Critique by Plamena Dimitrova-Racheva, Art Critic

Alexander Kaprichev (1945-2008) is an artist who has left a considerable and significant legacy comprising paintings, drawings and projects for monumental art – murals and tapestries, as well as writings revealing his reflections and attitude on life and art. His artwork, both in Bulgaria and England, is a testimony for his undeniable talent. Nevertheless, he is among the very few Varna artists whose creative work has not been studied thoroughly and chronologically. In its entirety, his art is not framed within the ty[ical classifications accepted hitherto. To appreciate fully his art, the specific features of his particular style and approach must now be identified uniquely as his own. An undisputed merit, for example, is the artist’s deep interest in the pictorial space, as well as his rendering of artistic and psychological meaning to the fundamental methods of expression concerning form and colour within the spirit of modernism.

Sasho Kaprichev, as we, his friends and colleagues, used to call him, had been part and parcel of the innovative trends in art in the 80s, a key exponent of the aesthetic and conceptual tendencies that developed in the studios of the Varna artists who worked alongside each other in the former Vulkan Factory. During that time the Vanra hive became legendary, a truly creative habitat for the artists’ individual and creative free spirit.

Within this environment, the structural entirety of Alexander Kaprichev’s artwork is built upon the allusion or the imprint of time as an experience, or time as a progression (words put down to paper by the artist himself). Moreover, it has coded fundamental ideals in reality itself. Those ideals set  his imagination free, while making him incredibly sensitive bringing diverse approaches to each artistic issue. The artist is thereby at ease working in any of the genres of fine and decorative-monumental art. In his compositions, whether, abstract-geometric, or abstract with figurative elements, related to either the associative-metaphorical or the abstract-poetical tendencies, he is capable of achieving through his chosen specific medium,according to the artist himself, strong geometry of the coloured surfaces of sized squares or rectangles crossed by a multitude of slashed and diagonal lines. This, certainly, is achieved on the one hand-but on the other, the soft pallet of colours in the paintings also touches upon a certain ethereality in which the presence of light is very much called to mind. – again, the words of the artist himself. By means of a complex play of colour and shape, the space in his paintings is inhabited by solid, heavy plastic shapes, outlined with intense contour with transparent areas, painted thinly, lying like coloured shadows cast against the whiteness of the paper or canvas. This makes his artwork of any period, rich in reflection of individual trends in post-modernism.  For example, in the 80s they tended towards cubism and abstract expressionism, while in the 90s, towards the pure abstraction, constructivism, suprematism and poetic reality.

The last ten years of Alexander Kaprichev’s creative work are devoted entirely to the abstraction in which he finds the space to express his own life experience. That is, the pictorial area of emotions where one finds the reflection of his creative energy and intellect. In some of his paintings, he has skillfully woven a monogram of his name turning it into a symbol in combination with numbers, which carry certain numerological meaning. The pictorial space is structured with clear geometry of line and shape and is in spiritual symbiosis with the colours that bring in light.

The overall impression of Alexander Kaprichev’s art is that it goes beyond abstraction, a step further from the formative relation between colour and shape. It reveals their messages and thus urges us to ‘read’ them, either verbally or visually, to feel the emotion, usually coded in the title or the meaning of the symbols, shapes and colours. When examining the paintings, we can touch upon their profound poetry, to see hidden behind the abstraction a wealth of thoughts. This individual strategy of using the symbols to solve purely artistic problems, creates within Alexander Kaprichev’s art, a kind of dialogue with his creativity which is set to continue over time.

The present retrospective exhibition of Alexander Kaprichev’s work in Varna City Gallery is in memory of the artist, 65 years after his birth. It comprises 126 works – paintings, drawings, watercolours, projects for murals and tapestries. Three of the paintings belong to Varna City Gallery, while the rest belong to the artist’s family. Thus the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view a significant number of previously unseen works. The exposition follows a chronological order starting with his early paintings immediately after his graduation from the Academy of Arts in Sofia and continues to his final and more mature period, just before he left for England (1999-2006). The artwork displayed impresses with the colour schemes and the artist’s original approach. The collection comprises paintings from his studio in the Vulkan Factory. When the latter was demolished it was, indeed, a very sad and poignant moment with the artists-including  Alexander Kaprichev himself - left feeling betrayed. Therefore, the exhibition is, to an important degree, inseparable from the art scene from those years. A tribute to an art centre that remains only in the history books. 

Alexandeer Kaprichev achieved notable respect for his ability to think, feel and work freely. He was also  among the few contemporary artists who found the means to live up to the highest values of European artistic achievement. A considerable number of his paintings are abroad in private collections. What is left in Bulgaria, can be seen at the exhibition. It reveals an extraordinary richness of colour and artistic dexterity as well as the artist’s unique point of view. His art is engendering  considerable emotional impact, that is, indeed, close to that of  music, poetry and the performing arts, similarly resonating within his paintings and spiritually connecting with such perceptions. This renders a unique, personal excitement that carries with it the truths and principles, as well as the underlying meaning of a life lived creatively, as well as to the full, in terms of its vicissitudes and aspirations.

I knew Sasho Kaprichev for many years and looking at one of his last photos, with some irony in his smile and a cigar in his mouth, I hear his unspoken words, coming from his writings, catching up with us and time:

"The notes you put to paper represent
The glance “beyond”
And where shall the soul see its reflection?
A shadow of a smile followed
A hand was stretched out
The expression of the eyes, I remember
The hand I judged by its… 
……Fingers
Written in honour to a creative spirit."

Plamena Dimitrova-Racheva
Art Critic, National Gallery of Fine Art