Platform for Arts, Institute of Art Studies, BAS, did a series of exclusive interviews with this country’s leading artists and art historians about how does it feel to make art amid the coronavirus pandemic, about its impact on culture and long-term implications.
Stanislav Pamukchiev is a professor at the National Academy of Art, Sofia, Secretary of Painting Section, Union of Bulgarian Artists. Author and curator of large-scale contemporary-Bulgarian-art-themed exhibitions such as The Untold Abstraction (2014), Reality Disputed (2017), etc.
Q: What are you doing now during self-isolation at home? Are you making the best use of your time?
A: I am rescuing my inner world, drawing small sketches as I am not at my studio; listening to classical music for emotional and spiritual awakening; trying to concentrate by reading the books I never had enough time to read; conducting drawing online courses adapted to self-isolation.
Q: At what point of your work were you caught up in the COVID-19 crisis?
A: I was preparing a solo exhibition in October-November at Credo Bonum Art Gallery; working and thinking over a large-scale curatorial project jointly with Peter Tsanev expected to be unveiled in October 2020 at Rayko Alexiev Art Gallery. In my capacity as the Art Secretary of the Painting Section, Union of Bulgarian Artists, I am mounting this year’s exhibition of the section, Portrait, at 6 Shipka St, Sofia along with a number of smaller projects and participations in group exhibitions. It is anybody’s guess when and how this all will be…
Q: How did the pandemic change your everyday life, professional agenda and decisions?
A: The pandemic influences my life by setting aside my preliminary dispositions and expectations. Looking on the bright side, this extreme derailing prompted me to get back on track, hopefully regenerated.
Q: What smouldering problematic subjects surfaced as a result of self-isolation and with all activities across Bulgaria and the world cancelled?
A: We live driven by the inertia of illusorily replaced, fragmentised, horizontally unfolded, situational, encumbered existence. Forcibly taken out of this way of living, we will more sensitively and straightforwardly look at ourselves, roam the length and breadth of ourselves once again, put ourselves to the test by the core human values. This will affect our choices of subjects; sharpen our senses for the existential drama, meaning, value, and truth, for the truth may be foreknown only in the extra-situational totality of being. Such disposition may well help art out of conceited flirtation with oneself, of playful trifling matters, sensuous overexcitement and philistinism, as well as of intellectual haughtiness and speculation.
Q: Your opinion about the long-term implications for creative and research quests?
A: I expect a stronger will to go on creative quests. My whole programme of an artist is expressed in the title of my latest solo exhibition, Comeback, a comeback in the sense of an effort to identify the basic, the deeply human, a comeback to the inner ‘gravity’ centre of a mental and spiritual whole. The extreme situation of isolation enhances these dispositions and intuitions and when it comes to art, this may be a productive exaltation.
Q: Where do you expect to get support in the declared state of emergency over Covid-19?
A: I literally do not expect support. The institutional environment will not recover following the grave economic crisis. I expect at the stages of its rebuilding and recovery the moral, ethic and existential inferences made during the crisis to structure the value orientation of all those working responsibly in the creative and cultural industries.
Q: What about the therapeutic role of art in the resocialization after the pandemic ends?
A: Should art through its powers succeed in showing us a meaning and a direction, rather than further wallow self-conceitedly in it self-sufficiency, satisfying pleasure, comfort and relaxation alone, it stands a historical chance of regaining at least part of its initial high goal and function, i.e. of elevating and making us better.
Q: Any ideas about how to resume this country’s cultural activities after the end of the pandemic?
A: I would do my best to display more human and professional gallantry. The real crucibles are lying ahead. The pandemic is just the beginning of a total ontological change in human life, as we know it.