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Current Exhibitions at The Meaford Artisans Hub
Paintings by Vanche: The Works of Ivan Papazov – Vanche
November 5th, 2017 – January 30th, 2018
Vanche is a classic example of an inspired artist for whom Inspiration acts out in various forms and springs from various sources.
Born in 1951 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, which is also a cultural center for the arts, Vanche grew up in a family of aristocratic descent whose spirit was confined and repressed during the constrictive communist regime. Yet, due to the family’s great appreciation for music and the arts, Vanche’s early artistic aspirations were nourished in an atmosphere of encouragement and love that helped him overcome the hardships of his childhood. Even during the most difficult post-war years in Eastern Europe, a time of starvation and repression, Vanche’s love for the arts survived, unhindered by the lack of paper and art materials. Irretrievable from his memory were those sacred moments when his father would go to the butcher and buy meat so that he could save the wrapping paper which Vanche used for drawing. Those and many other quality moments spent with his sister, parents, and friends in a country devastated by political and economic instability on one side, and culturally sustaining its strengths on the other, conditioned the growth of the young artist.
Vanche’s fascination with fine art drawing had, in fact, begun when he was only 4 years old, when his imagination was captivated by the authenticity of the North American native people, and had evolved from the drawings of military ships to the female figures he depicted during his teenage years. It was during his service in the army, though, when his keen interest in drawing, caricature, and portraiture, turned into what later unfolded as an intense, creatively oriented, life occupation.
Vanche received his zealous artistic training during a creative life-phase that can be summarized as The Bulgarian Art School and likened to the Spring etude of Vivaldi’s famous composition. Greatly influenced by the French Impressionists and the Russian classical art (mainly the works of Repin), as well as the works of Picasso, Modigliani, Pissarro, and Seurat, Vanche directed all his energies into acquiring the necessary skills and technique to express his own artistic vision. Led by his independent spirit, he developed a keen eye for the movement of the human body and Nature’s endless energy and motion, depicting them in his landscapes, seascapes, and figure paintings. In his early twenties, while studying under the tutorship of the Bulgarian masters Alexander Markov and Ivan Mateev, Vanche found himself inexplicably drawn to one of the most intricate subject matters in art: the sea, whose indignant splendor and opulence he succeeded to capture in a series of magnificent seascapes.
Vanche’s life testifies that inspiration often emerges during certain life-phases when the artist’s soul audaciously opens itself up to the unknown. The blending of the occasional poetry of chance and the internal search for fresh ideas and challenges, led to the second major period of Vanche’s art:
The Foreign Experience. In 1979, after years of applying for a visa to Canada to be able to visit his sister, Vanche finally had a chance to leave his native country and immigrate to Canada. While attending and teaching various art courses in the Ontario College of Art and George Brown College during 1980-1986, Vanche graduated with honors in graphic design. The paintings dating from that period (resembling the intensity of Vivaldi’s Summer) reflect his preoccupation with Nature’s beauty and its ever-changing form, light, and movement. In addition, his participation in several art competitions and exhibitions brought immediate acknowledgment of his talent. He wan several awards and commissions, including winning the First Prize for the cover of Time Magazine for the illustration of Sir John Gielgud (1985).
The years of Vanche’s travel to Europe and the subsequent exhibitions in Bostad, Sweden (1986), Paris, France (1987), and Rome, Italy (1994), were crucial for the revival of his artistic spirit. In 1983, he spent a year in Paris, the memories of which he would forever treasure. The accidental meeting with a French artist who was drawing portraits in the heart of Paris, on the hills of Montmartre, and who became his employer and friend, helped Vanche to earn an independent living by doing what he truly loved, and meanwhile, to enjoy the bohemian, yet simple life of an artist in Paris – a fate many aspiring artists could only dream about. That unforgettable year of living art and breathing poetry in the city which the French poet Jacques Prevert has immortalized in his famous poem “The Garden” (“A Paris / Sur la terre / La terre qui est un aster”), gave Vanche’s portrait and landscape art the romantic aura of spontaneity and added vibrant color and light to his paintings in general. The portraits in oil of Harry Rosen (the founder of Harry Rosen Menswear, Canada) and Jim Gaston (the President of Pricewater House Coopers), as well as the mural paintings he did for Loblaws and Fortinos Food Stores in Canada, brought Vanche the success he truly deserved.
Recent, and definitely not finalized, is Vanche’s Breakthrough Period. It started at the beginning of the New Millennium with a series of exhibitions in the art galleries of major Canadian cities and continues to surprise the artistic community with Vanche’s ‘autumnal’ virtuosity. Like Picasso, who perfected and exhausted his academic training to the extent of trying to clean the line to its utmost purity and returning to the innocent perception of a child, Vanche makes a breakthrough exit from the romantic world of his previous works. Enriched with the experience of experimenting with mixed media, he builds the sand-castle structure of a style that is both pervasive in its manifested presence and simultaneously transient and unstable:
- Vanche boldly transfers the graphic onto the big canvas, struggling with the difficulty to create brevity and spontaneity while working with oil on a rough surface – a difficulty that further intensifies the depiction of his artistic vision.
- Using sweeping strokes, and a technique, which his fans and disciples call the anti-pasto and the flowing rush-brush, he succeeds in evoking the 1 ½ minute figure pursuing his original vision with spontaneity and speed.
- Vanche softens the graphic’s white-and-black dichotomy with warm, pastel, mysterious colors that create internal glow and aid the overall mood of his works. After he has brought color to its most expressive peaks in his earlier works, the artist turns his glance towards the ‘internal light’ in objects and beings – their essential color; we may also call it the color of the soul, the color of one’s internal wealth, the color of inner peace and conflicts. This hidden sub-color that Vanche perceives often becomes the primary impulse and inspiration under whose imaginative invasion the figure take its shape as if by itself. His black-and-white figures of women reach that point where the delineations of the female body and the internal glow unify to call for a new “gaze” at the human body and women in general.
- Choosing unusual visual angles and emphasizing distortion, Vanche portrays the frailty and complexity of human emotion. Every deformation in his figures hints at hidden beauty. Hardly is any ugly or distorted image in his works left without the artist’s generous embrace and unfeigned consolation.
- In his recent experimentation with subject matter, Vanche digs deeper to reveal the stories of human bodies and still-life objects in their non-verbal expressiveness.
By introducing their darker dramatic encounter with today’s alienated and distorted world in series of still-life and figurative paintings, Vanche’s graceful brush wipes the tears away and consoles the unacceptable. This new humanizing touch in his portrayal of women and flowers reaches new depths that is still romantic, and yet, up-to-date grotesque and powerful.
Vanche’s intensely productive and experimental Breakthrough Period makes one wonder what new elements his innovative spirit may deliver and how that may affect areas of his art where it seems he has nothing more to offer. What else could the gushing fountain of this forceful creative period bring to light? Once we have viewed Vanche’s mastery in portraiture and figurative painting (which has reached the brilliance of his classical models of inspiration), as well as in the rest of his artworks, it will be a deception to think that he will remain satisfied with their perfect execution, now when more than ever he seems to be preoccupied with shattering familiar structures of anything he has perfected.