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Bulgarian iconographer Dian Kostov provides a heart-touching ‎experience in Votivekirche Cathedral in Vienna

The Labyrinth Exhibition in the Austrian capital has been ‎prolonged due to great interest

Photo: Team of Dian Kostov

Until June 4, visitors to the Viennese Votivkirche cathedral will be ‎able to pass through the labyrinth built by the Bulgarian artist and ‎icon painter Dian Kostov and look for answers to existential ‎questions about the path, meaning and salvation through trust in ‎God. Because of the great interest, the parish priest Joseph Farrugia ‎extended the exhibition by a week, which with the help of huge ‎canvases, icons, frescoes and posters transforms one of the most ‎beautiful spiritual centers in the heart of Europe.‎

‎"The Crossroads: The Price of Choice" is included in the ‎program of the Votivkirche for the Long Night of the Churches, ‎which will be held on June 2. Thus, the cathedral, considered the ‎home of foreign-speaking Christians from all over the world, will ‎leave its doors open for the faithful who have come through the ‎creation of the hand of the humble creator to find hope in our fateful ‎times. "People tell us that the exhibition touched their hearts. ‎According to them, what they saw is not just icon painting, but an ‎experience with a philosophical message”, says its author.‎

Already at the entrance, people find themselves at a roundabout and ‎can take different paths. One of them is a 40-meter highway, above ‎which signs are placed with the messages of society - to become ‎more and more prosperous, not to grow old, to be healthy. This part ‎of the exhibition symbolizes the possibilities and temptations along ‎the way, our pursuit of possession and consumerism.‎

‎"After the highway, people reach a mirror room,” says Diyan Kostov ‎to Radio Bulgaria. “Above them, at a height of four meters, is placed a ‎crown of thorns with a diameter of two meters, and below is the ‎mirror surface in which they can see themselves. And though the ‎crown of thorns stands above their heads, they are actually in it. On ‎other mirror surfaces, the ten commandments of God are written."‎

The main part of the exhibition is located in the central nave of the ‎second largest church in Vienna, where the eleven-meter image of ‎Jesus Christ rises. There one can also see 72 icons, mural posters and ‎drawings, and above all of them birds are flying, creating the illusion ‎that they are flying.‎

‎"Not far from the Votivkirche cathedral is the university and many ‎young people come here", the icon painter continues his story. ‎ “And ‎they shared that, in their eyes, the exhibition represents a modern ‎reading of religious art, that they feel close to it and that it somehow ‎brings them back to faith, to the church, to this kind of creativity, ‎which towards the end of the 19 century covered about 95% of ‎what was created on a global scale, and today it is only three to four ‎percent. In fact, with my wife Milena ‎Tashkova (we built the concept ‎with her), this is exactly what we wanted ‎‎– to create contemporary ‎works which move people and are understandable to them.”‎

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Dian Kostov painted ‎the Holy Virgin - Protectress icon, which he donated to the doctors at ‎the Pirogov emergency hospital in Sofia as a sign of adoration for their work. ‎A year later, he placed the installation "Life is stronger" on the silos ‎of the Sofia-Vidin international road to express the hope that if we ‎are together, life will win.‎

The icon painter experienced his first religious thrill as a child, ‎looking at the icon of the Holy Virgin in his grandmother's room. ‎‎"From a young age, I had an affinity for faith. I bought my first ‎Gospel from an antique shop during the Communist regime," he ‎recalls.‎

‎"In the studio of my teacher - the great artist Anastas Konstantinov, ‎there was an inscription on one of the walls written with charcoal ‎‎"By their fruits you shall know them". I was in the fourth or fifth ‎grade then and I didn't really understand what that meant, but he ‎explained to me that it was a quote from the Gospel. The teacher also ‎told me another interesting thing: "It's the same with artists. ‎Make it ‎so that one day you will be recognizable”. These words remained in ‎my head even as a young pupil and I try to follow them to this day”.‎

Photos: Team of Dian Kostov

Translated and published by Rositsa Petkova

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