Tag Archives: painting

You are Being Abducted!


Imagine that you live in paradise – blue skies, azure waters, silky air and mojitos.  God’s own residence is just across the canal from you, so to speak. You can see him often sitting alone on his porch, staring at the distance.

If you are trying to be an artist in a place like this, you can choose to paint the world around you, of course – sunsets, coconuts, beautiful people. Or you can choose to look at it from a Heavenly vantage point – through the eyes of its creator.

The paintings in the Abduction series have been conceived as a  journey to a different dimension from where the world is seen like an entanglement of anthropomorphic or manmade shapes floating aimlessly in the void, where the time to move the eye from one frame to the next can be the difference between being and not being.

It is concerned with the idea that while humanity is absorbed in political, material and interpersonal squabbles, the planet is coming perilously close to the limit of its resources. That we, with all our possessions, ambitions, passions and complications, are nothing more than a grain of dust, a blink in god’s eye. It is an appeal to shift from our small minded point of view and re-define our values from a cosmic perspective.

My work is influenced by a tradition of expressive figurative painting starting from Michelangelo, to Caravaggio, Gericault and Lucien Freud.  I am seeking to create images which are imposing, imperative, even aggressive – this is not an invitation to quiet contemplation, but abduction to a place where the only option is to face reality, the point in space and time, where we cannot look the other way, as there is no other way to look.

The piece that you see here is titled Kingdom Come and reflects two moments in time, which for the human race may be separated by centuries, but are just a blink in God’s eye.

If you see something else, please let me know – there is no right or wrong here.

Excited like a school girl!

My first participation in Miami with my new gallery Curator’s Voice Art  Projects opens next Saturday – March 8th. On April 5th I will have my very own Artist Talk there too.

CVAP is a gallery in the heart of Wynwood, Miami’s main art district, managed by Dr. Milagros Bello, a distinguished curator, educator and art critic. Having the endorsement of someone of her stature is more than I had ever hoped for.  I will be showing work from my new Abduction series, which is ongoing and never exhibited before. You can have a glimpse here with more to come in my future blog posts, when I will talk about the concept behind Abduction and each piece individually.

My Mama has told me not to brag, but this time I will make and exception 😉


Agony on the Wall


Equally dreaded by those who live in big cities and have to experience it daily and by the others, who are not so used to it and have to face it once in a while. I have spent years in traffic and as much as I have tried to make that time useful by audio books and  language drills, I consider the time spent in traffic not part of living, but part of being dead.

It was only after I left the traffic hell of Dubai and moved to a smaller city that I thought of painting it.  I don’t know why I got the idea. In retrospective, I think I needed to paint it to release years of compressed frustration. Here is the resulting piece. You can click on it for larger image.


Traffic, acrylic on canvas, 110 x 90 cm

It is intense, claustrophobic, and crammed. It simmers with heat, fumes and faceless rage under the surface. The only reminder that there is a sky somewhere above comes from the violent sun which spits heat over the river of cars. You can almost hear the subdued roar of thousands of engines and feel the smell of hot metal and burning tires. Clenched fists on steering wheels, sweaty car seats.

Traffic is one of the most  sought after paintings I have done so far.

Now, the interesting part: it was bought by a friend of mine, who is on the worst possible side of the traffic hell – she lives in a satellite city of Dubai and for years – maybe 20 or more,  has been commuting on the most jammed highway imaginable, 90% of the time under scorching sun. Why would she, of all people, would want to have Traffic on her wall at home? I have never asked her, maybe I should.

Which leads me to the question – what are our motivations when choosing the images that define our personal space? The usual answers are: it is beautiful, it sets me in a certain mood, it reminds me of something – usually pleasant. When people feel something about a painting, but cannot express it, they would say ‘I like the colours’ – and this is a good sign. Better than ‘it will match my sofa’ anyway.

There are other obvious motivations, though rarely declared, like ‘it demonstrates my wealth, social position, good taste’, but these are not within the scope of my interest.

The mantra of the Western mindset today is ‘be positive’, no matter what. Then why do we voluntarily display images associated with unpleasant experiences, loneliness, melancholy, even suffering, in our personal space? I am not talking about museum type of art here, which is a different story.

I don’t have an answer, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Miss A.K. vs Miss P.E.

I have drawn and painted my daughter many times. The portrait, which I am writing about today is an obvious nod to Vermeer’s Girl with A Pearl Earring, but the artist is (a lot) different, the girl is different and the year it was painted is 2011. Here they are:

Most people interested in art, and those who have seen the movie with the same title, have Vermeer’s painting in their memory. When I was setting up my portrait, I was not looking at it. I went on arranging my daughter following my feeling about her face, colours and character, keeping The Girl with the Pearl Earring in my mind’s eye. So my piece is not an interpretation of Vermeer, it is a portrait styled after his.

Dear reader, comparing the two, and in the blogosphere at that, requires a good deal of courage on my part. I’ve been collecting it since 2011. Of course my painting is nowhere near Vermeer’s masterpiece in terms of artistic merit though it has a fair deal of character. The objective of the exercise is rather to put next to each other two young women, 500 years apart in time, of completely different backgrounds and mindsets and painted by two artists of quite different mindsets too.

A  couple of  things to consider:

1.The Girl with the Pearl Earring was not intended as a portrait but a stock character in costume,  or a tronie in art history terms. Mine IS a portrait of my daughter Anna, and this is an essential difference.

2. Both girls were dressed up – in this case turbaned-up. In other words, both young women were taken out of their usual  ‘state of head’ (pun intended) which brings them a tiny bit closer.

3. To paint this picture Vermeer was most probably using camera obscura  – which produces  a projection of the model on the canvas. I used a photograph to draw from – it is harder than tracing a projection but doesn’t make Vermeer any less of an artist and me any more of one.

So, what do you think  Miss Anna Kaleva and Miss Pearl Earring might have had in common if they were contemporaries? Would they be BFF or BFE (BestFrenEmies)?

Do You Remember?

Today I want to tell you about a piece, inspired by a poem by Debelyanov, one of Bulgaria’s finest symbolists. Debelyanov lived a humble and not very happy life at the beginning of the last century and was killed in the First World War at the age of 39. His work was published after his death in two volumes, which are considered a classic and are part of the high school curriculum in Bulgaria.

Here is the place to say, that symbolist poetry is not for teenagers. At the time, I was wondering what on earth is all this melancholic, repetitive stuff about. Now I appreciate the foresightedness of the educator – I had to know about Debelyanov in order to discover him at a considerably later age than the one he died at. And 100 years after he lived. Hmmm, here is some material for thought …

The painting as well as the poem is titled Do You Remember. The title might suggest that it is about memories, but if you dig deeper you will discover that it is about lost innocence, the irreversible passage of time and a lot more.

Debelyanov’s poetry does not narrate but suggests deep and complex emotions impossible to name in simple words. It is this journey in the twilight zone of memory dissolving into subconsciousness that Debelyanov drew me in and which resulted in my piece.

If you want to know the very words of the poem, a (somewhat literal, non-rhymed) translation follows. It takes a poet to translate another poet and although I have had a go at translating poetry (from Arabic at that), at present I am trying to be an artist. So the musicality and the poetic merit of Debelyanov’s verse will be lost for my non Bulgarian readers. To read it in Bulgarian, click here.

Since my painting is not meant as illustration of the poem but a contemplation inspired by it, I am showing it first. You can click on the image to enlarge.

Do You Remember

Do You Remember

And now the poem:

Do you remember? Do you remember  the quiet garden,

the quiet home amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken in my prison those distant sorrows and forlorn memories.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

Do you remember? Do you remember in the quiet garden,

Whispers and laughter amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken the sprightly choir,

the  choir of angels from the days of the past.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

It must have been a dream … that quiet home,

They must have been a dream … the white cherry blossoms.

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