In the early 1990s an enigmatic figure appeared in the world of Bulgarian contemporary art. Ventsislav Kostov, until then known primarily as a leading industrial designer, started drawing the reflections buildings throw on the ground around them, thus creating magical illusions for lightness and ephemerality. In the years until his death in 2006, he caused five buildings – among them the National Theatre and the National Palace of Culture – to 'fly' above their mirror images. Employing the laws of perspective and optics, Kostov created pictures of illusion. He was like a discoverer from the time of the Renaissance.
In a manuscript* with commentary on his own work, the artist wrote:
When I'm creating mirror images in an everyday urban environment, I'd like to be able to convey the sensation of ultimate purity. I try to change a building or the street we're walking on in a way as to make absolute the illusion of a mirrored world. But such pictures fall apart the moment we lose interest in them and step away: the constructing lines twist out of shape causing the image to distort into a pun of the laws of perspective; it's as if we're looking into the distorting mirror of a dream.
A genuine discovery of Kostov's art were his first 'reflections', which he created in Warsaw in 1973, as well as his displaying there ideas and objects which proved testaments to his huge artistic and conceptual potential. The organisers of the current exhibition have gone a step further: they made a practical case of the principle of building a mirror image, putting up one such image in the exhibition hall.
For the current retrospective, which exhibits all Ventseslav Kostov's projects, thanks are due to the artist's family in the face of his daughter, the art historian Yana Kostova. Further thanks go to the artist's son, the film photographer Dimitar Kostov, who ensured that the staircase in the gallery hall has its own special 'mirror image'.
Ventseslav Kostov was born in Svishtov in 1944. He studied design at the Sofia Academy of Arts in the late 1960s. He continued his studies in Poland – first, to Kraków and, later, to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, from which he graduated in 1974. In 1973-74 he did his first reflection projects, which were enthusiastically welcomed into the Polish art world. Despite invitations to remain in Poland and become assistant to his teacher Emil Czesłar, Kostov chose to return to Bulgaria. But the art climate in his native country cold-shouldered his art, regarding it with mistrust. He went on to direct his whole energy to his work at the Institute for Industrial Aesthetics, ultimately leaving behind dozens of design blueprints. Things changed in the early 1990s, when Kostov's work progressed mostly in the art contexts of the Process-Space festival in Balchik and the Sofia Underground festival of performative practices.
The exhibition 'Reflections of Light and World' is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue and a short documentary featuring leading art historians and presenting a trove of documents about the artist's work.
The exhibition is made possible with funding under Sofia Municipality's Kultura programme for 2017.
'Reflections of Light and World' is on view through 2 April at 2 Slavyanska Str.
The team of the Credo Bonum Foundation extends its gratitude to the Sofia City Art Gallery; the National Art Gallery; the National Academy of Arts; Emilia and Mila Petkovi (for the music by the composer Bozhidar Petkov); the photographer Galina Yotova (for the archival images); Kalin Serapionov (for the shooting and editing the video); and Kalina and Krassimir Terzievi (for their work on the catalogue, design and the website).
R. Ruenov, 'In memory of Ventseslsav Kostov', 39 grama, issue 20, 1–15 July 2006