As it is known, the problem of identity in the contemporary world, as well as in the contemporary art is dramatic. The old models of self-identification, which are bequeathed by the Enlightenment and the Modern Age, are in ruins. Identity is no longer based on obviousness and myths, because the world of today is more than ever relative and undermined with self-generating conflicts. Even though in theory the whirlwinds of globalization presuppose the origination of countless new constructed identities, there remains the question: In relation to what values should they be arranged? And likewise: What is ‘value’ and ‘achievement’ today?
Within the boundaries of the art of painting the answer to this question is particularly vague, since during the last few decades painting has transformed from a major pictorial genre into so to speak a conceptual supplement subordinate to the question: What is ‘contemporary art’? What is more, the question now is: And can there be a contemporary art of painting? First, what should its esthetics be, since the idea of beautiful is vague; second, what should its aims be, since we are hesitant about the first; third, where should we look for new reasons – whether in the classic techniques or else in the means of the digital media, and so on.
So, Bogdan Aleksandrov - one of the most active Bulgarian artists from the generation of the transition period - offers us an exhibition entitled ‘Residual Identity (Manifesto)’. When seeing it, of course, we should take into consideration that he was born and lives in a border region (Vidin, North Western Bulgaria) where not only three Balkan borders gather, but also the pan-European river Danube flows, and quite naturally he has over and over again asked himself the question about his own origin and identity. He has in practice demonstrated that in his art so far. However, in the series “Residual Identity” there is not a slight allusion to self-determination in terms of origin and nationality. Not that along the banks of the Danube various national languages and tunes cannot be heard; it is because there are already no boundaries, especially in the space of the contemporary art. For determining his ‘residual identity’ Bogdan Aleksandrov chooses one “small personal space” (the name of the series of paintings). And that space is related to a personal tragedy – incurable mental disease of a member of his family. Through using the instructions and practices in treating persons with intellectual disability, the artist changes the fabled sentence of Josef Boys ‘Every human is an artist’ into ‘Every human creature, even the sick one, is an artist’. We can see serial images: methodical repetition of spots, incessant enumeration of non-complex methodological texts. Both mouth and hand move as if by themselves and effortlessly, in pursuit of normalcy, in order to remind that the normalcy of human is achieved in the movement, in the attempt for advance. Even when this movement and this progress are quite simple and unpretentious. Residual image of a residual movement with its simple esthetics and simple message: to search for normalcy, to search for the meaning by looking ahead. And as opposed to the absolute images in the museums, which keep the history, but do not sufficiently help us to comprehend contemporaneousness.
Interpreted in such a way the exhibition ‘Residual Image (Manifesto)’ is now transformed into a metaphor, which is concerned not only the psychopathological, but also the pathological in the contemporary world in general. A metaphor of the monstrous cataclysms that the Balkans have experienced in the last years, and a metaphor of the civilization cataclysms that shake the world today. Which are the residual values inside us, and how should we simply exercise them so that we can redefine them and restore their power in the future? What has remained of us so that we can be true to ourselves?
Bogdan Aleksandrov answers these questions in his own way through a method that is most generally called ‘post-painting’. With simple images and conscious pictorial gestures, with highlighting the meaning of creating a new image. Without naïveté, extremes or rage; yet constructively, humbly and tenaciously, and with fidelity to the principle of the endeavor. And there really are both beauty and sense in this. And hope as well.
Rouen Rouen, art critic