The American artist Christo (Christo Vladimirov Javacheff) descends from a Bulgarian industrialist family.
In 1953, he began his studies at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts (HIFA). In 1954, the talented student painted the painting "Rest". That was a time when the theme of "socialist building" established itself as a leading one in art. The representation of the development of heavy industry (factories, reservoirs, highways, works) was a priority. The collectivization (respectively mechanization) of agriculture and livestock breeding was also one of the important topics in propagandist art: portraits of brigade leaders, shock-workers, innovators, team leaders, heroes of labour, eminent front-rankers, labour competitions "running high". The painting of Yavashev lacks a labour enthusiasm – the faces are depressed, the poses express fatigue, the falling horizon dramatizes the feeling of despair (Iliev 2016: 106). The painting was highly criticized by the Rector of the Higher Institute of Fine Arts, Prof. Panayot Panayotov, "because of the colourful clothing and the inclined horizon" (Stefan Javacheff, cited through Iliev 2016: 106). The Rector determined the clear ideological requirements of the Institute: "Our institution of higher education is ideological. It is wrong to think that the good painter, sculptor or applied artist could fulfil the tasks required by the present day regardless of whether he has or has not a socialist view of life, a new vision and attitude toward the world." (Panayotov 1958, cited through Iliev 2016: 106). Thus, the painting was not only criticized but it remained unknown, preserved by the painter's brother.
Christo Javacheff found a way out of the environment that suppressed art by emigrating in 1957. Together with his wife Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon Christo Javacheff became world-known.
After the political changes, the art of Christo Javacheff – Christo slowly won official recognition in Bulgaria. Christo's first significant exhibition was realized not until 2015 at the Sofia City Art Gallery.
The composition "Rest" never left the home of Stefan Javacheff; its reproduction in real size was shown for the first time at the exhibition "Forms of Resistance".
- Private ownership of Javacheff, Stefan
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Lika Yanko was a Bulgarian painter, daughter of Albanian immigrants. She studied at the French College in Sofia. In 1946, Lika Yanko enrolled in the State Academy of Arts studying painting in the classes of Prof. Dechko Uzunov and Prof. Iliya Petrov but she was not allowed to do a diploma work. Her first independent exhibition in 1967 in Sofia was closed down prematurely. Lika Yanko continued to draw, choosing isolation and refusing to take part in art exhibitions and to be dependent on juries determining the limits of the permissible. Until 1981 when she received an invitation for exhibition by Lyudmila Zhivkova, her paintings had never been exhibited publicly. She managed to subsist due to the redemption of her paintings by foreign embassies and diplomats. Since those were "unauthorized contacts", Lika Yanko was under constant surveillance, observed and eavesdropped by the structures of the State Security; however, her record was destroyed.
At the beginning of her career, Lika Yanko drew landscapes, portraits, figured compositions. After the closing of her exhibition, she completely laid aside any restrictions in her painting. In the 1960s, Lika relinquished the landscapes and embraced the mythopoetic composition: she stylized the forms, shortened the spatial plans and distanced herself more and more from the principles of nature-resemblance defended by the authorities. Her self-portrait of 1968 shows a face half-covered by bars, a symbol of interdiction. Her paintings of the 1970s are dominated by themes from Christianity seen through the eyes of the author. Lika Yanko used the rope as a contour, incrusted beads, buttons, nuts, splinters, and pebbles interweaving astrology, Christianity, reflections on eternity and the initial things.
In the course of her entire life, Yanko had only 7 exhibitions; she died (of pneumonia) only a few days after the opening of the last one at the Cavalet Gallery in the city of Varna. While still living, Lika Yanko presented the National and the Sofia City Art Gallery with paintings.
In the absence of an organized rebellion which was present even among the Soviet artists, the most common form of resistance in Bulgaria, according to Iliev, was the self-isolation. Lika Yanko was an example of such type of opposition to the regime.
In 1989, Lika Yanko received the Sofia Award.
- Bulgarian National Art Gallery
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The Romani artist Rudolf Dzurko created the picture "The Devil (Communists) took a violin from a Gypsy". The painting is created by a unique glass grind technique placed on the glass that Rudolf Dzurka had patented. Rudolf Dzurko even coined his art considering the Communist government's approach to the Roma minority in the former Czechoslovakia.
Dzurko never gave an interpretation of his paintings, he wished everyone to find their own meaning and interpretation. Rudolf Dzurko was one of the few Roma artists who created art during the period of state socialism, and he also managed to exhibit some of his works. His popularity has grown considerably after the Velvet Revolution.
Georgi Yordanov Bozhilov, nickname Slona [The Elephant], was a Bulgarian painter. In 1959, he graduated from "N. Pavlovich" Higher Institute of Fine Arts, specializing in decorative and monumental art.
In 1959, he painted "The Strike of the Plovdiv Tobacco-Workers". Only a few years earlier, in the spring of 1953, Georgi Bozhilov was probably a witness of the strike of the tobacco-workers, mainly women, against the conditions of work at the tobacco factories and storehouses nationalized by the Stalinist regime. The strike which developed into workers' revolt was brutally suppressed by the state militia; there were many victims, killed, wounded and arrested people.
Georgi Bozhilov coded the event by ostensibly representing the strike of the tobacco-workers of the late 1939-1940. Because of the extreme censorship, the jury in the capital was not aware of the strike of 1953. Thus, the work was not only accepted to take part in the exhibition but it also participated in the First International Biennial of Young Artists in Paris.
Georgi Bozhilov – The Elephant was not a victim of the repression of the socialist regime and since the 1960s he participated in joint art exhibitions of the Union of Bulgarian Artists. While still living, he had over 25 individual exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad (the USSR, Turkey, Poland).
His work is an example of how by using particular works of art the artists managed to evade the censorship of the authorities and to code social messages and criticism towards the regime. Krasimir Iliev stresses the fact that such works "outline what was happening in different periods" but in order to "read" them one needs "reflections, insight and knowledge".
- City Art Gallery - Varna
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Roger Loewig created the painting “Noch tönt Gesang unter der zerbrochenen Brücke” [There is still chant under the broken bridge] (oil on hardboard, 59,5 x 79,5 cm) in 1962.
Loewig was no stranger to avant-garde and abstract arts, to which he was extensively exposed during his museums and gallery visits in West Berlin throughout the 1950s. Yet the artist was in his early years rather fascinated by fauvism and expressionism. The motifs of his paintings were similar to his drawings and lithographs. Starting mid-1960s Loewig gave up on painting, strongly conditioned by economic and space scarcity, focusing rather on drawings and lithographs.
The painting was re-framed by the artist during the 1990s when a poem was added, together with a third sheet from the lithography series 'Welke Wege' [Fading paths] from 1970, added in the lower part of the framing. These lithography series belongs to the lithographs created illegally together with Willi Negrazius, who held a position in the printing ateliers of the Fine Arts School Berlin Weißensee.
'Welke Wege' [Fading paths] together with the series 'Mein Mund webt ein Fangnetz für den Tod' [My mouth weaves a catch net for death] have been eventually published in 1971 together with the publishing house Steintor in Hanover, shortly before Loewig's departure from the GDR. These can be accounted among the last lithographs series created by the artist while still in the GDR.
The painting belongs to the artworks confiscated by the Stasi, being among the few that was returned to the artist. It was also included in a series of exhibitions, amongst the most recent 'Roger Loewig-auf der Suche nach Menschenland' [Roger Loewig-on the path towards a people's country], organised in 2000 in Museum Nicolaihaus der Stiftung Stadtmuseum in Berlin, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the German reunification.