Thursday, September 3, 2015

From Oppression to Freedom Exhibit at the Edge Gallery

Artist Georgi Tsenov spent his youth in Bulgaria experiencing Soviet Union oppression first hand where “artistic freedom” was only a dream of what might be experienced in places like America.  “My life in this nation has been the culmination of a lifelong journey, and the fulfillment of my youthful dreams.”  This is reflected in the current exhibit at the Edge Center gallery in Bigfork. Titled “The Long Journey: paintings by Georgi Tsenov”, this show runs from September 3rd through 26th with a free opening reception and a chance to meet the artist on September 4th.  

Often major life changes influence an artist and his or her art. In the case of artist Georgi Tsenov, these were sweeping changes that took place over time and distance and had three stages in terms of his relationship with America

The first was his youth in Bulgaria under Soviet Union oppression where only rare glimpses of American culture gave people a hope of freedom.  This ended with the 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall that signified the end of the Soviet Union, and end of the Cold War.

In the second stage, there was the new freedom during the years he studied at the National School of Fine Arts and Sofia University in Bulgaria.  As Tsenov explains,  “Democracy brought us the possibility to explore and discover the art, literature, and culture of the western world. The movement of abstract expressionism was for us a great triumph of the spirit, and the liveliest opposition to the stiff artistic patterns of totalitarianism.”  His painting style developed as a mixture of realistic and abstract representation.

In 2009, Tsenov and his family moved to Houghton on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Northern Michigan.  He describes the impact of this third major life change, “As an artist, the move from the Sofia, a city of more than a million people, to the quiet, town of 13,000 was extremely difficult. My new setting was interspersed with tall solemn trees reflected in the crystalline waters of Lake Superior. In the beginning, the nostalgia for my homeland and the bustle of the city took hold of my demeanor. Slowly, in harmony with the beauty of the surrounding area, I began to let go of my attachment to the traditional European styles, and to explore the art of this new home.”

Tsenov generally starts his oil paintings outdoors and transforms them in the studio.  There is a sense of movement, maybe wind, in many of them. His style is colorful, and expressive.  You can identify most of the scenes, but the paintings are more emotional than realistic.  Tsenov has participated in over 70 juried exhibitions and biennales in Bulgaria, the European Union and the United States.

See how an artist’s journey from oppression to freedom changed his work in The Long Journey: paintings by Georgi Tsenov.  Meet Tsenov and see the paintings at the free Opening Reception on September 4.  The exhibit continues until September 26.  Edge Center Gallery is next to the Bigfork School and is open from 10:00 to 4:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

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