Velin Dechkov and Rumen Petkov. A dialogue in time

Main building

9.4.2024 — 15.5.2024

On 10 May 1984, the House of the Artist was opened in Stara Zagora with what would be Dechko Uzunov’s final exhibition in his lifetime. One of the exhibitions that followed at the new institution presented Velin Dechkov and Rumen Petkov to the public for the first time, consolidating a friendship that had begun in the studios of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Veliko Tarnovo’s Cyril & Methodius University.

If we mentally divide the present exhibition into two, Velin Dechkov’s part has a retrospective flavour, showing work from 1985 through to today. His work is focused on small forms and public sculpture, for which he is well known in Kazanlak. It includes busts of Vasil Levski and Paisii Hilendarski, the reliefs of Captain Petko Voyvoda and his companion Radka Kravkova, of Nikola Obreshkov at the Mathematics High School, and the Flame sculpture in the Rosarium. Several portrait pieces were created along these lines, succeeding in conveying the spirit of their time: Dante, Edith Piaf, Chudomir. This retrospective lens allows us to trace the themes Dechkov explores in his work. Typical of any sculptor is the worship and influence of ancient Greek culture, and in this case we see this in the pieces The abduction of Europe, the Roman goddess Diana, Leda and the swan and Pegasus. The other central theme is religion: Temple, Rebirth, Virgin Mary, Crucifixion. The rest of the works consider the theme of nature as a creator of forms, nature’s divine origin and the place man occupies within it.

We can consider Rumen Petkov an artist who works between. Between painting and mural, graphic art, drawing and sculpture. The three-dimensionality he lacks in painting, he seeks in sculpture, whose forms lack the colour of his paintings, and to both he brings the expressive means of decorative and monumental mural painting. Perhaps for this reason he is recognised among his peers as an experimenter and innovator. His restless spirit is evident in his still life paintings in this joint exhibition. Unlike his colleagues, who see experimentation as representing creative impotence, he manages to synthesise the results of his experiments with the conclusions he has already come to. In painting, he works from a purely pointillist principle, letting the mosaic of coloured patches merge in the eye of the viewer. The contours, drawn using the handle of the brush, vary with the thickness of the line and reveal the underpainting in a nod to the scratch of the sgraffito technique used in wall paintings. Thanks to its disengagement with colour, the outline is emancipated from the colourful patchwork. In his landscapes, the theme of friendship finds its topos in terms of time and place, measurable in the seasons of the year where it is springtime and place is those timeless cobblestones of Kazanlak, from which the venerable old townhouses regard us.

At the beginning of the current exhibition, self portraits of the two colleagues gaze out at us. These paintings are the natural embodiment of the themes of friendship. It is as if the dialogue between two friends has become testament to the existence of the passage of time.

Velin Dechkov was born in 1954 in Kazanlak and graduated from its art school (now ‘Academician Dechko Uzunov’ National High School of Plastic Arts and Design), where he returned to teach after graduating in sculpture at Veliko Tarnovo University. He is a member of the sculpture section of the Union of Bulgarian Artists and has participated in most of the group exhibitions in Bulgaria since 1982. He was awarded a bronze medal at the XII International Dantesca Biennale in Ravenna, Italy, and a commendation at the XVI Biennale of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo.

Rumen Petkov was born in 1955 in Popovo, where he graduated from the technical school in ceramics. In 1980 he graduated from Veliko Tarnovo University with a degree in decorative and monumental art in the class of Professor Nikola Gelov. In 1981 he settled in Kazanlak, and works in the fields of painting, sculpture and graphic art. Since 1991 he has been a member of the painting section of the Union of Bulgarian Artists. His biography includes 38 solo exhibitions and more than 40 appearances in group exhibitions.