Critique II by Prof. Chavdar Popov Ph.D

Varna City Art Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition July - August 2010

 

Alexander Kaprichev is a figure positioned to a certain extent parallel to the mainstream trends and processes of Bulgarian fine art that occurred during the last four decades of the 20th century. I had the privilege of knowing him personally, though regrettably not so well. He was one of the first Varna artists whom I met during the second half of the 70s, when I set off independently to make it as an art critic. He deliberately avoided imposing definitively his presence on the public consciousness, or making the headlines with ostentatious and ambitious appearances. His art developed within the boundaries of a seemingly rather individual spiritual oasis, without receiving in his lifetime the level of recognition that undeniably he deserved. Most probably, among the various factors we can identify, is his lack of conformity, as well as the candid and honest approach he had towards his own art. 

Having graduated in Mural Painting from the National Academy of Arts, Alexander Kaprichev was throughout his life a freelance artist, which is no coincidence. The latter circumstance had created the opportunity to express freely and consistently his credo, freeing him from compromising unethically between both his mind and endeavours. The significant legacy of his art, of which in the current exhibition we can see just a part, comprises numerous drawings, etchings, lithographs, watercolours, paintings, murals and tapestries. The exhibition, for obvious reasons, features mainly his drawings and paintings. 

One of the most characteristic, distinctive features of Alexander Kaprichev’s artistic style is the balance he achieved between the intellectual content of the imagery and the clearly defined artistic forms through which the content was visually expressed. He never limited himself in the field of purely artistic problems, nor indulged in formative creations and experiments for their own sake. For him every stroke, every line or coloured surface, relates to the specific problem to be tackled in a particular painting, thus being simultaneously a structural component of the language of expression, of the artistic form, and along with that being connected to a significantly broader intellectual sphere. 

The deep and enduring interest of the artist in poetry and literature generally, in music and philosophy, can neither be accidental nor as an additional sort of ‘intellectual’ pastime. On the contrary – they are an integral part of the shaping and development of his specific artistic world. Therefore, one of the major issues is conveying the intellectual content into the defined material tissue of his pictorial art. This problem, naturally, is not only innate for this particular Varna artist. In his art, however, it takes on discernible individual solutions and forms. 

The exhibition comprises abstract, non-figurative compositions, which are predominant in view of their subjects and number, included are also some nudes, portraits and few still life compositions. Kaprichev’s art, however, spreads beyond the usual iconographic and subject matter division, typical, among other things, of the fundamental trends of Bulgarian fine art of the second half of the 20th century. This shows that the ideas and key artistic themes in his paintings, ‘poured’ out into visual images, do not quite conform to the traditional interpretation of the Procrustean bed and the genres systematic order. 

Even at first glance, it is obvious that bright colour schemes predominate in his pictures. If we are to identify a dominant style, it is lyrical abstraction, blended, by seemingly paradoxical means, with abstract expressionism. In my view, the deep resonance of the greater part of Alexander Kaprichev’s artistic opuses is the contrast and interaction between the forces of attraction and retraction, between the abstract and the figurative principles. I believe this specific “duality” is the hidden, subtle core of the majority of his paintings, particularly of the non-figurative ones. The binary contrasts, formulated as harmony versus conflict, hue-blending versus contrast and so on, are those simultaneously intellectual and artistic, formative elements of the syntax of his pictures, by which means the essence of their visual expression is achieved, as well as their impact on the receptive observer. The pictures are composed of coloured structural surfaces, sometimes geometric, more frequently undetermined. The line in most cases bears an autonomous, architectonic function, the freely splashed coloured surface sometimes acquiring the characteristics of an improvised but masterly painted hieroglyph, while at other times it is left to the whims of the moment. 

Although it might sound a truism, the example of Alexander Kaprichev reminds us of those cases which teach us time and time again, that it is quite common to appreciate the true merit of an artist only after his death. Therefore, retrospective exhibitions such as this are precious. Despite the fact that the current exhibition is perhaps not truly retrospective in context, it nevertheless provides a good impression of the world of this extremely talented, quizzical and original creative spirit. Therefore, this exhibition, in addition to honouring the memory of Alexander Kaprichev, also makes a considerable contribution to Bulgarian 20th century visual art, the full history of which remains to be written.