Stoimen Stoilov – Courier of Civilizations

There is no easy path to success

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There is no unbounded path to perfection. The life of Stoimen Stoilov – both personal and creative – is another confirmation of these eminent maxims. God supports his talented hand, but gives him the trials as well as all his beloved beings.

The artist was born in Varna. In the very heart of the seaside town, in the alley behind the current municipality. His father was a naval officer, and he was sleeping his infant son with stories about the winds, storms and the magic of the great water called sea. Then, in the boy’s dreams, a great, prehistoric fish swam from the horizon and carried legends and tales of distant times on its back. Later, she will become an unchangeable character and synonym for the artist’s work. With the kids from the neighborhood, Stoimen often ran to the port, where the impressive, large ships were moored. But to get there, it goes through a magical place. Near the bay of the bay is the ancient Greek neighborhood, which was announced in the morning by the bells of the church “St. Atanasii “. Their echoes go round the bay and subsides in the ruins of the Roman Baths. Excavations from the ancient Odessos are surreal, emerging as underground and reminiscent of massive debris matter and culture from distant ages and civilizations. The little boy walked through the tunnels and passages, drenched with moisture and legends, and it left lasting scars in his soul. After painting, his story became a preferred subject in school. One day he will become a favorite of the story itself and it will make him a courier of the civilizations on the coast of Varna. Besides the ruins and excavations, he loved to spend hours in the garden next to the clock tower, where improvised ring was held fighting and boxing matches. A romantic echo of gladiatorial battles in ancient Odessos. Accidentally or not, but as a teenager, then as a student, Stoimen Stoilov becomes a wonderful boxer. After the classes at the Art Academy Atelier he runs to the Academic Hall in Sofia. What anthony paradox! The hand, which carries fine lines, also carries heavy blows. But Stoimen’s masculine start is strong, and the Gladiator spirit becomes an essential feature of his character. It is an indispensable part of the artist’s nobility. Because the “ring” has both wins and defeats.

The phenomenon “Vulcan”

After a long professional education related to the Sofia Art School and the Academy of Arts, in the early 70’s Stoimen returned to his native Varna. In the next few years, the Vulcan phenomenon appears in the cultural life not only of the city but also of the country. In the old, non-working factory bearing this name, artists of improvised early works are being created. Very soon Vulcan becomes synonymous with a rich artistic environment of innovative and bohemian spirit, and the names of many of the artists who live in the factory are quickly and convincingly imposing on the Bulgarian plastic arts, which at that time evolve quite freely and have bright authors and models. The small Bulgarian analogue of the legendary Parisian “La Riesch” / beehive has emerged since the beginning of the last century. At the head of this “volcanic” artistic community is Stoimen Stoilov. And today everyone agrees that with his qualities of a unifying figure, and above all with his talent, he, supported by his colleagues, builds and reaffirms in society the image of something unknown and extremely content in its essence as a phenomenon. And the birth and development of the emblematic Varna graphic school can be regarded as a very expected result of the inexplicably ambiguous atmosphere and environment that has catalyzed the talented manifestations of at least a dozen artists of Christ’s age. “Vulcan” speaks more and more not only in Bulgaria, but also far beyond its borders, and the volcanoes are singing exhibitions and winning awards around the world. The diplomatic and wise in his behavior Stoilov finds the formula for dialogue with the city leadership in order for the guild to be assisted.

Varna International Graphic Biennale

This is the new building step with a high artistic and cultural value – the creation of the Varna International Graphic Biennale in 1981. It is again the result of the high authority that the Stoimen Stoilov chart already has in the world, as well as its organizational qualities. As the Director of the Biennale, the artist attracts world names. Despite the trips over the years, the International Graphic Biennale is an integral part of the cultural business card of Varna even today.

In the 80s, the artist Stoimen Stoilov affirmed the aesthetic and ideoplastic formula of his work. The great themes that matter to him relate to the history of the Thracians and ancient mythology, to the cosmogony of the Bogomils. Stoilov creates a cycle “People and Animals”, in which the pagan commitment of man to the animal and the ritualistic gifts are derived from sacred dramaticness. Metamorphoses give birth to man-fish, beast-man, bird-man … Graphic sheets and large pastels are filled with “Stoilovsky” archetypes, stagnant in their static and spirited poses and bearing symbolic demonicity, pagan “dialogues” , emitting prehistoric primacy, with metaphysical scenes saturated with mysterious mysticism. The author himself names some of his works as “absurd dramas.” The artist, most recently metaphorically, began to use the allegory as a language for communicating more things. The absence of frankly Christian symbols and the dualistic struggle of good and evil (God and Satan) carry apocrypha of Stoilov’s speech, so characteristic of Bogomil. In all of his further work, the artist will encroach in his works unobtrusive moral messages. Back in the 1980s, with his face turned to mythology, he created a Pandora graphic cycle, precisely looking for the reasons for that innocently open box in which the evil is closed. Later on, at the two millenniums, he will bring a huge oil painting to the United States on the same theme, which is today in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Herder’s Prize

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At the end of the eighties Stoimen Stoilov is already an authoritative name in the professional circles in Bulgaria and abroad. After a series of our and the international awards, the recognition is high – in 1991, at the University of Vienna, the Chancellor of Austria handed him the Herder Prize. It has been awarded to him for outstanding cultural merit and contribution to the communication of nations. I think they could add – and contribute to communicating with civilizations. The name of the artist stands alongside carriers of other years, such as Laszlo Nemet, Andrzej Wajda, the Bulgarians Pancho Vladigerov, Atanas Dalchev, Nikolay Genchev. There is only one of our artists with such a prize – Georgi Baev (1986).

The burning studio of Stoimen Stoilov

Only three days after announcing the announcement of the high honors, the studio of Stoimen Stoilov is set on fire in Varna. Everybody has connected the old factory with the volcanic spirit of its inhabitants and at least with the literal fire association. Did the numerous created works by the author, treating the battle of light with the darkness, prove to be a profound prophecy? I was watching a documentary with the painter walking through the painted workshop. He was driving the charred stacks of printed graphics and large-format crayons, studying the high-temperature blazing plates with engravings. I was like a general who, after a tough battle, counts on the battlefield the bodies of his soldiers. The master of the black-and-white poems staggered heaps of gray ash. But what was that war? The simplest answer is that it is the evil against good, the indifference against talent, the envy of nobility. But since the same thing happened just a few years before, and with the other Herderov laureate Georgi Baev, with whom, as with Stoimen, I was associating a professional and human friendship, I prefer to use his definition – it was a manifestation of ordinary FASHION.

Straightening after a life shock is more difficult than straightening after a fall in the ring. Is the wisdom that mankind “healed” after the burning of the Library of Alexandria or the burning of the books of Heinrich Mann and Erich-Maria Remark of the National Socialists in 1933? Is the maxim that the wounds make the artist stronger? Whatever we say is going to be formal and inadequate with the artist’s drama, he saw his paintings burn out!

The burning of Stoimen Stoilov’s atelier marks the end of the Vulcan artifact. After 1990, at the doorsteps of the ateliers, the former factory owners, who want to return it after the restitution began, are pushing more and more insistently. The artists are saved singly and the memory of “Vulcan” gradually turns into a beautiful and a little sad legend …


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The life of Stoimen Stoilov is divided into “next to Vienna” and “afterwards”. Arriving in the Austrian capital at the beginning of the 1990s, he did not yet assume that his destiny had arranged him to live and worked for many years there. Along with his high confessions, he has also suffered heavy life wounds. But the etymology of the names “Stoimen” and “Stoil” means: “Live, keep on, be!” And strangely, in the deeply dramatic cycles, light appears as a catharsis! The color begins to appear more convincingly as part of the weapons of the suggestion. The artist’s technical instruments become extremely rich – oil, watercolor, pastel, collage, drawings on papyrus, lithographic prints …

A three-year commitment by Stoilov, connected with the great Danube Festival in Vienna (1994, 1995, 1996), seems to be an occasion for “unlocking” the bright, beautiful and vital expression in his work. The enormous posters on the metro and the boulevards of the Austrian capital bear “spirits” mythical goddesses, pegasus, symbols of music and the antique, as well as the Venetian theater. An unchanged character in these ravishing “poems” is the ancient fish that has borne from the depths of LIFE itself, in its highest manifestation, art. In 1997 Stoimen Stoilov painted a dozen “bells”, fascinating with his lightness and grace the watercolor for the book “Earth Game” by poetess Elka Niagolova. In his works, physically beautiful and spirited characters, contrasting with the enigmatic archetypes, inhabiting the realm of prehistoric dreams, are beginning to be present. I do not need to recall that living in Vienna after 1990, Stoilov “breathes” the air, saturated with the poetics of the secession. This is the other essential valence of the artist from Varna, worshiping the ancient beauty. Gustav Klimt’s decorative stylizations are more distant, but he is close to the expressive lyrical style of one of the founders of the Austrian modern Egon Schiele. Confirmation of this is the exciting circle of large-format watercolors “Carmina Burana”, which Stoilov created in 1996. I had the honor to arrange part of this cycle in my gallery in 1997. The artist continued to draw philosophy and inspiration from literary texts – of unknown poets from the early Middle Ages) to make the vision of its reading and lead us to the new mythology, filled with no different moral imperatives from pagan mythology.

At the end of the 90’s, Stoimen Stoilov traveled several times with exhibitions to Australia. And there, in the newly-occupied land, he carried the “correspondence” of old civilizations. He wishes his high-ranking hosts to go to the heart of the continent and meet Aboriginal tribes. The exoticism of preserved primacy is magical for the artist, roaming so much in his imagination back in time. In 2000 Stoimen Stoilov visited with an impressive exhibition in New London, USA. His large paintings are like reverberating frescoes full of mythological motifs. The title of the exhibition is “Window of the Black Sea”. The artist is an ambassador not just of pre-Christianity, but also of the culture of the ancient Thracians and Odessos, from which he is buried. Stoyen Stoilov’s beautiful life relationship with the great American poet and friend of Bulgaria William Meredith became the occasion for the next artist’s visit to the United States in 2004. A wonderful book, “ECHOES”, in which the artist and the poet are talentedly adds up.

The meeting of Stoimen Stoilov with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel / / 2000-2007 / is also a fateful sign. The grand patriarch invites the great artist to draw space in the Foreign Ministry and his working room to make a conceptual picture of the scale of a huge work table around which the Council of Ministers meets. A great honor for the Bulgarian artist was the great painting, commissioned by the City Hall of Vienna in 2003, dedicated to the anniversary of the metropolitan metro. Stoilov draws a pantheon of world-famous personalities who were born or lived in the Austrian capital by collecting them on the map of the town. He does not fail to point out at the presentation of the painting that the Nobel laureate with the Viennese address Elias Canetti was actually born and lived in the city of Rousse. Stoimen Stoilov is among the few Bulgarian artists living abroad, who are proud of their clan and do not forget to emphasize it. With his inherent nobility he forgives the ignorance of people close and far away, who do not know the ancient history of our lands and apostolic diligence, enlightening them talentedly and missionarily. Of course, through your paintings.

At the border of the two millennia, Stoimen Stoilov was chosen after a long selection to draw a 200-square-meter panel for the International Human Rights Forum. The subject is “human suffering,” and the works are exhibited at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. One consecutive admission to the Bulgarian, devoted to humanism and the language of dramatic catharsis, which leads to the exalted beauty and spirituality.

I do not want to miss the lyrical abstraction, which at one point appeared in the work of Stoimen Stoilov. At first glance, it is in full contrast to his figurative compositions, full of literary and theatrical play. But this different aesthetic expression is an indication of the limitless freedom the artist has. “Moving” the Leonardo’s Man of Leonardo, a symbol of perfection, Stoilov returns to the geometric postulates that lay in this harmony and creates modern color compositions, the basis of which is the triangle, the circle, the square. Makes it talented and convincing, with the tongue of an endearing cubism, in which again the dominant is the spirited beauty.

In 2004, the Egon Schiele Museum, located in the hometown of the great Austrian classic Tull, opens its doors to an exhibition by Stoimen Stoilov. Most of the work is done on handmade papers and papyrus pieces, and they are original ideograms demonstrating the enormous culture and original talent of the author. Some carry a wax seal on themselves as an old sign of confidentiality. Are not these Stoilov’s letters to Egon Schiele himself?

Subsequent honors

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In 2009, at the official ceremony, on behalf of the President of Austria, the Bulgarian artist was awarded the title “Professor”, for outstanding contributions to Austrian culture and art. The Herder’s laureate receives another high recognition. Stoimen Stoilov’s second Rodina has surrounded him with due attention and honors! Not long ago, in 2010, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov hung on the neck of the artist the highest native honor – the Stara Planina Order. Those who know Stoimen Stoilov closely know that he never, in any way, parades with the epochs that time and society put on his shoulders. But I report the most significant of his honors so far, with the full conviction that we need to know what the “golden” cover of a Bulgarian artist is and share as his compatriots a part of his deserved self-esteem. It is a small, lively saliva against nihilism.

During the whole quarter of a century of residence in Vienna, Stoimen Stoilov did not interrupt his relationship with Bulgaria and Varna. I was honored with the exhibitions at the Cavallet Gallery, which we organized during these years. The artist felt the enormous love of friends and the respect of connoisseurs and collectors. For many of these bright cultural events in Vienna, Stoilov’s specialists and galleries arrived. And I was lucky enough that the author, “sowing” his paintings all over the world, left part of his work in his Homeland.

I am twice happier now that after ten months of work of the great artist we hang his large poetic creations in the foyer of the classical one hundred year old building of the University of Economics in Varna. For me the two allegories of Stoimen Stoilov are a beautiful co-authorship with Nikola Lazarov and Kiril Shivarov. The architect has left the two large niches as if it were for him. We will say – but why does the artist come out after 100 years to paint them? Everything is a sign of fate. А и за художника, бродещ във времето, епохите и цивилизациите, едва ли е от значение един век!

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