Vassil Ivanov was an extraordinary artist who became a legend in his very lifetime. At a time of conformity, he made a significant contribution to the establishment of artistic freedom in Bulgaria. The innovation of his work is inseparable from his spiritual outlook. Vassil Ivanov was erudite, a philosopher and mystic, a follower of Peter Deunov. He practiced yoga, astrology, and chiromancy, and he was famous for his gift of clairvoyance. He lived in a small wooden shack in the Deunovian Izgrev quarter. He led a secluded, isolated life, highly focused on his creative work.
Peter Uvaliev said on the BBC in 1962 that Vassil Ivanov was the person who, for a long time, was the only face of modern Bulgarian art in the west.
Lyubomir Levchev: “He didn’t look for glory, but he had it.’’
The exhibition presents more than 90 works of the artist in the entire diversity of his work. A main stress is on the works from what he called his “cosmic cycle,” which have become Vassil Ivanov’s “calling card” in the history of visual arts.
His first exhibition of “cosmic” works in 1964 was banned directly by the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and the artist was forced to give up his seeking. He was accused of having become the banner for an “indecent” group of young people and of carrying out religious practices disguised under the practice of yoga. In spite of this, he managed to continue actively working and presenting his pieces to connoisseurs around the world. The New York encyclopedia of visual arts points to Vassil Ivanov as the creator of the trend of “cosmic graphics.”
The exhibition presents the artist’s early drawings and paintings, charming in their lyricism – mainly natural scenes and subjects. An impressive multimedia installation “narrates” the life of Vassil Ivanov in the Deunovian Izgrev district, his connection with Deunov’s White Brotherhood spiritual movement, and the ideas of the Master (Peter Deunov). During the exhibition two independent films devoted to the artist will be shown for the first time. Archival stills from the opening of his solo exhibition with works from the “cosmic cycle” in 1965 show the meeting of Vassil Ivanov with the cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, the first person to go out into outer space. Only a month after completing this mission, Leonov visited Bulgaria. He saw the works of Vassil Ivanov and exclaimed, “He’s been there!”
The special exhibition design and the effective, dynamic multimedia reshape the space and transform the exhibit into an unique and memorable experience.
The exhibition is accompanied by a deluxe catalog presenting materials reflecting the main stages in the creative development and the life path of this talented artist.
With this project, the National Gallery again shows part of Boris Bekyarov’s collection after the past exhibition on Boyan Raynov in 2015, which was greeting with a great deal of interest by the public.
Ivo Milev, exhibition curator