Svetozar Benchev has long since drawn the attention of art lovers as an artist with a world and a visual language all his own. His eye and his thinking
hover, beyond the realities of life and everyday existence, in the realm of
imagination and dream-like visions, in regions where sublimated extracts of reality
undergo unexpected and strange encounters to give expression to a highly
distinctive – delicate, intelligent and impressionable – artistic personality.
On the face of it, it might seem easy to discuss the art of Svetozar Benchev,
since the range of his favorite themes is not all too vast. In actual fact, this proves
to be incredibly tricky for behind all those apparently constant image-signs there
lurks an overwhelming host of meanings and inferences perceived in many
subconscious variations, and sometimes even articulated in words.
The difficult choice made by Benchev in the visual arts seems to have been
And his development over the years has confirmed the inmost
motivation of this choice and the artist’s creative potential to overcome the risks
attending it. For an artist is by his very nature predestined to deal with the visible,
the material, the objective.
Svetozar Benchev has turned his back on all this.
He feels drawn to that ultimate limit of the corporeal where the incorporeal begins.
He graduated in painting with a pronounced love for graphic art and started
forming a visual language different from both.
A language in which the modulations proper to painting intercross with the linear figurations nourishing the
Thus, the artist is searching for his self by communicating with the secrets of the universe, beyond all established forms and traditional patterns.
Benchev’s visual vocabulary has remained constant in time: a woman, more
often a mere feminine likeness, sometimes in the romantic aura of old-time wide-
brimmed hats or costumes; a bird, in some works not fortuitously flying off from
its cage, in recent works reduced to a bird’s wing, the symbol of soaring flight and
omnipresence; an arm or arms delineated as flowing waters or streaming music; a
heart-flame interpreted quite in disregard of hackneyed patterns; tears in which, so
the artist avows, the souls are bathed. In these image-signs Svetozar Benchev sees
incarnations of the four elements: Water, Fire, Air and Earth.
Time, which is also tempting his mind with the tensions between yesterday, today
Svetozar Benchev’s images are invariably charged with reflection. His
thought is spanned between image and word. That is why his drawings are often
accompanied by philosophical verses in prose. In fact, it is precisely the drawings
that reveal his talent in its purest aspect – an almost ephemeral stroke of the brush
rouses to life the image, which was barely suggested by a line before.
The word in
Benchev’s art signifies freedom but it is also a burden. It is freedom because it
gives scope to thought. A burden, because in his works it is not illustrated but is
always subtly implanted into the very fabric of the picture.
And it is perhaps precisely the word that makes the artist stay within the limits of the figurative.
In his most extreme quests he holds on to the legible image and, what is more, it is
actually then that the pictorial message takes on an utmost succinctness.
In Svetozar Benchev’s work, figurativeness itself is of a peculiar sort,
indeed – I would venture to say – fictitious.
The visible is subjected to strange, at times implausible transfigurations.
The sea turns into concrete so that one can chip off a lump from it and take it away.
The heart is perched on the palm of a hand, which, on its part, purports to be a flying figure. The wing is made up of fire and water.
Strange symbioses, which provoke the imagination yet conceal their
ultimate meaning leaving us to relish the elusiveness of a riddle.
The spiritual trajectories connecting these incompatible elements are extremely drawn-out.
The path from the face to the mask turns out to be endless and the impulse to walk it elusory.
How does the living face peer into an object, and isn’t this the soul of the
object itself? We are faced with the phenomenon of a refined modern symbolism.
The color in Svetzar Benchev’s works is pallid ashen.
It appears chastened, as it were – in subdued tonalities and confined areas. Should one wonder why
colour has become extinct in the realm of mirages and nebulae?
And is there any colour at all in the chasms of the universe?
Isn’t it there that radiates the purest of light?
It is not only from colour that the artist has long distanced himself.
He gave up oil painting, which has originated historically to express the terrestrial, material
and objective, in its corporeal substance and natural colouring.
And it is for this reason that Benchev is working in techniques, which by the very handling and
I consider it a significant fact that fate has brought Svetozar Benchev into a
close relationship with Japan where he has more than once exhibited and won
The egocentric creative impulse in his work – a sure sign of individualist Western culture – has been in a certain sense assuaged and uplifted by the impact of Eastern philosophy and the idea of inner enlightenment. This contact with the East, I think, has suggested the direction of his individual quests – the quests of a
European – for a personal artistic code.
Thus, perhaps being unaware of it, he has found himself between the West and the East.
His art bears the marks of our time, which no longer accepts externally imposed regulations and canons and gives free reign to the authentic individual worlds born in the free communion with all that The metaphors of Svetozar Benchev have sprung up not from delving into reality, into the drama of existence and the ‘torments of matter’. His ephemeral incorporealities have flown off from this cage.
They are the product of a different, personal attitude, which the artist has discovered for himself and developed in his creative years into a field of singularly distilled plastic values.
Approached from this position, things have turned upside down.
The terrestrial, material and objective has receded and declined in strength, while its ideal projection, having taken hold of the artist’s consciousness, pulsates with increased force. It is therefore only at first sight that the encounter of Svetozar Benchev with modern electronic visual display, exemplified in the ‘New Camera
Obscura’ project, might appear paradoxical.
That an artist of such sensibility and need for a filtered reality should feel challenged by this other system, which also processes the immediately visible albeit through technical means, was only natural.
And it was natural to seek a dialogue with it. Visual electronics – though we may
balk at the notion – has already taken complete possession of our life.
By this gesture, as unexpected as it was organic,
Svetozar Benchev proved himself to be a Such is concisely outlined the presence of Svetozar Benchev in the panorama of contemporary art – an artist of visual meditations, of ideas spanning far-flung bridges, and of a highly distinctive plastic style and timbre.
– Ruzha Marinska