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Alzek Misheff "flew" over the Iron Curtain to win a place among the world avant-garde

The artist presents a retrospective exhibition at the Palace in central Sofia

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Photo: Facebook /Istituto Italiano di Cultura Sofia

Overcoming vast spaces of air and water through their materialization in art - the painter and visual artist Alzek Misheff puts the freedom of self-knowledge and self-disclosure on the altar because it was denied to him in his homeland. For his 80th anniversary, he "arrives with his works" and leads us on the path of paintings, themes, projects in the large retrospective exhibition "Acqui-Milan-Sofia”, located in 13 halls of the National Art Gallery “The Palace”.


As a child, Alzek would listen enchanted to his grandmother's stories about her father, the icon painter Ivan Zograf from Kocherinovo, and began painting early. Years later, the Dupnitsa-born Alzek Misheff would return to his hometown to show his skills as an artist who had graduated at the Academy. But the communist government did not particularly like his modernist paintings, which is why his exhibition was suspended and militia activists damaged some of the canvases. In the same year, 1971, the thirty-one-year-old Alzek managed to sneak across the heavily guarded borders between two radically different worlds and reach Milan.


"I started my life from scratch, realizing that my radical abstractionism is out of fashion and now the focus was on the conceptual aspect," he told Radio Bulgaria. “In fact, my career started in Graz, where I was invited to a biennial on "Identity". And there, in the company of Italian, Yugoslav and Austrian artists, I built a simple flying machine with fins and wings to illustrate how I escaped from Bulgaria. So I started telling semi-humorous stories, doing something literally paradoxical – making fun of myself, not making fun of others. Gradually, my physiognomy emerged as that of a pilot with the necessary means at hand, then as a swimmer, and so on, and my works started to fascinate international audiences, wrongly perceiving me as a conceptual artist.”

Alzek Misheff impressed the artistic world with his performances. In "Swimming the Atlantic Ocean" - after three years of work and 12 exhibitions between Milan and New York, he self-ironically demonstrates his skills as a swimmer in the pool onboard the ship "Queen Elizabeth 2" and enters the role of a goldfish in an aquarium, leaving himself to be carried in a small container of water. And through his campaign "500 young faces" he exhibits in the urban environment of Milan, Rome, Turin, Bologna and Florence large portraits painted after photographs and thus creates a kind of social network.


In 1976 the name of the Bulgarian appeared in the book of the Italian art critic Achille Bonito Oliva "Europe/America: The different Avant-Gardes", presenting the most influential 30 European and 30 American artists. It includes another Bulgarian name - that of Christo. As fate has willed, today the two artists simultaneously attract the attention of the Bulgarian audience with the best of their work in parallel exhibitions in Sofia.

"We have something in common and that is that we are brothers by fate, we are both fugitives," says Alzek Misheff. “Fugitives from the socialist realism, but we are extremely apart in the results of our actions. While Christo remains at the heart of modern art and conceptualism and his works are sculptural projects, mine are paintings and memories of things made some time ago. He was an extremely warm man - warm-hearted, sincere and his humanity disarmed the doubts he sometimes aroused with his huge projects."


Although he sometimes takes his art out of his studio to open spaces, Alzek Misheff says that painting remains his guiding passion.

"My things are above all an independent form of painting, which must be distinguished by the similarity with the plot, the persuasiveness, the emotion, if there is one in the viewers, so that they can find themselves”, Alzek Misheff explains. "Because what the artist does is what all people have, but only the most virtuoso artists can recreate it objectively."

The works of Alzek Misheff, representing his creative flying, can be seen in the Palace National Art Gallery downtown Sofia until November 21, 2021.

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: Facebook /Istituto Italiano di Cultura Sofia и nationalgallery.bg

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