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Yanko Yanev – painter who leads us on a journey to the beauties of Bulgaria

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Photo: Personal archive

"The Beauty of Bulgaria" - this is the name of a series of paintings by Bulgarian artist Yanko Yanev which have earned him the love of the public. In them everyone can find their favourite place in this beautiful country. Here are the old-time square with the clock tower in Tryavna, the Russian church in the centre of Sofia, the palace in Balchik, the mountains, the old houses with beautiful yards… His paintings create a sense of harmony, tranquillity and enjoyment of the world around us. Over the years, the artist has started to use warmer and brighter colours and he says this has been influenced by his spiritual practices. But what is more inspiring for an artist - sadness or happiness?


"One does not grow up with happy thoughts only. Life is not a candy. Catharsis requires a journey of self-esteem, sadness, remorse… I think the two complement each other. But in the end we need to stay positive", the painter says.

Art entered Yanko Yanev’s life unnoticeably "I don't remember when I started painting," he says. However, it became a permanent part of his life and showed him his professional path. Yanev finished his education in the period when socialism was starting to give way to democratic changes - in 1988. "In fact, we graduated from university unemployed. Things were quite uncertain and soon after that the changes started," he recalls. During that time the painter discovered new possibilities. He created a company and together with his paintings, he started selling reproductions that were more accessible to a wider audience. A publishing house invited him to make the first calendar with paintings by a young artist. “Before that such calendars were published by famous artists, who often remained misunderstood,” Yanev says. This calendar marked the beginning of the cycle "Beauty of Bulgaria".

The Palace in Balchik

In addition to the hard work on the calendars Yanko Yanev also worked on their distribution on the market. But is it possible to earn a living with art in Bulgaria? "It's a very difficult task to make a living of doing pure art. But I think it has always been the same,” the artist says. He adds that if an artist with an open mind had successful business ideas, they could achieve very good results.


But let's get back to art. What are the most difficult stages in creating a painting? The beginning and the end, the artist says and adds:

“The very idea, the combination of some concreteness with what you want to express in a painting, is always complicated. Then everything goes its own way. The painting itself starts guiding you. The final moment is also difficult – it is knowing when to stop.”


Yanko Yanev uses oil paints and watercolours on his canvases, but it seems the scales lean towards oil:

“Watercolor technique is quite difficult and I can't say that it could express everything. In addition, buyers consider oil painting to be more serious, and its dimensions can be significantly larger. I've always loved both techniques, but it seems that oil gave me more opportunities both in terms of expression and format.”

Yanko Yanev’s style is multifaceted and even unexpected - the change of the viewing angle gives new opportunities for perception of the world around us.


“People know me from my more popular projects - cards, calendars and reproductions, which are quite realistic, but there are also some that are surreal or created in the style of magical realism. But I also do a lot of abstract works. I think that one should not limit themselves to one or two styles,” Yanko Yanev says in an interview with Radio Bulgaria.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: courtesy of Yanko Yanev

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