One of the latest exhibitions of the Bulgarian artist Atanas Hranov has the intimate title “Your two faces that I love – portraits of beloved women“. Behind the sensuous maya of the picturesque canvases various discrete and inscrutable metaphors of the artistic Other being glint through. The conceptual and emotional layer in Hranov’s works calls for multilateral aesthetic perception. In terms of composition, it seems that the fragmentary is tangibly dominating. Yet, it conveys, in a highly individual and peculiar way, the homogeneity and completeness of the initial creative intention incarnated in the artistic message of every single painting. In this connection, it is necessary to highlight some of the symbolic images that constitute, as Delacroix has infallibly put it, “a bridge between the spirituality of the artist” and that of the spectators. It is through these images that the “artistic content (the spirit) of the work of art acquires (…) an existing being” (Dzhadzhev 1999:261). Needless to say, they can not be analyzed by themselves, detached and isolated, but rather through a hermeneutical perspective as composition ingredients of every individual work and their varied integration on the canvas.
Firstly, the opulent exposition pallet brings forward a distinct puzzle of multilayer colours which gives depth and three-dimensionality to the drawing. Amid all this brilliance, red and black loom out as headlights. The associations generated by such colour solutions are extremely different. On one hand, red may explicitly embody love, vitality and passion. In the Hebrew lexical system, this colour is nominatively assigned by the word “adom”, which is semantically connected with “adama” meaning “land”. Hence, red is understood as the colour associated with the idea of life. On the other hand, a possible interpretation may relate this colour with the bridal veil – traditionally fiery red in wedding folklore customs worldwide. The semantic code of red bears marked connotations of feminine nature, namely – of the “mysterious”, “unknown”, “dangerous”, etc.
Atanas Hranov’s paintings are a boundless treasury for such symbolic allusions. Part of his works exploit the semantic potential of red precisely through the relationship woman – otherness – soul-searing passion.
Rosy-red is the colour of the mystic flower¹ present in almost every painting depicting beloved portrayals. Its spacial presence is barely hinted in some of the canvases or, it stands out as a distinguishing feature of the artistic intent in others. Translated as a metaphor of constant rebirth and burst of vital energy, the flower is projected as the first step of life. Flora is a natural symbol of the possibilities that spring out of the grain, hence we arrive to the cross reference of the primal Garden. Within the framework of this exhibition, the flower discretely reminds of the bygone times and realizes a whimsical return through an intimate and real life perspective. The metaphorical is identified with the memory and the nostalgic yearning for the Woman – the other one – inflamed by compelling passion and semantically implied by, as mentioned, the symbolics of the red brush.
One of the most strikingly intriguing compositions of the exhibition represents an abstract red background of abundant shading served with enchanting scatter of women’s shoes. The phallic association encoded in the image of the shoes is not, by all means, downright and explicit. However, this symbolic vessel is charged with the concept of vital inception. The mystical flower discretely reappears in this drawing and plays another fundamental key to decode the painting. The implication of the flower with the Garden of Eden excites further semantical transformation and links together the Garden with the Woman, hence, we pulse with the comprehension of fertilization and fertility. Thus, the mystical flower in the paintings harbours, in its semantic range, the concept of identity with the beloved woman, at the same time being a symbolic attribute of her femininity. The aesthetic breadth of this work creates a world whose dominants are determined by the functions of the Eros. The painting itself is a revelation of the voluptuous inception recurred by the memory through which the perpetuation of the other being becomes possible, a utopic return to bygone times imbued with sacred character.
Another symbolic image present in the exhibition is that of the apple. We see two green apples on one of the canvases with the rose-red flower reappearing next to one of the apples. The apple correlates with the fertility goddess Demeter as well as with the goddesses of love and marriage Aphrodite and Hera. It is worth mentioning that the fruit seed denotes the concept of its fertility effect, of conception and birth, i.e. “fertility is equally materialized by both the fruiter and its fruits”. Generally, the image in ancient Greek and Byzantine culture has a specific erotic and marital symbolics. Traditionally, the apple is related with the masculine nature. Its semantic parameter from mythological point of view conveys the meanings of giving and reviving life, thus parenting the borderline between vital inception and eschatological end. Undeniably, this painting also works in the realm of the Eros. The colour palette here blends green, blue and black. Green marks the qualitative categories of contraction and passivity, as well as of eternity, in terms of metaphysics. Its semiotic code is polysemantic and generates yet another semantic reference, namely, of maturity from the point of view of cyclic recurrence. The image of the woman on this canvas leaves a vivid trace reminding of a comet tail. Headed forward, it seems to penetrate into the artistic sphere through a doorway of another dimension, of another time. The metaphoric symbol of the memory here unfolds through the image of the window. Its identity with the mirror is instrumental to the resurrection of the past reflecting the artistic soul. Revived by the memory, the window turns into a mediator between being now and being then. The cypher of the future being is encoded by the image of the ships sailing along the endless blue sea. The actual spacial idea is overwhelmed by the road connected with the parameters of the human soul – the soul of the artist. In fact, what we find in the work discussed here, is a definite time framing of the vector past – present – future. History recurs, as already mentioned, through the semantics of the window; the occurrence of the present is denoted by the mature memory of the woman pervading the artist’s mind, and the forthcoming (road) is connected with the open sea and the sailing ships; all of this meaning conveyed through the implications of the green colour has been immortalized on the canvas which will continuously retell its story in some other time, elsewhere.
If we go back to the exhibition of Atanas Hranov in 2010 called Curriculum vitae, the Latin expression for autobiography, we will find out that there is, in fact, an exquisitely skillful expedition going backwards and forward throughout the artist’s life paradigm. Genealogically, the artistic narrative of the paintings stratches from early childhood through adolescence to maturity – periods pervaded by love in all its manifestations.
The images in the expositions mentioned above are mainly abstractions than actual realiа. They produce the sacral memory reserve. Each of the works serves as a mirror reflecting the artist’s inmost aspects of sensitivity and spirituality. “Human nature (…) can be seen and understood through eyes and the mind of the Other” (Protohristova 2004:25). Similarly, the artist objectifies the parameters of his being through the memory of the women he loved and through their space-time continuum landmarks.
1. The flower is defined as mysterious and mystical due to the impossibility of identifying its specific floral variety.
* The bibliography used for this article is written in Bulgarian. That’s why the original bulgarian titles are presented.
- Алмалех, ел. източник: Алмалех, М. Семиотика на цвета –http://liternet.bg/publish17/m_almaleh/semiotika.htm;
- Джаджев 1999: Джаджев, И. Основен курс по естетика, Варна, 1999;
- Колева, ел. източник: Колева, В.Естетика и ритуал-http://liternet.bg/publish/vkoleva/estetika/content.htm
- Протохристова 2004: Протохристова, Кл. Огледалото: Литературни, метадискурсивни и културносъпоставителни наблюдения, Пловдив, 2004.
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