Author: Nadezhda Tzvetkova
On the eve of the 14th of February, I’m talking to the artist Vassil Petrov in his studio over a glass of wine, surrounded by paintings, which he is preparing especially for his upcoming exhibition at Art Gallery Vazrazdane in the Old Town of Plovdiv.
The man Vassil Petrov is a cocktail of seriousness, garnished with a childlike smile; depth mixed with a touch of playfulness and a fresh sense of humor. The artist Vassil Petrov is eternally thirsty for the enlightened, the inconceivable, the mystical, the significant, the impermanent, the universal. He never paints anything by accident. In his new works of art he remains true to his creative creed, authorial stylization, influential symbolism and multi-layered plots. His painting style stands out with poetry and philosophical messages; it is a personal confession of the rebellious and searching spirit, defending knowledge, freedom and love as intrinsic human values. His artistic world abounds in original metaphors and organic interpretations of mythical images, making him one of the most authentic and interesting contemporary Bulgarian artists.
He likes to paint the forces of nature, horses, the ocean. It is as if in his storms the mythological is snatched from chaos in order to sing and become a polyphonic harmony. For him, this is the very embodiment of freedom, the vortex knows no rules. However, in order to feel and understand one's personal freedom, one must have adjustments - morality, love, responsibility. Otherwise, freedom is devalued, it costs nothing.
He is suckled on history and mythology. They become an integral part of his work. Born and raised on ancient land, once home to ancient civilizations, he is deeply connected to the Thracian culture. In recent years he has extensively studied and often painted Orpheus - the legendary musician, poet, argonaut and prophet. However, his curiosity about the subject was first provoked by a famous Italian art critic, who invited him to showcase his first exhibition in Italy, "in the last millennium, when we traveled with visas, but we did not know COVID-19," said Vassil. In his speech on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition of the Bulgarian artist, the Italian critic developed a very interesting ideological argument and meaningful message. Vassil is a man and an artist who comes from the land of Orpheus and Orpheus has given so much to the world. The parallel excites my interlocutor but he realizes that he knows almost nothing about the mythical hero. "We used to hear a lot about Orpheus, there was the Golden Orpheus music festival, there were restaurants with that name, but we knew almost nothing about him, except that he resounded with his wonderful songs the Rhodope Mountains."
Who is Orpheus, whose name for more than three millennia to this day inspires artistic impulses and fuels academic controversy? He was a versatile person, an unearthly talented musician who tamed wild beasts with his golden lyre, and a gentle poet who composed and sang some of the most beautiful love poems. Orpheus took part in the voyage of the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece and with his magical voice drowned out the enchanting songs of the sirens, which sought to lure the adventurers to their death.
We have all heard one of the most tragic love stories in the world. Legend has it that shortly after the wedding, Orpheus lost his beloved nymph Eurydice after being bitten by a viper. Overwhelmed with grief, the hero sang so heartbreaking that he touched the rulers of the underworld Hades and Persephone, who allowed him to bring his beloved to the world of living. However, Orpheus did not comply with the condition not to look back to glimpse Eurydice, and she was again lost in the world of shadows.
However, the image of Orpheus is not limited to familiar parables. Vassil is interested in the mystical nature of Thracian Orphism, whose core is the knowledge of the immortality of the soul and the constant cycle of life. One of the most impressive paintings in his new exhibition is inspired by an ancient amulet, an engraved hematite - mysteriously lost from the Pergamon Collection at the Berlin Museum during World War II with a crucified man and the inscription "OΡΦEOC BAKKIKOC" (Orpheus, Bacchus). I ask him about the obvious parallel between Thracian Orphism and Christianity, Orpheus as the archetype of Jesus Christ and the heated scientific debates on the subject. Of course he is familiar with the matter, but he does not want to delve into theological discussions. He prefers to present his artistic interpretation. According to Vassil, the painter seeks depth in the topics he chooses, and the plots are usually dramatic. "Because life itself ends in death, and that's embedded in the art," he smiles. But despite the tragedy, love is the link between all religions, known to mankind. This is the foundation on which the spiral of our knowledge has been constructed during the ages. Vassil claims that this is how the man is built – in pursuit of depth and to find common ground. And although we often repeat our mistakes, hope and faith are the guiding forces on the path of our spiritual development. He hopes that perhaps, after a thousand years of searching, we will know the formula for the meaning of human existence. However, I am convinced that he has already painted it!
Before leaving, he gives me a bottle of wine from his friend's cellar with a label of the same name of Vassil’s painting, titled “Elevation”. I am paraphrasing Charles Baudelaire, who argues that the most important thing for a person is to always be drunk, whether on wine, love or art. He agrees. He jokes that the opening of his exhibition is immediately after Trifon Zarezan and Valentine's Day. On the 14th of February there will be a big celebration; everyone will find an occasion to treat themselves and have a drink. The result will be an effect, also known as a hangover, so the next day is very suitable for visiting an exhibition in the late afternoon. You are welcome to come and celebrate the holiday of Vassil Petrov as well!
Vazrazdane Gallery invites you to the official opening on the 15th of February, 2022, Tuesday, at 18:00. The exhibition will be open for visitors until 7th of March, 2022. The works of art can be viewed virtually, on the website HERE and on the Facebook page of the gallery HERE.
Photographer: Stoyan Navushtanov