Krassimir Kolev's new series "The Secrets of the Woods" is also a brand new beginning for the artist. In his words, the beginning of a new love story. The deep blue that dominates the paintings is simply fascinating.
Interview by Ummuhan Kazanc
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 6”, 2022, oil on canvas, 140 x 200 cm (Diptych).
Dear Krassimir Kolev, thank you very much for accepting our interview request. We are also very happy to include your works in All-in-Line’s Art Exhibition section. First of all, we would like to get to know you a little better. Who is Krassimir Kolev?
I was born and raised in Bulgaria. I moved to Vienna, Austria in 1991 to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts. I had the privilege to study for two amazing Professors, Joannis Avramidis and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Already as a child, I was always painting and my only dream was always to become an artist, so for me, there was no other path. All my energy was directed toward this only dream. Afterward, I can say, that I was not very talented, but I have always been very passionate. Already at the age of 16-17, I had a plan to do art for 8 hours a day (because that’s what a professional worker does, they go to work 8 hours each day). I persisted in that for several years and I learn a lot during this time. The most important I learned was not to wait for inspiration but to take it. So I still do that, I am daily in my studio and create passionately. I go there and daily take the inspiration I need for my work. So I can enjoy my creative journey.
Today I live in Austria with my Swedish wife (in between I lived for 15 years in Sweden) and our Chinese daughter, whom we adopted as she was one year old. So we are very much international in our family.
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 1”, 2022, oil on canvas, 40x50 cm.
Why did you choose Austria to study art? Is there a special reason?
The year was 1991, just after the fall of the Iron curtain. Suddenly I could see the world. I didn’t want to study art in Bulgaria anymore. I wanted to see the world and learn from the best contemporary artists. I moved to Austria because it was nearest to Bulgaria, but I was planning to go on to the USA. But in Austria, I discovered the art of Joannis Avramidis and I decided to give try to entrance exam at the Academy. Luckily for me, I got accepted. So I stayed in Vienna.
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 7”, 2022, oil on canvas, 140 x 200 cm (Diptych).
Krassimir Kolev, took lessons from legendary artists such as Professor Joannis Avramidis and Professor Michelangelo Pistoletto.
You had the chance to work with two very important artists, Professor Joannis Avramidis and Professor Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna. How do you remember your experiences with these two special artists? Has it had a significant impact on your art?
This was a very challenging time for me both personally and artistically. In the beginning, I felt like all my dreams are coming through, but soon after that, I got a real cultural crash. Everything was different. But eventually, I started to adapt and began to work on my development as an Artist. Avramidis was an amazing sculptor. I was in love with his way to interpret the Form. Studying with him has given me a lot of knowledge about drawing and shape interpretation. Eventually, because of his age, he got into retirement and we got a new professor. We got the luck to welcome Michelangelo Pistoletto. He was already a legend. He challenged me a lot to think as an artist and the importance of my artistic philosophy.
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 8”, 2022, oil on canvas, 140 x 100 cm.
After taking your MA degree in 1998, you went to Sweden and lived in Uppsala until 2012. I guess you don't like hot weather very much. How did you decide to go this far north? How would you describe your artistic adventure there?
Ha ha ha… I love hot weather, but in 1997 I was almost for three months in Sweden during the summer. There I met my future wife. So it was the love that brought me there.
I had an interesting artistic journey at this time. I was very interested in interactive art, multimedia, video installation, and so on… I was very curious about everything around digital art. This brought me eventually to the commercial scene and I was suddenly working as an art director and digital creator for multimedia and TV companies. Around 2005 everything become too digital and too commercial for me and I did a transition back to painting and sculpture. I needed to feel the material again, the work with my hands, I needed to smell the paints and get my hands dirty. In the beginning, my sculptures and paintings were abstract, but then I moved to very figurative, almost photorealistic expression. I had several exhibitions at this time both in Scandinavia and internationally. I’ve got even some prizes for my art at this time.
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 3”, 2022, oil on canvas, 40x50 cm.
I guess just painting doesn't satisfy you. You work with Sculpture and Photography as well. How do these three different branches of art complement each other in your workshop? Or do you treat all of them as different branches of art?
I have always worked with different mediums. For me, they are all the same, and artistic expressions. That’s what is important to me. Sometimes I work on the same project with both paintings and photographs, or paintings and sculptures… But the most important for me - I always draw. Drawing is my artistic breathing.
Figure painting seems to have a very special place for you. How would you describe your relationship with the figure?
I love working with the figure. I always discover so much inspiration there. I am trying to work with a live model every week. I see the human body as a canvas, where the soul paints its own stories. I love to discover and read those stories and interpret them.
Krassimir Kolev in his studio.
I would like to talk about your "The Secrets of the Woods" series, which you have been working on for a while and is currently on sale on the All-in-Line website. First of all, the deep blue that dominates the picture enveloped me. It was as if I wanted to float in this deep, deepest blue… This parliamentary blue took me to a summer evening clad in a desolate, warm, starry, and magical night blue… Can we hear from you how this series was born?
It all began several years ago when I did four years project painting the Gardens of Melk Abbey in Austria. The result was an Exhibition with over 130 paintings, showing my interpretation of the four seasons, in those beautiful Gardens. There I had a very intense relationship with the landscape, and with the trees in particular. This resulted in a strong desire to intensively study the life of trees and the desire to express my emotions and perception of them. For almost two years I have tried to find a way to express this, but it always felt wrong, until now. In the early spring, I started to visit the forest again, just to walk and be there… To breathe and feel. I thought I would make a photography project of the trees, so I took my camera with me and started to photograph. But the more I photographed, the more I felt I should paint. Photography is the Art of the moment, you can freeze a second of time, but painting is the Art of the process… It just takes time. So, now I am daily going to the forest by the river, trying to feel it, to hear it, to smell it, to breathe… It is like the woods are talking in riddles, whispering secrets, poetry I can feel, but can’t understand. Words stroking my ears and heart. I feel saved and loved there. I don’t try to understand, my perception is emotional, not intellectual. I feel like I am in love and the trees are singing for me. I am surrounded by the beauty of pure nature. That’s what I am expressing in these paintings. It is not a depiction of the forest, but an expression of a love story.
Krassimir Kolev, “The Secrets of the Woods 9”, 2022, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm.
Is there a reason for this general dark blue color intensity of the paintings? What does it mean for you?
The Blue is the expression of the feeling I have in the forest. When I go into the woods it is like a transition to another world - from the hot sun into the cool world of the forest. It’s like I am protected there, it feels like home, but also like magic.
Krassimir Kolev in his studio.
I describe this series as Krassimir Kolev's forest. But watching the trees and getting lost in the forest from Krassimir Kolev's window, which is reminiscent of the deep blue of the ocean, is a different pleasure, a different beauty. To be able to see and feel this virginity, as if no human being had discovered this place before, as natural as if they had never set foot, and as innocent as if it were the first gift of Krassimir Kolev. What do the innocence, calmness, and peaceful feelings in these pictures convey?
I think the viewer has to decide that for himself. What this conveys for me is not important, I think the important is what happens in you as you see those paintings. I think for everyone it is different. That is what I mostly love with art, it speaks to everyone differently, on a personal level.
What kind of feeling do you have when you go across the canvas before starting a painting? How would you describe the moment when a new painting begins to emerge?
Oh, I love this feeling! It’s like the beginning of a new journey. I don’t even know how to start. It feels like I’ve never done this before, but in some magical way in the end I am there, on the road and I have the privilege to see it happen, every new artwork is magic. I love it!
Finally, what are your plans for this series? Are you considering a solo exhibition?
Yes, I am planning to present this project at Solo Exhibition, but I don’t hesitate I enjoy creating it yet. It is a beautiful journey.