Topography of Friendship
Vaska Emanouilova and Kiril Petrov
15/12/2022 - 05/03/2023

The Topography of Friendship exhibition is about two artists’ friendship and their interest in the natural scenery of their birthplaces and the shapes it takes. To Kiril Petrov, it is the flatness of the Danubian Plain, ‘the gust of the wind, the dust raised by a car on a winding country road, the cracked thirsty earth, the scorching sun, and maybe the scent of herbs’. And to Vaska Emanouilova, it is the rocky slopes of the southwestern part of the Balkan Mountains, where ‘the scenery never changes and always lends itself to painting’. The exhibition attempts to draw a map of the friendly and professional relationship between the great painter and the well-known sculptor. It also marks the 125th anniversary of Kiril Petrov’s birth.

Kiril Petrov and Vaska Emanouilova are among the most iconic modern Bulgarian artists, while Kiril Petrov is considered to be one of modern Bulgarian art’s most peculiar exceptions. Influenced by the diffuse painting of his teacher, Prof. Nikola Marinov, Kiril Petrov did not take long to arrive at his distinctive artistic sensitivity that does not abide by the laws of perspective. Some time later, Kiril Petrov personally suffered the first blow of dogmatic criticism dealt on his entire generation when his second solo exhibition (1946) received scathing reviews. As a result, the artist went into a long period of self-imposed isolation, yet the years he spent in his native village on the River Danube were devoted to further experimentation with art as a tool of getting to know the surrounding world: realistic allegory-free exploration of principles of plasticity, leaving substance behind in the pursuit of the ephemeral field of aura, psychologism, empathy. Kiril Petrov’s existence and work were in stark contrast with the current developments in the official art scene. Brought together by college, the artist and Vaska Emanuilova kept a long-lasting friendship based on mutual support, which helped him through the period of personal and professional isolation.

The exhibition presents watercolour paintings by Vaska Emanouilova offering views of her birthplace, and figures she made during her extended visits to the village of Komshitsa using local women as models, as well as 15 paintings by Kiril Petrov that belonged to and were treasured by Vaska Emanouilova. The prominent sculptor included the latter in the substantial donation of artworks she made out to the Sofia Municipal Administration in 1985, which later gave rise to the gallery named after her. Many of the paintings featured in the exhibition were created en plein air during the artists’ friendly get-togethers in Vaska Emanouilova’s native village of Komshitsa.

The exhibition is brought to life with kind support from the Archives State Agency, Sofia, State Archive, city of Montana, and private collectors.

Monastery I, 1965, watercolor, paper, 38.5х57.5, Collection of the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery

Ecce Homo (Portrait of V. E.), 1976, oil on canvas, 58х46, private collection

Woman from the Mountains, 1962, terracotta, 59x34x20, Collection of the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery

Landscape from Komshtitsa, Elengrad, 1961, oil on canvas, 53х65, Collection of the Sofia City Art Gallery

Rock below Elengrad, 1975, watercolor, paper, 48х62, Collection of the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery