Critique by Prof. Svilen Stefanov Ph.D

Review on Inspiring Spaces Exhibition at the Academia Gallery, Sofia


Presumably, a great deal can be said about the means of expression and pictorial language in the work of Alexander Kaprichev, about the skilful combinations created through the interaction of lines and brush strokes in his paintings, as well as his complex and expressive colour schemes. Good research has been made and written in this respect by some art critics. However, for some reason his art, remains underestimated to a certain extent. This fact could raise issues, much broader than those of the line and the coloured space in abstract painting. 

The problem is rooted in the overall understanding of abstraction as such in the development of new and contemporary Bulgarian art. Because none of the periods of the twentieth century art and the artistic language in this country reveals the presence of the non-figurative. Moreover, since the middle of the last century, Bulgarian art, traditionally has developed following a course characteristic of the mainstream, ideologically motivated figurative art.

Consequently, the idea of abstraction never enjoyed great popularity, not only because of the presence of the socialist realism doctrine, but also due to the complete lack of awareness of the concept of such an art form, in the then limited access to world art. The trend continues through to the 1960s and late 1980s, when innovative approach is traced only in the purely figurative plasticism. Years later the art scene remained the same with only few exceptions.

When political changes made their way in the country, one of the alluring opportunities to express opposition turned to be abstract art which until then was considered an inconvenient art form. Yet, the very opportunity to create a non-figurative painting was limited. It seemed, somehow, devoid of the basic "common sense", lacking the practical concerns of social functioning. In a country in which all graduates with specialised education considered themselves professionals, with certain visual skills, the objectless visual thinking still appeared rather strange.

A characteristic feature of the local understanding of abstraction is that it is not thought of as an act of spontaneous action, or a way of finding means, or a "key" to involve the viewers’ consciousness and sub-consciousness. In this country the abstract was generally interpreted as a continuation in tackling certain plastic principles and problems related to the line, the splash and the colour - considered solely as a combination of all those formal elements.

Thus for a long period of time, even fearful thinking of the abstract in Bulgarian art has been related more to the non-figurative decorative art, rather than within the dimensions and impact of idealism and spirituality, that this art form has been traditionally charged with since the appearance of its classical examples in the early twentieth century.

Alexander Kaprichev’s art is rather different from the above mentioned conclusions and that is why it has entered an active phase of being shown and critically reviewed.

The first thing that impresses us, is the author’s in depth knowledge of the history and development of abstract art. We can talk about a learned painting and knowledgeable abstraction. In modern times, that is the delicate divide between good and mediocre art. There is no way in today’s world, overloaded with information, historical references, quotes and cross-references, to play the role of an outsider, a simple and therefore, sincere artist. Kaprichev’s attitude towards art is clearly intellectual, charged with dynamic sensitivity expressed through the composition and colour. I am not certain which one should come first but then it hardly matters.

More important is that we see a unique artist thanks to the fact that he had not only felt the abstract as a combination of shapes and forms in space, but had found that specific spirit of intellectual knowledge which blended with his brilliant individuality. That is the very essence, the hidden meaning of abstract art - to stretch beyond the simple and logical and not to reflect only the ‘socio’ but primarily the individual empathy.