Thursday, November 02, 2006

Art Space Talk: Vassilen Vasevski

Vassilen Vasevski is an artist from Bulgaria who presently instructs art at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. I noted the soft quality of Mr. Vasevski's paintings when I discovered his art. The delicate blend of color and line combine to create a feeling of 'calm'. It is refreshing to observe paintings that offer this form of tranquillity.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "Since age of seven or eight I went through all kinds of art schools until at 23 I ended up in the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. At first art was just something I enjoyed doing, but later it began to make me feel different than my friends. Needles to say, my parents were supportive of my endeavors and even sometimes, in the early stages of my career, pushed me when it was necessary. I spent the years between 14 and 19 at the High School of Art in my hometown and as I recall that was the first time when I felt differently, maybe more serious towards art. I began also to consider myself as part of a new group of people-those whose lives were engaged solely into the process of making art. This understanding culminated to a higher level in my time in the Academy of Fine Arts."

Q. You are an instructor at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. How has your profession changed your artistic direction?

A. "It’s been always difficult to joggle between art and everyday work. I mean, there isn’t probably an artist out there who hasn’t experienced such problems. But being a teacher, being an art teacher is something different. I enjoy working with students; they often give me inspiration and help me to get better orientation in the world today. Doing art is a solitary experience, the artist sometimes sinks so deep in himself that reaching out to young and genuine energy definitely is a break and revitalization. On the other side being an art teacher at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago made my discipline grow stronger. Also I began to pay more attention to details and to the overall composition having to teach a class of design fundamentals on a regular basis."

Q. Can you tell us a little about the art department you work for? I’ve often heard that it can be hard for an art instructor to create his or her work due to having tight work schedules. How do you find balance?

A. "The art department I work for is a cluster of professionals. I was very lucky to start among them. As far as the balance goes I couldn’t tell it is easy to find the crossing point, but my self-discipline helps. It’s also about the degree of devotion you have to your art."

Q. What can you tell me about the Chicago art scene?

A. "The Chicago art scene is a vibrant and diverse one. There are a few art districts where galleries are heavily concentrated, among them the River North Art District being at the top and the Buck town /Wicker Park Art District being my favorite one. In the last several years the month of October has been established as an official artists month. There were openings, art talks and tours everyday, and almost everywhere throughout the city. Let me add something else too. The popular understanding that the art scene here is second or third in the country is not a fact that you should count on anymore."

Q. How creating art has shaped you professionally and personally?

A. "Trough the art process I think that I know more about myself now. It was very surprising when I first discovered that art could explain the world and my own personality (feelings, desires, dreams) to me. After all these years of doing it I think I found the purpose of life, the answer to the question why am I here and what I suppose to do while I’m here. I also feel much more content now compared to let say, ten years ago. At the end art gives me sense of harmony and inner balance."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any implications in your art?

A. "When I came to U.S. seven years ago I was introduced to some kind of "bigger picture of the world". Life has a much faster pace over here, you work more and achieve more. It is true that possibilities are limitless. To be honest, I felt lost in the beginning as I was thrown into an ocean. Later something "clicked" and synchronized me with the world here. Then slowly a different view with fewer details emerged, a view that somehow made me to concentrated on the real, meaningful things and themes. So, I think society influenced my art in a way that it became more unified and harmonious."

Q. What are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?

A. "Art movements such as Impressionism, Surrealism, Expressionism has been inspiring for me through the years and the different periods of my life. I have loved many different artists too, but Modigliani is the one that stays in my personal scale of art still on the top."

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Are your past experiences reflected in the work you do today? If so, how?

A. "I was born and raised in the traditions rich Bulgaria, East Europe. That’s a place of special energy and uniqueness. Over there the air literally is filled with history and culture. That’s why my first paintings derived from such themes that are somehow strange and unfamiliar to the American public. A crossroad of diverse religions, my country has given me the most important-the so-called "metaphysical"(or philosophical) approach toward life and world. Without it doing art would’ve been dry and not uplifting experience for me. Now I call my style "metaphysical romanticism" and account my country for providing me with the first part of it."

Q. If you pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Mostly women are willing to buy a piece of my art. I guess this has to deal with the more emphasized feminine and sensible part of some paintings. There are collectors who buy art from me once in every few months. I love to sell art to people, who can connect with the painted subject on a deep inner level, people who will keep appreciating it long after the piece is hang on the wall of their home."

Q. Do you have an upcoming exhibit? If so, where and when?

A. "In January 2007 I’ll participate in a show in Gallery 350 in Chicago. I also have plans that are not confirmed yet for New Orleans and Toronto, Canada. Chicago is of course, my primary destination, so I’ll keep pushing for a show in the River North Art District here."

Q. Discuss your work. What are you thinking when you create? What is your artistic process?

A. "I try to improvise on the canvas in terms of color choice. Often I get the idea from a small preliminary sketch, which is later developed and improved. Vangelis, my favorite composer, says that we are channels of cosmic energy when engaged in art, so we need to keep ourselves able to transfer these high fluids from one world to another. It may sound a little pretentious, but helps me to keep the focus on what I’m doing. Music plays an important role in the process of painting to me. It helps me to enter a territory or state of mind where I can found the best colors for my paintings."

Q. Why did you choose the mediums you use?

A. "Colors can express my ideas in the best possible way. They could scream or be gentle, subtle or bright, simply a magical tool to talk to people. Painting is a universal way of communication. In the last few years I’ve rediscovered the power of the drawing too. I use brush and black ink, that’s quite simple as technique, although so emotional as a message. But let me tell you, the good drawing, a drawing that really speaks, comes after years and years of dealing with composition and details."

Q. Where can we see more of your art?

A. "Mostly on the web (follow the links on my website I’ve just started a blog ( where new pieces of my art will be displayed on a regular basis. At the moment I don’t have a gallery representation."

Q. You have had over a dozen exhibitions during your career. Can you offer any advise to aspiring artists seeking gallery representation?

A. "Never stop to believe in yourself and your art. Try to accept the burdens of being an artist from the very beginning. Work and dream hard, and remember art will reward you sooner or later."

Q. Tell me about your educational background. How has it influenced your art?

A. "I’ve got trained in the classical art way of education. I mean, that was mostly drawing and painting realistically, but I was lucky to live in a time of changes. The 80-es in Bulgaria were turbulent time with lots of flying ideas, opening eyes and minds. There was some sense in the air that now we make our own history. The most important-the barriers for the artistic freedom and expression at this time started to break and fall."

Q. Why do you create art?

A. "It is some kind of ritual to me, a ritual of everyday magic. And I’m doing it to keep up with myself, to live my dreams and desires, to communicate."

Q. Care to tell our readers anything else about your art or career?

A. "Thank you for the opportunity of this interview and good luck to! In the Digital Age we live today the Beauty of Art and its transforming power are things we still need. This is how it has been trough the entire human history and it is my hope it will be in the future too."

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Vassilen Vasevski.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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