An exhibition of self-portraits by Plovdiv artist Yoan Leviev is to be held at the Sofia City Art Gallery in the Bulgarian capital from January 28 to March 3.
The official opening of the exhibition is on January 27 at 6pm.
Yoan Leviev is one of the well-known well-established Bulgarian artists, associated with the monumentalist trend, whose beginnings in Bulgaria may be traced back to the early 1960s, the gallery said in a media statement.
Leviev played a significant role in the Plovdiv-based group of moumentalist artists, which included Hristo Stefanov, Dimitar Kirov, Encho Pironkov, Georgi Bozhilov-the Elephant.
Leviev (1934 – 1994) was born in the city of Plovdiv. His career as an artist began in 1952 when he was admitted to the Nikolai Pavlovich Higher Institute for Visual Arts, Sofia.
He graduated in 1958, majoring in Monumental and Decorative Art under Professor Georgi Bogdanov.
Starting in 1960, Leviev’s works were featured in all Union of Bulgarian Artists-organised exhibitions, as well as in exhibitions presenting a showcase of Bulgarian art held in Paris, Brussels, Tokyo, Moscow, Milan, Turin, New York, Mexico, Budapest, Prague, Bucharest, Vienna, etc. He won numerous awards.
The exhibition features more than 30 self-portraits, some of which are classic style self-portraits, while others are “hidden”, as they were blended into figure compositions, drawings, as well as into mural and mosaics projects done over the period between 1953 and 1993.
The exhibition commemorates the 80th anniversary of the artist’s birth, which was celebrated in 2014. Most of the researchers having studied the artist’s work highlight the importance of Leviev’s self-portraits, yet these have never been put together in a comprehensive exhibition.
The exhibition is a retrospective presenting the artist’s stylistic development and interpretive approaches to the abovementioned genre. The self-portraits featured in the exhibition were created during different stages of the artist’s career – they convey the artist’s commanding presence while also bringing up plenty of questions regarding his fate, personality and philosophy.
Regardless of his preference for figure compositions, the artist created works belonging to a variety of other genres – portrait, landscape, still-life. Self-portraits are featured in each stage of his professional development. The artist’s own image is to be found in his murals, as well as in his paintings abounding in figure compositions.
The artist made multiple representations of his image, examining and analyzing his own self (Self-portrait 1953, 1961, 1977), with a brush in his hand (The Artist on the Scaffolding, 1974; Confession, 1981), observing the characters whose actions he directed (Dancer on Embers, 1972), talking or standing against the background of Plovdiv – the Old Town (Dialogue, 1975; Conversation Over a Cup of Coffee, 1970; The Main Street, 1979), or immersed in memories reflecting the parts of his childhood that offer the best insight into his spiritual world (Memory 1;2;3).
Leviev’s image, as represented by his 1980s and 1990s works, is one of a jester and a ruler – the “Royal Times” cycle, King Solomon and a satyr – the “Song of Songs” cycle, a self-confident (Confrontation,1983), sarcastic man (Prank, 1992), or one overcome by doubt and thoughts (The Big Clownery, 1991; Drawing 3, 1981). Using various means of expression such as grotesque, hyperbole, pronounced plasticism, decorativeness and collage, the artist manages to represent himself in various states thus confronting commonly accepted norms.
The self-portraits featured in the exhibition offer but a glimpse into Leviev’s personality and philosophy. Like the rest of his work, they strike the viewer with their monumentality, the heavy and solid painting amassments and the monolithic colors. He remains true to himself and the monumentalist vein even in small format, “sparsely inhabited” works.
The exhibition is organized in cooperation with: Petko Zadgorski Art Gallery, city of Bourgas, Hristo Tsokev Art Gallery, city of Gabrovo, Centre of Humour and Satire Museum, city of Gabrovo, Art Gallery, city of Dobrich, Ivan Vazov Community Library, city of Plovdiv, National Museum of Bulgarian Visual Arts, Art Gallery, city of Rousse, Art Gallery, city of Strazhitsa, Elena Karamihaylova Art Gallery, city of Shoumen, private collectors, as well as with support from the Plovidv City Art Gallery.
After its presentation in Sofia, the exhibition will be on display at the Plovidv City Art Gallery.
(Disclosure: Yoan Leviev is the late father-in-law of Sofia Globe Media Ltd’s owner, Clive Leviev-Sawyer.)