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XXL Crew of rebel artists present new exhibition after 20-year pause

In 1995, a group of young artists declared their presence in cultural life with a manifesto in which they broke away with tradition and took the initiative of creating new Bulgarian art. They showcased their innovative ideas in two exhibitions in the 1990s. Twenty years later, under the name "XXL", the artists reunite to trace the imprint of time in their paintings. The exhibition "New Bulgarian Painting III" is located in Oborishte 5 Gallery and Hall in Sofia and will continue until March 3.


"It was important to distinguish ourselves from the so-called Bulgarian avant-garde, who were not adequate to the time and their works had too playful and decorative character,” artist Ivan Kyuranov says. “In the 1990s, painting seemed stagnant and denied as a medium because it was exploited for too long and with the exhibition ‘New Bulgarian Painting 1’, which took place in 1996 on the idea of Houben Tcherkelov, we wanted to show that painting can be conceptualized and used as a modern means of expression. All these years, we have been practically participating in the rehabilitation of painting."

In the mid-1990s, the new Bulgarian artists focused on social topics, using modern means of expression such as video, installations, photography. Interesting works that are very different than those of the previous generation of artists were born.
Artist Petko Durmana compares the then "overthrow" of painting to Francis Fukuyama's “The End of History.” According to the American sociologist, liberal democracy and the free market were the endpoint of the socio-cultural evolution of humanity. "A quarter of a century later, however, we're back to the Cold War and painting is the most powerful and important medium," he adds. After years of exploring technology and new media, today Petko Durmana defines his works as "post-technological painting". He presents square-shaped paintings "because they're Instagram friendly."

 "In fact, these are two paintings as one is on top of the other and the bottom one can only be seen with technological means," he says. “In the whole ‘undercover’ series, I create a realistic foundation that is somewhat similar to socialist realism, while on top I place poster messages about the actual reality. That is how in ‘Tsar Bomba’ you see Vladimir Putin’s depicted on a bomb and his crown is its stabilizer, while Stalin is painted below. The picture "Hey, Iran", on the other hand, shows the Mickey Mouse badge worn during the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Tehran and underneath is Donald Trump, who has restarted confrontation with Iran. The idea is that history repeats itself, and I place the tragedy as a foundation and the farce is above.”

Although they have taken their own paths and developed their art differently, all artists of the XXL group remain true to the contemporary approach to painting. This is evident in their works, saturated with pop-art elements, conceptual practices, and blending photography and painting. Despite created with different techniques and styles, the works easily interact with each other.

Еnglish version: Alexander Markov

Photos: Diana Tsankova

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