Andrey Yanev and his footsteps from the Upper Earth – Plamen V. Petrov


Plamen V. Petrov

Saints, angels, and humans coexist in a seemingly unimaginable unity in the artistic space of Andrey Yanev – an artist who, from his first appearance on the scene, to this very day, has asserted his presence in the territory of meaning. Refusing to follow the path of everyday life, he continues to learn from the mystical Christian worldview with a monastic dedication, and he transfers its unfathomable signs onto his work. A work that always brings me back to the “discreet charm of perfection,” in the words of Tomas Tranströmer:

The icons were placed face-up

on the ground, trampled

by wheels and shoes, by thousands of footsteps,

by the heavy footsteps of ten thousand unbelievers.

In a dream I descended into an underground pool radiating light,

a raging worship service.

What uncontainable longing! What idiotic hope!

And above me, the footfalls of millions of unbelievers.

(translation of Maria Zmiycharova’s translation from Swedish)

The words of the writer sound even more current in the context of the present exhibition, From the Upper Earth, in which the artist arranges his exquisite drawings and painted canvases. All of them transmit us to otherworldly, probably “upper” spheres, but also to an imagery whose vitality, although alienated from our militant present, is an expression of an often unconscious, primal human need for meaning. Despite the footfalls of millions of unbelievers.

In all of these canvases, the artist has immortalized his “uncontainable longing” for fellowship – with God, with us ourselves. Realized with a seemingly “idiotic hope” in the truth of life, Andrey Yanev’s paintings stand out in contrast to our disfigured present. And that truth is always within us, the humans who, like some face-up icons not made by hands, gaze every day – if only in our sleep – in the direction of the many footfalls coming from the upper earth. Divine signs, as we ourselves are.

The exhibition From the Upper Earth is another solo appearance of the artist in his native city of Burgas – on the sea, about which Andrey Yanev says: “Water is one of the elements necessary for creation. It is limitless and possesses its own mysteries. It is a powerful energy that comes from where I also come from – from Burgas.” It is precisely this energy that we see in the exhibition, yet another proof not only of his talent, but also of his ability to transport invisible sensuality and divine presence into the world of the visible. With his more than 70 solo exhibitions, Andrey Yanev has left an important mark on the history of contemporary art in our country – but not only ours – with which he articulates the autonomy of meaning in contrast to the triumph of the insignificant. What’s more, consciously or not, he bridges the gap between the present and the past. This is exactly how we see him in his exhibition in Burgas.

A vivid example of this is the canvas that gave the exhibition its title – From the Upper Earth – a painting impressive with its size, its colour and compositional construction, and with the unexpected(?) references it allows us to reveal. The three angelic images, interwoven into a single whole, seem to represent hypostases of the author himself – painful concentration, deliberate persistence, and refined detachment. One of these angels has directed an ostensibly reproachful, or perhaps alarmingly incisive gaze at us, the viewers of the painting. The ignorant will probably read in this gaze a kind of arrogance, but others will recall the astounding work of the great Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, The Adoration of the Magi, from 1475, a painting that is now part of the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In it, in the cave where the Saviour was born, the Magi came, offering their gifts to the Christ Child. There, at the right edge of the picture, we see the figure of Botticelli himself. It is this self-portrait of his that seems to have found a new incarnation in the angelic image created by Andrey Yanev.

The canvases entitled Portals in Time also suggest the seeking of passages between the space of the past and the present, between here and there. And the painting The Portals Are Open can be thought of as a confirmation not only of the quest for them, but of their actual attainment. It is as if this very opening also predetermines the logical appearance of the picture Travelers – an impressive painting in which three human figures have set out into a suprasensory foreign land. Movement between the upper and the lower earth. And it is not the arrival, but precisely in the moving itself, that seems to be the true meaning of our earthly existence. The movement in which we leave our marks on the hard ground. Footprints like signs proving to us that we are here, that we exist, that we are. Like an uncontainable longing! Like an idiotic hope!