Reviews

Ruzha Marinska: The living senses of Vesko Velev

When I first saw his works some thirty years ago, I was captivated by their pristine creative impulse. Since then, Vesko’s presence in the artistic life has been unobtrusive, yet unfailing.

With his paintings Vesko Velev reveals our lands, but not by learned prescriptions, neither by juggling with our homeland decorative attributes. He simply is here and reacts on-the-spot to everything around with his humanized senses. His touch does not state textures but invokes thoughts and sounds. The paints – now bright, now flickering out in monochromacy – lead off to poetic orbits. The images grasp the song of the bicycles. It is not the shapes of the grass and the fruits that drags the artist, but rather their natural sweetness. In this absolutely sensual perspective, the animated flesh speaks out. In fact, this is the most fragile, the most vulnerable position for an artist. How can you make sure that out there you will meet a receptive and responding soul?

The most recent works of the artist collected in this exhibition take me back to those first impressions. Because he has not departed from his style.

He brings so much joy into my life. In a world where it seems that the feeling has desolately lost its value, his art raises hope. To the sophisticated concepts that merely conceal the lack of creative power he counteracts with an immediate and simple devotion to nature, an ecstatic joy of the birds, the flowers, the poetry, the insights of thought, the living memory coded in old age.

I have always thought that our homeland is a mine of artists particularly because of this particular  sensuousness. Vesko Velev is essentially a warm artist. The heavy bunches of grapes, the tufty rustic flowers, the shades they cast on the walls – he possess the eye and the soul to transcend beyond  physical dimensions. Such extrasensory perception allows him to see through the ancient frescoes, the painted carts, the stone walls and the fences, and to decipher emotions from the past as an exhalation of a life from here and from beyond.

In this light I interpret also the sacred images that run through his paintings as mirages. The are like disembodied shadows, yet important and ineffaceable signs from our life. Alien to canonic iconography, they lead us modestly into an alter-life and remind us for the boundless, infinite reach of man.

Fortunately, his imagery, towering above the objective and the material, has not cut the umbilical cord with the surrounding world. The impact of his painting is precisely in this enchanting borderline. His geometrics are far enough off the cold sharp lines, and the outlines and pulsation of its colour spots revive it into a vibrant one, evoking memories and aspirations.

In the general stream of his artwork Vesko Velev is close to a number of other artists of his generation – a strong generation in Bulgarian art untainted by the old dogmatics or the struggles against it. Led by their own discoveries – even though they have long been known – this generation follows the artistic path not like epigones but rather with enthusiasm and inspiration. Vesko Velev is perhaps among the most spontaneous and unpredictably intuitive of them.

How can we recognize him if we cannot identify his signature immediately – the calligraphic double “V” alluding to the Far East? His brush is flying. It seems as if a real angel has flitted away leaving a mark on the canvas or on the board with its wings. He does not insist or force the preconceived image to be sealed. This is why his shapes float, play, sink and reappear. The captivating power of his works comes exactly from this moving magic. He does not aestheticize deliberately at that, neither does he admire the result. He simply breathes through these flickers of excitement generated in a flash out of nowhere.

This is how the world of Vesko Velev swarms. His works are large and small, with oil or watercolour paints, either in the tonal notes of the land that seemingly brings everything to life, or in blazing colour, or in white. I love the whiteness of Vesko’s white paintings. They feel like a direct take-off to divinity.

Lately, just like some of his peers, Vesko Velev rushed into plastic arts to get the feeling of what and how it is like to blend land and fire in the creating process. I am looking forward to seeing these works, too.

Vesko Velev lives in his mansion in Dalboki Dol. Secluded among the fascinating landscape clad in greenery and century-old houses, he listens to within himself. In a world where all mainstays of mankind waver, where our mind is mercilessly bombarded with terror and nightmares, he has found a harbour, a lovely setting for a home of his heavenly realms amid the music of nature. This is a choice revealing both courage and wisdom. And great goodness. What I value highly in him is exactly this.

Whether Vesko Velev is lyrically or philosophically inclined – not clearly either of the two. We are helpless to talk about his plastic metaphors. Ghostly, otherworldly visions, his images are captured by a local, mundane touch. In silent acquiescence, they speak of grief and joy, contemplation and anxiety.

The paintings of Vesko Velev may produce the impression to be even careless if looked through a perfunctory and inobservant eye. A very shallow impression this must be. Indeed, his paintings make one face the challenges of the instantaneous. Aren’t we given the chance to feel and reconsider the lasting value of this fleeting moment?

Ruzha Marinska, Assoc. Prof.
On the occasion of opening the exhibition of Vesko Velev
STUBEL Gallery, Sofia 2016