Remembering Bulgarian art in “Artists talk” by Ivan Kanchev

An exhibition of works by Bulgarian “classical” sculptors and artists working with ceramics, wood, etc., is on at Sredets gallery until 28 November. The reason why this exposition was put together is a book – “Artists talk”, with subtitle “77 interviews about Bulgarian sculpture”. Its author is Ivan Kanchev.

Ivan Kanchev graduated ceramics from the National Art Academy, he has taken part in dozens of national and international art forums, and every year mounts a solo exhibition. He describes his latest book as an encyclopedia of Bulgarian sculpture in all of its forms. He presented his remarkable book on 7 November at the opening of the exhibition.

Ivan Kanchev (left) at the opening of the exhibition“I started “Artists talk” seven years ago,” says Ivan Kanchev. “I wanted to put together an exhibition of works by the artists presented in the book. I invited them to take part with one work each. I examine Bulgarian sculpture in a broader sense – not just the professional sculptors but also artists working with other materials like ceramics, wood, leather, metal, jewellery, glass, fabrics etc. The book begins roundabout the time of the liberation of Bulgaria with names like Boris Schatz, Kiril Shivarov, then come Ivan Funev, Marko Markov, Lyubomir Dalchev… It would be impossible to make mention of them all, but in the book I reach down to our times – with Emil Popov, Ivan Rusev, Georgi Chapkanov, Vezhdi Rashidov, famous names in contemporary sculpture. I have also included my conversations with some of Bulgaria’s top woodcarvers, ceramic artists, even painters who work with ceramics – one of them is Zahari Kamenov. I have always been guided by the principle that if you start something you must finish it – if you can’t finish off the building, don’t start constructing it. In 2011 I defended a thesis about Bulgarian ceramic sculpture in the period from 1896 to the mid-1950s. I did some co-normative research back then based on conversations with the artists. And I decided to follow up on it, to “finish off the building”.

In order to garner information about the sculptors who are not our contemporaries, Ivan Kanchev met with heirs of theirs. He says that he had to meet with some of them several times, or with several people at a time to be able to put together the “overall picture”. He travelled 5,000 kms. to different towns and villages, went to dozens of studios, conducted hundreds of interviews.

“The book really is an encyclopedia, it is an encyclopedia in dialogue form because it contains the biographies of the artists, conversations with them, illustrations. It simply swelled. I endeavoured to create an authentic document, to create memories. It was no easy job, but I am glad I undertook this kind of study. Because it is one thing to read books, and quite another to go and meet the artists in their own studios and hear their point of view. I can now say that I know the intricacies of the processes taking place in Bulgarian sculpture and this has given me a lot as an artist. The book can be of help to all kinds of people - school-goers and university students, PhD students and even lecturers. There is no other source where all of these facts are to be found, compiled in a connected “network” that provides the full context of the creative processes analyzed. I can safely say I now have a comprehensive, “on-site” view of Bulgarian sculpture. To be an artist one needs to have accumulated layers of knowledge, especially in these dynamic times of innumerable information sources.”

Photo: Albena Bezovska

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