Union of Bulgarian Artists / Exhibitions / ArchivePleven's artists - 70 years artistic life

Representative of UBA in Pleven

10.10.17 - 30.10.17 | Gallery of UBA "Shipka" 6, Sofia

Organized art life in the city of Pleven is a phased process that has been going through all vicissitudes with an ever up-to-date mission and stance. Until 1944, representatives of the first and second generations of academically trained Bulgarian artists used to live and work in Pleven including Angel Spassov (1884-1974), Hristo Boyadzhiev (1912-2001), Nikola Zlatev (1907-1989), Sidonia Atanassova (1909-1994), Dilo Dilov (1914-1984) and Hristo Krastev (1917-1982). At its pre-organized stage, art life in Pleven was fairly limited – artists were teachers, none of them owned a studio except for Angel Spassov who built one on his own, and there was nothing like exhibition events. Angel Spassov was the pioneer of Pleven artists. Educated in Sofia together with Vladimir Dimitrov Maistora he dedicated his life and creative career to his home city.  Many of the artists who would appear on the stage of art in the 1960s and 1970s took their first lessons in his studio.

The first official art association, the Collective of the Artists from Pleven, was founded in 1947 by likeminded artists – both professional and amateur ones, at the Chamber of Popular Culture, with the goal of organizing joint exhibitions, supporting the work of artists and catering for exhibition premises. Along with the above-mentioned leading authors, its founding members included amateur artists who have left almost no vestige in Bulgarian art – Tatiana Tcherne-Koleva born in the Czech Republic, set designer Masha Popova, G. Tyutyunkov, Iordan Iordanov, Spiro Spirov, a lawyer by profession who devoted his free time to art and others. The exhibition that opened in April that same year laid the beginnings of the tradition of annual art exhibitions that along with other major events of national importance would mark the cultural profile of Pleven from that point on.

The first exhibitions were mounted in the Military Club and at Republic Hall. Providing for basic conditions for practicing art – including a gallery, an administrative center, and studios – requires the recognition of art by society as a necessary and autonomous culture. This was related to removing a few dogmatic stumbling blocks. Like in the rest of the country Pleven became the scene of debates and dramatic public discussions extensively covered on the pages of September Victory. In them the postulates of closeness to the people, on the one hand, and the imperative for professional criteria on the other, collided spectacularly. A decisive role in the prevalence of the latter was played by popularization efforts of artists, as well as by support that came from the Union of Bulgarian Artists. Resulting from those efforts the artists received premises attached to the City Council that were used to arrange a studio and an administrative center.

In the meantime, wide public attention was being focused on the Pleven artists. In 1961, the First Youth Exhibition was held attesting to the great success of the young generation of artists from the whole country, including artists in Pleven. Their remarkable start was confirmed during the General Exhibition of Regional Artists in the year that followed which made clear that in art the division between center and periphery is a fallacy. During the same period, the regional exhibition in Pleven coincided with this upsurge and further consolidated current achievements.

From that point on the city saw wide public support and consensus that benefited the association of artists and provided a strong impetus for the development of art in Pleven. Art life was streamlined and the group of artists acquired its stature quite explicitly. New studios were built and the number of young artists grew. Public support allowed the creative community to concentrate on specific issues of painting, sculpture, graphic art: a process that significantly improved the quality of artwork. By opting for up-to-date criteria stemming from world trends the Pleven group emerged as one of the most remarkable one nationwide with its noteworthy and talented personalities among whom Svetlin Roussev had beyond doubt the greatest merit for uniting the group.

In the 1970s already three generations of artists used to work in the city – painters, graphic artists and sculptors, and Pleven could safely boast a living kernel of worthy creative individuals. The most active among them were Dilo Dilov, Dionisii Donchev, Nikolai Dabov, Ilia Milkov, Emil Georgiev, Ilia Georgiev, Jurii Bukov, Plamen Jankoulovski, Toma Trifonovski, Iordan Katsamunski, Hinko Hinkov and Kancho Kantchev. Sculpture work was the priority of Ubavka Tontchev, Kiril Meskin, Dimitar Tzonkov and Konstantin Simeonov. The group was on the lookout for unconventional ways of expression and a different approach to access audiences. This way in 1969 an exhibition was organized inside a railway carriage that embarked on a road show to towns and villages in the region. In the early 1970s, the group of artists received new premises for exhibitions in the City Park. Cultural life was busy concentrated around the studios, the gallery, the drama and puppet theaters, and thus helped artists mix with remarkable personalities who lived in Pleven at that time – conductor Dimiter Manolov, playwright Petar Kovatchev and others.

A new generation of interesting creatives took the stage of art in the 1980s. Other attention-grabbing artists from that generation included Ivan Veltchev, Valentin Assenov, Stilian Atanassov, Krassimir Lyutskanov and others. Certain unconventional trends in art at that time were associated with the works of Lyuben Kostov and Ivan Veltchev.

In 2012 – following a long time of usage for different purposes – the exhibition hall at the City Park was given back to the group of artists. Today it accommodates Art Center Pleven, and together with the adjacent House of Artists in which former studios of young artists have been reorganized inто chamber halls, has become one of the busiest venues for art events playing host on a monthly basis to one-artist or group exhibitions of local and visiting artists.

Today the traditional forum of fine art is held in Pleven – the Autumn Salon at which an award named after Pimen Zografski is bestowed; the Spring Salon is also an annual event; and since 2002, the Biennial of Small Forms has been attracting visiting artists from across the world.