Memoirs of a Forgotten generation

Love and nostalgia for the people, their history and folklore have been the motivations behind this artistic series. Memoirs of a Lost Generation is a personal collection of reminiscences and reflections, which aims to portray the voice of a whole nation – its emotional immensity and evanescence. As if from a diary, the portraits were accumulated as visual memories during the years, from personal interactions with individuals and visits to villages throughout Bulgaria. These are villagers whose life was an endless devotion to the earth, which they walked, sowed and harvested. Their dedication to labor is depicted in each dance step and in the context of regional songs, which were performed while at work in the fields.

Folklore signified life – the bare earth and their hard labor. Each face is a personal narrative that signifies the means of life, the history and the passage of time. Each portrait carries within itself the factor of temporality and decay – it is a monument. Years pass, the eyes glow dimmer, the soil erodes, ideologies are replaced by new ones…and so folklore transforms and adapts to new means of life. The exhibit visually illustrates folklore as a distillation of human experience that transcends and reflects boundaries of time. As a means of existence, Balkan folklore illustrates individual’s passage through life and the annual cycle of nature and agriculture.

As a visual portrayal of folklore, the portraits here convey a passage of time, delve into the rich past and reveal history in a visual metaphor – dry wrinkles and hopeful gazes! This is a story of a generation that survived two wars; a generation whose folklore meant life; a generation of endless toil, forgotten virtues, oppression and tradition… These are their memoirs – people and culture now slowly vanishing.

Awaiting – the hope in her eyes I will never forget (Bulgaria)
acrylic on canvas
The stories in her eyes…(Sevlievo, Bulgaria)
acrylic on canvas

My great-grandmother's bench - the heart of any Bulgarian village - the epicentre of life, chatter, songs, love, unity.
“My great-grandmother’s bench – the heart of the village” (Tvardits, Bulgaria)
acrylic on canvas
“When I was a young shepherd” (Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria)
Tvarditsa is a small city within the Thracian region, which used to have flourishing mining industry and a population of ten thousand. Now the city has merely half of its residents, among which mainly elderly citizens involved in traditional agriculture. Grandpa Ivan has been a shepherd his whole life – gathering the herds before sunrise, working under the burning mountain-sun day after day, and returning home just before sunset. Among the grasslands of the Thracian valleys, under the thick shadow of the plum trees, diado Ivan takes the kaval from his pocket and paints a world of his own – a musical narrative and the essence of folklore. The grass shimmers and the hills echo the melody of his kaval. It sings about the past, about his youth, about his mother’s loving arms and the cherry lips of his first love.
“The road is endless – the lost virtue of perserverence”
(Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria)
watercolour on paper
“A distant melody” (Rhodope Mountains)
This vision is of a cheerful youth and the beauty of courtship inspired by folklore rituals. A young lad courts his bride-to-be after harvest, on the way to the sedyanka (social gathering). He provokes the young maid with the melody of his bagpipe; he wishes her to sing along, to hear her honeyed voice. (they start to sing: “Mari Done biala Done mari…) Their song echoes in the valley, the wheat stalks flutter as the golden sun sinks in an ocean of infinite Balkan pines.
“Sedenka” (The Sitting)
Sedenka is a gathering of women for the purpose of sharing songs, dances while doing handiwork – sowing, knitting, food preparation. After finishing the harvests in the late summer, young women and men gathered in the evenings to gossip, court each other and sing. The two women on the sedenka are sitting here on the grass, resting from vigorous dance performances. They have come to the Koprivshtica folklore festival to represent their village through dance, and to celebrate Bulgaria’s rich and multiethnic folklore tradition. The town hosts some 18,000 performers and international audience every five years. The Koprivshtica Festival is Europe’s most brilliantly eccentric festival that started in 1965, and today continues to celebrate the nation’s wealth of village music-making and dance
This drawing is inspired after the legend of St. Sofia, who was the daughter of emperor Justinian and whose name was given to the capitol of Bulgaria – Sofia. As a young maiden, Sofia was very ill. The emperor’s doctor recommended that Sofia be taken to live in a place with healthy climate and pure water springs. Justinian traveled with his men through the Balkan Mountains and finally discovered the city, which was later to be named Sofia. There, the maiden was cured … and grew tall and beautiful. In return for her daughter’s cure, the tzar built a church in the name of St. Sofia.
Walking through the small Bulgarian villages has enriched me personally and has given me artistic inspiration and meaning. There is nothing more moving, expressive and illustrative than the crumpled faces of the elderly. Passing through the now-deserted streets of Shipka, I saw lonely souls resting on benches, holding hands and gazing at the distant mountain tops. I saw nostalgia and hope, anger and love, but mostly sorrow. They were growing old alone, within the virgin valleys and inside their ancient homes. They left a piece of their soul with me, and this gaze I will never forget. I here give it to you
When we look at person’s face, we always focus on the eyes. The eyes are a mirror of the life within; they are the most beautiful truth. In children’s eyes we see the future, and in the elderly we see the past. The eyes, the dry wrinkles and the silent gaze – they carry within themselves the factor of temporality and decay. Once I felt her eyes, I felt the life within, I heard her voice… and within her gaze, I felt the words of the poem…
Each year the village of Gela hosts a Bagpipe Contest, which gathers the old and the young, the professionals and the self-taught, the Bulgarians and many foreign enthusiastic players. Their fingers play restlessly for entire two days, as the melody of “Rufinka bolna legnala” reverberates within the heart of Rhodopa. I will never forget this diado, as he slowly climbed up the hill of Gela with his bagpipe tucked gently under his armpit. He was old, very old, too old … but his heart was still lively beating and his fingers vigorously bounced of the gaidunitsa (chanter).
Chilling melody (Bulgaria, 2014) – mixed media on cardboard
Winter souls (Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria)
mixed media on cardboard


“Memoirs of a forgotten generation” – exhibit opening presentation

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