Icons as symbols
A Sofia exhibition presents priceless works by Bulgarian artists
9 February, 2018
There are few places in the world where the icon as a theme or symbol has had as strong an influence on the art of painting as in Bulgaria. Despite the vicissitudes of the country's history and national fate, the icon has remained a part of our lives - in sadness and joy, we pray and humble ourselves before it and this is something that was not lost on artists and their inquisitive nature.
These are the thoughts that the wonderful exhibition The Icon - Symbol and Image in Modern Bulgarian Art at the Sofia City Art Gallery inspires, BGNES reports. Priceless artworks by Bulgarian masters of the brush and the quill from different generations have been arranged in the gallery's space - from Ivan Milev, Ivan Mrkvicka, Georgi Mashev, Georgi Danchev, Pencho Georgiev and Ivan Penkov to Tsanko Lavrenov, Zlatyu Boyadzhiev, Dechko Uzunov, Ilia Beshkov, Liko Yanko, Gancho Karabadzhakov, Doncho Valchev, Atanas Patsev, etc.
For centuries, from the Middle Ages to the National Revival the icon has taken a central place in what painters in Bulgarian lands have produced. The word icon is of Greek origin and literally means “image”. In the early days of Christian art the term was used to denote any depiction of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, a saint or celestial powers. People placed great importance on the icon during the medieval period. With the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule and the evolution of Bulgarian art, new topics, ideas and visualisation solutions occupied the imagination of Bulgarian artists. The century-old tradition of the religious aspect's dominance in the Middle Ages was interrupted and the secular aspect assumed prominent position. However, the icon never disappeared from art and continued to be featured in the secular pieces as a symbol and an image. Marking the sacred space of a church's interior, it gradually became a source of visualisation solutions and was infused into a new type of imagery. It is also a finishing touch on the credibility of historical compositions and is a mediator in a spiritual dimension.
The exhibition in the Sofia City Art Gallery is a masterfully executed vision of the organisers because it shines the spotlight on age-old Bulgarian symbols such as the icon, the Orthodox church, faith, and the resilient Bulgarian spirit that shaped the qualities Bulgarians relied on to survive and come out with dignity on the other side of dramatic periods in their history.