Iliyan Ivanov

Born in: 1963, Burgas, Bulgaria
Lives in: New York City, USA
Describe your art in three words: abstract, dynamic, raw
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"I view my art as a personal landscape where mundane objects are subject to new interpretations and previously unseen associations unfold. The transformation of meanings in response to changing surroundings is an underlying motif in my work. This requires an ongoing artistic exploration of contradictory concepts that coexist in the pictures I create."

What themes does your work involve?
I work developing a few bodies of work simultaneously or in parallel. For the last couple of years I have transitioned into creating exclusively dynamic abstract paintings on large-size unprimed canvases and works on paper. In addition, I continue to work on ongoing projects like creating sketch books using ink, pencil, collage and acrylic. The underlying themes are mainly driven by personal experiences of being a scientist and a musician and dealing with personal losses of friends and family during the pandemic. However, these themes are represented mainly through the emotional states associated with different events rather then depiction of events themselves.
Describe your creative process.
I have always felt a pull towards abstraction as it reminded me of music improvisation - in essence I always wanted to create paintings that convey perception of rawness and fluidity with brushstrokes evoking sense of motion and conflict. I recently found that using unprimed canvas allows me to achieve some of these goals through creating texture as the paint fuses with the cloth and also multi-layering the colors that forces them to directly interface. Any particular painting starts as an emotional response to some personal experience, in some instances with an image in my mind - a "vision" of a sort - and often is accompanied by finding a name for the painting or a series of works. Some of my latest themes include "The Hunt" series, "Lost Pets" series and "One Flower Garden" series.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I think artists make art because they feel there is no choice NOT to do it - it is a part of who we are , it is our language to communicate to the world by evoking strong emotional engagement with others who value art as much as we do. Over time I had been influenced by different artists and different styles but in more collective sense the artistic movements of the New York Abstract Expressionism, the COBRA and the Gutai have left the most enduring influence on me.
What is the role of the artist today?
Aside from being activists and creating politically charged artwork I think every artist is a witness of our times that contributes by offering their unique interpretation of the times we live in. As Vasily Kandinsky wrote: "Art is a path every man must walk. Every man must walk it creatively (whether actively or passively). And there is no spiritually mature man who does not need this path or manage to avoid it." To me walking this art path creatively is the role artists fulfill.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
As certainly there are particular rules and methods for creating a panting some may say that good art is the one that effectively applies those rules. Indeed there are paintings that are very professionally done yet they seem to lack the thing that will left an observer struck and make them remember and reflect on a work of art. There are some ineffable qualities of a "good painting" that are hard to put in words - but to me it is the ability of a good piece of art to immediately draw the person into the dynamic of the painting, to dazzle the senses with its colors and to create a sense of either contemplation or urgency that will make you feel like you become a part of the image.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

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