The Darik Collection – Twenty Years of the Life of a Collection


Restoring the Abandoned Human Right to Hallucinations

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There has hardly been another Plein Airs event over the past twenty years in this country that has been organised with such determination and has demonstrated such tolerance in its aestheric criteria. The substantial confirmation of this somewhat bold statement is now in our hands. The Darik Catalogue gives us a fair idea of the direction Bulgarian fine arts have followed over that period. It also contains evidence of how artists from other countries have been progressing since the book presents works of foreign artists, alongside Bulgarians. It all serves to expand our ideas of that period, as well as to help us to make comparisons and to identify at least some of the problems in modern art over the past twenty years.

The Darik Catalogue

In other words, The Darik Catalogue presents to us The Darik History of the period and is meant to help us to better understand the aspirations of our modern artists. By this I mean artists who do not succumb to the temptation of claiming to be just visual artists infinitely improving their manner of expression. I have in mind artists who, much like their predecessors of the Renaissance period, have remained loyal to the blessings and the philosophy of drawing. They know exactly what is the importance of drawing in the modern cultural context which is looking down at it undermining its potential for covering all creative ideas of modernism.

The style

Viewed from another angle however, modernism is bound to be recognised as winning in The Darik Catalogue, since in the over 500 works of art presented one can recognise what we may call ‘a collective style’, samples representing all moderncum-postmodern styles. Those, however, are not followed by any impulse to make brushes and pencils move together to a shared venue. The collection in The Darik Catalogue will reassure you that drawing is still art capable of producing enviable diversity of equally vital and motivating individual styles. It also makes a veritable promise that fine arts in this country will continue to exist and that the classical image of The Artist, a chap who has donned on a cap on his head and stands in front of the canvas brush in hand, will never disappear.

What has disappeared however, overshadowed by modernistic revolt against tradition and modernists’ revolutionary aspirations to start from a scratch, is the idea that one needs to start using a blank sheet of paper. Postmodern context has turned each and every painting into a palimpsest: painting over what has already been painted is considered both an accomplishment and a test for the painter. The authorship must be attested not only by the audience but also against the painter’s own background; nothing should be allowed to dominate over the painter’s specific style or, alaternatively, to trample the latter down to the role of a mere visual quotation. It is precisely those criteria that show the integration of collective styles into a homogeneous individual style that prove that the works of art in The Darik Collection can be rated in a manner different from the one habitually applied. For The Darik Collection is not simply an artistic memoir of the participants in the Plein Airs event; it is an evidence of a hierarchic structure in which some of the participants go ahead while others lag behind; in other words, it offers a precise evaluation of the gift of each of the painters – is this not the purpose of the exercise in every non-intentional acquisition? It also adds to the opportunity of the artists to compare their works to those of their counterparts.

The collective styles referred to in this text are, more specifically, abstractionism, naivism, surrealism, fovism, futurism, neo-expressionism and photorealism in its popart variant… Naturally, they are all reshaped so as to converge into each other. This catches us unaware „at the entry” where the paintings offer us ample choice of different approaches, starting from negation of mimetic, that is, reproductive, concepts of reality and reaching the point where reality is actually turned into projection of the artist’s identity thereby helping the artist paint with inimitable individuality. There follow, „at the exit”, the works of those artists who have already learned the lessons of modernism but have not transformed their art into „modernist art”.

The signature

Apart from their individual styles, the artists represented in The Darik Collection also show their inimitable „signatures” – there is a difference here that I am referring to, the one pointed out by Roland Barthes in his statement that style springs from the inner self, with its physical transfiguration used as a working material; moreover, it seems to supply evidence that the artist has existed. Signature, on the other hand, results from an informed/intuitive social and moral choice thus showing what one likes/dislikes in the world one lives in and what is supposed to be changed by painting; it provides answers to questions such as why do we paint at all. This explains why very often, artists of very different individual styles display similarity in their ‘signatures’. This is the key to the message in any work of art; yet it does not always include the artist’s preferences to the subject of art; such preferences are also absent in The Darik Collection, exception made of course by those artists, who have followed verbatim the usual dictate of any sea-side plein airs event and have piled their works with plenty of fish, sands, sunsets and sunrises, moonlit paths and summer nostalgias.

Little salty sea foam

In The Darik Collection we can, of course, also come across Signs of the Past, though mercifully excluding unnecessary pathetic and patriotic passions and presented just as part of any everyday collage. Present is also some evidence of timid eroticism, altogether too full of modesty and decorum; it is more than obvious that the painters had neither wanted to fight taboos, nor to remind us of the Original Sin. In short: by the standards of such collections, the dominating ‘signature’ in the sphere of our most recent painting and graphic art works shows full freedom from ideological slogans, impulsive heroism and dramatic demonstrations; it follows a stream of consciousness of no specific direction and no ultimate goal. The artists do not press problems on you; on the contrary, they are eager to set you free from them by applying light irony and by directing you to the melancholy of modernity that inflicts no compulsive ideals and/or determined identities on you. This allows Andrei Daniel to paint his „Merry Landslide” for us and it is merry indeed, despite the images of collapsed houses. Margarita Yancheva transforms nuclear threat by Asia-style military regimes into a fairy-tale subject for further entertainment. In other words, drawing in the 21 c. is an embodiment of the victory of pleasure over reality, to quote Freud this time. Reality does not allow one „to imagine what is pleasant but only what is real albeit unpleasant” and forces one to reject any chance of finding pleasure through halluciations.

Painting however is fully capable of restoring the right to hallucinate, a privilege we actually had in our childhood. Hence the act imposed by modernism: destroyal of reality at the moment of its artisitic description, eventually leading to destroyal of this same reality as it sanctions the way we understand the world. Consequently, art becomes capable of offering an imagined freedom, something that would have been impossible otherwise and something, in the recipe of which we include parts of artistic imagination, cultural infantilism and romantic resistance in equal proportion, mixed in our case with a little salty sea foam.

Georgi Lozanov