. He is not afraid of mirror symmetry and slips between the tacts.
In "Afterimage" are conveyed the messages and images on which the author has been working in recent years, but in a refined, compressed version. This is a creative experiment, which again proves that Svilen Stefanov is one of the most successful painters in Bulgarian art at the moment.