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Colorful Visions: An interview with the artist Maria Kirkova

March 7, 2009 by · 1 comment

Vera Baleva’s interview from Maria Kirkova’s home

Translated from Bulgarian by Velina Vateva

The door opens and Maria Kirkova joyfully welcomes me. Even the tiles in the entrance smile their blue color. Hanging on the walls her most recent work—incredibly colorful pieces like bright and complex paintings but weaved of threads. Kirkova is a weaver as well as a painter, and works with a variety of materials.

The theme in her recent work is new. She calls it “lineal”—due to the many lines, variously colored, that intersect and change position harmonically.

These lines create a rhythm that tells its own wise and beautiful story. Infinity itself seems to be a theme of Kirkova in these great tapestries of boundless color and reverberating rhythms.

As I move through Kirkova’s home I feel confronted by various temptations of color. In the dining room even the utensils seem to give voice to the joy of color. The walls are laden with paintings that demand more than a passing glance.

Maria, herself, is dressed in red and violet and it is difficult to tell if it is her surroundings that give her complement or the other way around. In fact, it does not matter because Maria Kirkova and the colors are one.

As we sit down to a sweet (no sugar added) cup of tea, I can see a fragment of the outside landscape, the street and trees through the window. I imagine Kirkova sitting on the nearby terrace mining the beauty of her surroundings for her art. Sipping my tea, I admire two paintings on the wall by Nikola Manev.

Afterwards, when we go into the hall, there are three more by him, and also a variety of artwork by many great artists.

Maria takes me to her desk and it is like a world of possibility, a bizarre of small tubes and jars, dyes and materials. Her magnificent colors sleep in their tubes and I am taken with the dream of sitting down to paint.

Nearby there are shelves of extraordinary books, and a white glass-case holding Kirkova’s own treasures of special memories and moments. Even the pillars of the winding staircase that leads to the bedrooms have been colorfully painted.

Next, we view and move through Kirkova’s “movable frescos” and I want to get close right away, not only due to the beauty, but also because of the materials: wool, silk, cotton. These pieces are symbols of delicacy and shelter.

There are no people in Kirkova’s fantastic tapestries but semblances of figures seem to appear through the mood of each piece as the eye follows the lines and shapes. Each piece explores emotion and tells a story about joy, happiness, and light.

Kirkova’s work with textiles makes me think of the work of a prose writer because of the technique. Working with threads, and other natural materials, is much like writing a novel. Kirkova makes her own threads and then starts creating, fibre by fibre, a woven cosmos loved by its creator.

Maria Kirkova also uses newspaper in her work. It is not perhaps a “natural” material if we keep in mind what is being published in the newspapers, however it is after all paper and Maria saves this paper making virtuosi curls from it.

She also ornaments the paper. What she creates from this paper looks startling like a rag-carpet, so common in the north-west of Bulgaria. The rag-carpets They really look like the rag-carpets, which are so common for the North-West Bulgaria. The rag-carpet is a passionate gathering of memories.

After leaving Kirkova’s home, walking along the muddy street, I feel as if I had absorbed the color of her home, her presence, and her art work, for nothing seems drab under my feet. The colors of Maria are with me.

How do you feel in the world of art?

I feel cosy… as if I am embraced by a fine angora scarf and watching the flames in the fireplace in my house…

The “meeting” with which painter changed you forever?

This was the “meeting” with Picasso. When I was a student, I terribly wanted to see some of his original works (in those years it was almost impossible for this to happen). Very soon after my graduation this meeting happened and my dream came true; this had a profound affect on me.

I still bow to his work and delight and challenge myself through his great mastery!

Can you tell us about your process of creation in regard to these pieces?

I make the ten, sometimes the hardest, steps to my desk, play my favourite music and am engulfed by a beautiful world… (MY WORLD)

What inspires you the most?

Life itself. Life inspires me with its simplicity, complexity, and immensity. Life with its perfection…

How do you feel about the painter in you?

This is a journey, sometimes we meet, and sometimes we walk past each other…

When you talk, you very often say words like “light, joy, and happiness”. A person’s vocabulary is like a mirror of them. Please, tell us about these states of yours.

It is an aspiration. I do not know whether it is conscious or not, but that is how it is!

What are the springs of your creative impulses?

They are all around. They are in experienced moments, fulfilled dreams, dreams I am waiting for, dreams that fly. I get them (steal them)… I think this makes my sensitivity breathe.

If we have in mind Picasso’s sentence, “The artist duplicates, while the great artist steals,” how does this apply to the way you create?

I do not deny it. I do steal – sand from the sea, a board of an old gate, a flaming look…

Which themes and subjects do you find as yours – as your “special right”?

These are the subjects, which give birth to the intention. I express what I would like to happen through geometrical figures (they are my letters, my Morse). I love the simple aesthetics in our folk art, the masterful rhythm of colours, structures and philosophy.

What led you to choose to live in the world of art?

This was the moment of my birth… the warmth and wisdom of my family.

The blood of the famous Karavelov family moves through your body. Would you tell us – is this blood more refined? Do you think it brings you more prosperity?

The latest studies show everything is normal… It is pleasant.

It is obvious you feel complete as a wife and mother of two daughters. How do you reach this state?

With love… Sometimes is not very easy, then I maneuver.

How do you see yourself after 10 years?

I will have invited my friends to my next exhibition.

How else do you accomplish your goals each day, so often saying the words “light, joy, and happiness”?

I accomplish them with dreams, travels, searching for emotions, unveiling the things in life.

Maria Kirkova was born in Rouse, Bulgaria, and graduated with a degree in Textiles and Fashion from the Academy of Arts in Sofia. She is a member of the Union of Bulgarian painters and works in the field of artistic and interior design.

Private Exhibitions:

1998 – The Town Gallery of Sofia
1999 – The French Institute of Culture, Sofia
1999 – Collis Gallery, Lozano, Switzerland
1999 – 3/14 Gallery, Bergen, Norway
2000 – Ata Ray Gallery, Sofia
2000 – Kavallet Gallery, Varna
2004 – The German Embassy, Sofia
2006 – Green Cat Gallery, Sofia

International projects and competitions:

1990 – Stockholm
1992 – Triennal, Belgium, tour
1991-1993 – “Autumn Salon”, Paris
1995 – “Cite d’art”, Paris
2002 – Bulgaria-Japan, The National Art Gallery
2005 – Exhibition “Rusalka”
2005 – Izmir, Turkey
2007 – Brussels, Belgium

Commissioned Works:

Sheraton Hotel, Sofia
Berlin Hotel, Golden Sands
Magnolia Hotel, Primorsko
Flamingo Hotel, Albena

National Galleries and Holdings:

The National Gallery of Arts, Sofia, “ART Dialogue,” and many private collections

“Maria Kirkova creates celebrations of threads… and obvious and infectious pleasures.”

François Jonin, “Tribune de Lozano” newspaper, July 1999

“Maria Kirkova’s art tells us about signs, geometrical forms and motifs, which themselves draw paths of an inside universe, which has no boundaries… They bring into being in modern forms visions and patterns of Bulgarian folklore, art of Indians or the abstract art of ХХth century.”

Dolores Bogomilova – „International tapestry journall”, March 1999

The motifs in Maria Kirkova’s works are very powerful in their ideas, technique and fulfilment. Keeping in mind the traditional fluent technique for weaving, her designs show her influences by Miro and Picasso, also her hard attempts to keep one of the oldest Bulgarian master ships. In a world where art of painting overshadows Gobelins, Maria Kirkova is for sure one of the most shining stars of these Bulgarian “movable frescos”.

Kurt Haubrehts,” GreenCat Gallery”, January 2006

24B, Golash st., Sofia, 1111 Bulgaria
e-mail: mob.0887 52 02 11; tel.870 45 18

1954 – Born in Rousse, Bulgaria

1980 – MFA in Textile, National Academy of Fine Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria

Selected Exhibitions – since 1990

Solo Exhibitions

1992 – “Steps in the Sand”. Style Gallery Dobrich /BG
1998 – “Textile Structures”, Gurko 1 Sofia Municipal Gallery Sofia /BG
1999 – “Textile Impression I”, French Cultural Institute, Sofia /BG
1999 – “Textile Impression II” Collis Gallery Lauzanne /SZ
1999 – “Textile Art”, Foundation 3.14 Gallery Bergen /NO
1999 – “Textile”, GalleryAta – Ray Hotel Sheraton, Sofia /BG
2000 – “The Art of Textile”, Kavalet Gallery Hotel Riviera, Golden Sands /BG
2002 – “Tracks”, Gallery Kavalet, Varna /BG
2004 – “Dreams”, German Embassy, Sofia /BG
2006 – GreenCat Gallery, Sofia /BG

Group Exhibitions

1990 – “Textart – group” Stockholm/SE
1992 – Second International Triennial in Tourney /BE
1991-93 – Autumn Hall, Paris /FR
1995 – Cite des Arts, Paris /FR
2000 – “Light, Thread, Shadow”, Bulgaria-Japan, Plovdiv /BG
2001 – Spring Hall, Lion /FR
2002 – “Contemporary Textile Art – Bulgaria-Japan”, National Gallery, Sofia /BG
2004 – “Winter Story” – Gallery “Circle +”, Sofia /BG
2004 – “Catched Rays”-Gallery “Debut”, Sofia/BG
2005 – International Plain-air of Painting, Roussalka /BG
2005 – “Visions in Textiles”, International Textile Art Exhibition,Izmir, Turkey
2006 – “Group 91 and friends”, ART Centre Altera, Sofia/BG
2007 – “Urban-Space-Art Contest” Brussels/BE

Awards and Grants

1988 – First Prize for textile at 5th National Exhibition, Sofia /BG
1995 – “Cite des Arts” Competition Laureate, Paris /FR

My work “White over Black” is inspired by the traditional Bulgarian textile heritage, such as technique, coloring and elements, combined with the modern lifestyle of the country.

I am attracted by the art created with thread and reincarnating the beauty, human warmth and wisdom of the past generation in the modern interior. My work is produced with traditional materials as wool, goat hair, silk and tinsel. I also use a classical flat weaving technique that gives me possibilities to create my compositions exploring the geometrical abstraction.

I get my inspiration from Nature, the feelings between people and the link between the universe and the human.

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