Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories- Elie Wiesel
As I gaze at the painting closely, I can smell the flour. I feel the clay like texture of the dough in my hands- warm and moist from its proving by the open fire. My fingers are sticking to the bench, clumps of moist dough catches. The flour higher on my wrists is drying and cracking like earth that has seen no rain. The yeast is fresh and aromatic, I can’t resist trying the sticky dough. It’s chewy and sweet in my mouth. My cheeks are aglow, the warmth of the oven hits them. I keep moulding, kneading and sprinkling the dough intermittently.
Where I can say it with words, Svetlin Rusev says it with his textured brushstrokes. But Svetlin Rusev describes alot more than dough in his Retrospective Exhibition. Situated in a marquee directly outside the grand facade of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, the exhibition features selected paintings spanning from 1953-2013. The Bulgarian Rusev’s works investigate the everyday. The everyday here may not be so close to your everyday however.
The subject in Размисъл /Reflection, 1979 is reminiscent of Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1” (more famously referred to as “Whistler’s Mother”) in composition. She too sits. Gaze detached from the viewer, hands clasped. In submission? In misfortune? I don’t know.
I don’t know why the faces of Rusev’s women are imbued with a harrowing resignation. There is a gaze so sorrowful in all of them that sometimes it’s hard to decipher whether it verges between apathy or hysteria.
Several works are reminiscent of Picasso’s Guernica, not simply in their large mural form but also in their hues, intensity and spatial composition.
As I meander through the marquee, I feel their soulful eyes haunting me from the canvas. Lost souls.
I can’t read Svetlin Rusev’s catalogue notes. I won’t offend my readers by translating academic comment out of context as my Bulgarian is far too shoddy. But sometimes words are not needed. The brush can describe bread as much as it can depict Wiesel’s shadows.