The Art of Books, Printing and Graphic Design

by Svetla Petkova

Graphic design and design generally is one of the art forms that bring art close people – it comes out on the street, gets into shops, homes and literally reaches the everyone’s hands. Often we don’t even realise we’re coming in contact with original works, published as books, posters, packaging, labels, advertising materials... Design in Bulgaria, especially in its contemporary forms, is a relatively new phenomenon compared to fine and applied or decorative arts. Again in comparison to them, in design it’s much more difficult to differentiate different aspects and different kinds. One of the branches of design which we’ll be focusing on here is graphic design which includes a wide array of products: book design, magazines and newspapers, the formatting of official documents, postcard printing, money, tickets, invitations, catalogues, logos, corporate communication design (business cards, forms...) etc. If you look at the bigger picture, a designer is always working for a customer and needs to accommodate their work to a specific target group, it is dependent upon market demand and mass taste. There are also more boutique products and alternative forms which allow for more experimentation and creative intervention. As for products made for the market (advertising materials, corporate communication design, packaging, labels etc.), one of the most important things a designer needs to take into account is imposing quality aesthetics. They need to be aware of the responsibility they bear for the formation of taste and the creation of an aesthetically sound visual environment. This holds especially true when the target group consists of children. After 1989 with the change in the political system and the changes the Transition brought about, leading from a planned to a market economy, design in Bulgaria was put in different conditions of professional work. This had to do mostly with the rise of the private sphere of design, production, trade – private companies were established, publishing houses, printing houses, art unions etc. were created. Another very important new factor began to play a role for the potential and characteristics of design and graphic design in particular. Since the late 90s and even more strongly during the fist decade of the XXI century, our everyday lives were penetrated by new technologies which opened up a broad field of activity, speeded up the working process, offered more possibilities, precision in detail, the circulation of a new generation through digital printing. This has its good and its bad sides. In the early stage during the 90s, the bad sides were very all too clearly visible since mastering these new technologies and software created the deceptive feeling that graphic design was easy and anyone could become a graphic designer. At that stage artists still weren’t prepared to use software and this delicate work was left to IT experts and amateurs who often had no sense of composition, colour or aesthetics and the market was flooded with a myriad of graphic mishaps. It is safe to say that in that respect it was the publishing houses and advertising companies, not yet experienced or established in the new circumstances, who were to blame, usually working without a designer and generally showing low criteria for the quality of their production with the only goal being achieving a low price, easy and quick production. Educational institutions played an important role in balancing this environment of compromise with design quality. First and foremost the National Art Academy which has serious traditions and well established artist and professionals in their fields among its teaching staff. Thanks to lectures like Vladislav Paskalev, Stefan Gruev, Todor Vardzhiev, Viktor Paunov, Regina Dalkalacheva, Ivan Gazdov, Dimitar Tasev, Lyudmil Chehlarov, Dimitar Trendafilov, Georgi Yankov et al., the programs in Posters and Visual Communication and Books and Printed Graphics at the National Art Academy gradually changed their conceptof posters, books and illustrations radically, seeing them as a kind of space and a plastic environment. Professionals who freshly graduated from the National Art Academy, together with well established names imposed a quality outlook and aesthetics of visual products. Often graphic designers aren’t specialised in just one field and work for example on book design, font designs, posters, calligraphic compositions, illustrations and logos. Events offering an alternative avenues for the development of artistic potential in the field of graphic design became much more widespread towards the end of the first decade of the XXI century. This was when various conceptual exhibitions, actions and forums began to be organised in Bulgaria. Specialised websites emerged for non-commercial, pure-art design. This is where artists doing design can present their skill, share and communicate which takes design to a new level, opens up space for experimentation, allows the search for new avenues and individualism. Many Bulgarian graphic designers have their individual approach, creative outlook and achievements and it’s difficult to point out any general direction, trends or generalise. This is why here we will only dwell on some of the main processes during the examined period and mention some names.  

The Graphic Space of Books and the Press

The art of book design and illustration is a world of its own within graphic design with its own achievements and problems. Its development and rise to high standarts in Bulgaria has its long and rich history of accumulation and development of professionalism over several generations and periods which aren’t always clearly defined. Illustration for example flourished most spectacularly between the 60s and 80s but continued its development during the 90s. The art of books is a complex system of elements, united under a graphical concept involving composition, balance, rhythm... The period in book design and illustration immediately following 1989 was characterised by diverse and at times extremely different trends, varying, changing and developing considerably during the first two decades of the XXI century. These were determined by the economic situation and public attitudes in the country. The market crisis and demand in the early 90s lead to compromises with the quality of books produced – both in terms of textual and graphic content, and in terms of the printed body. This critical situation of the last years of the past century forced many talented Bulgarian illustrators and designers working on books, to switch to advertising or work for foreign publishing houses which offered opportunities for career development and adequate remuneration. Fortunately, with time publishing houses sprung up which were willing to invest in the quality of their products and worked with professional artists. The best part of the first decade of the new millennium was active and offered a series of positive examples and spaces for more author’s work and individualism. Then a new crisis followed. Among the first to stand out against the background of mass production was the Janet 45 publishing house which put its money on high standards in terms of design and print quality and worked with artists like Hristo Gochev, Dimitar Kelbechev, Rumen Zhekov, Georgi Stankov, Yana Levieva, Raycho Stanev, Ina Bachvarova, Lyuba Haleva and Kiril Zlatkov.

Kiril Zlatkov

When I want to remain silent, 2014.

Drawing

Details

  • Material: Туш

  • Property of: Kiril Zlatkov
  • Copyright: Kiril Zlatkov

Other publishing houses working on a high professional level included Letera, Colibri, Altera, Obsidian, Kibea, Siela, Fakel, List etc. Tochiza is a publishing house for children’s books which stood out with its choice of texts, professional quality of their produce and taste for design. They employed artists like Miglena Papazova, Inna Pavlova, Alya Markova, Yassen Grigorov, Yulian Tabakov, Siana Zaharieva, Zara Buyukliyska, Alexandra Chaushova, Viki Knish or Mila Lozanova. The names who continued to actively work in the field of book design and illustration immediately 1989 were much less than during previous periods. Worth noting is the example of Lyuben Zidarov (born in 1923) who began his career in the 40s and was still active after the age of 90. Positive examples from the late 90s and early 2000s, both in terms of design and illustration, included the work of artists the likes of Viktor Paunov, Alexander Alexov, Kiro Mavrov, Nikolay Alexiev, Regina Dalkalcheva, Slav Daskalov, Tsvyatko Ostoich, Borislav Kiossev, Tonya Goranova, Stefan Kasarov, Nikolay Pekarev, Krassimira Despotova et al. With time new names entered the field such as Yana Levieva, Nadezhda Oleg Lyahova, Kiril Zlatkov, Kapka Kaneva, Damyan Damyanov, Anna Simeonova, Raycho Stanev et al.

Kapka Kaneva

Book covers from the El Arbol de los Clasicos Series for Oxford University Press, Madrid, 2015.

Painting

Details

  • Photographer: Kapka Kaneva
  • Material: paperwork, photo, digital retouche
  • Sizes: various sizes

  • Description: артдиректор Емил Марков

Within the big picture, some significative artists are worth mentioning. Yana Levieva’s work for example is unique in Bulgarian book design. She was more active before 2010. Her work is diverse, experimental, highly aesthetic and encompasses all aspects of book design. The artist sought non-traditional spatial and plastic solutions by using alternative printing material and peculiar book binding. Yasen Gyuzelev’s illustrations are an example of international success. His Alice in Wonderland, Alice through the Looking Glass, Pinochio, Oliver Twist etc. were very successful with their unusual composition and classical drawing style. Another artist whose work in the field of books, magazines and catalogues is worth mentioning is Nadezhda Oleg Lyahova. Her conceptual approach is very clearly visible in the Altera. Gender, Language, Culture magazine published by Altera, where she created unusual compositions working with images, fonts and colour. Two other associates of the publishing house – Krassimir Terziev and Daniela Oleg Lyahova, also contributed to the magazine’s characteristic design. In the field of design of periodicals, the Kultura weekly journal stands out whose design is the work of artist Hristo Gradechliev. He went for a non-traditional format and paper, experimented with compositions of images and fonts, drew hand-written letters and reduced printing colours to two – black and the characteristic green. Many well-established painters such as Kolyo Karamfilov, Elena Panayotova, Stefan Bozhkov, Ivan Gazdov, Gredi Assa et al. also showed creative approaches to books. Because of the impossibility to invest in expensive issues or ones that have more complex shape, pop-up[1] books are very rarely published in Bulgaria. One example is Anton Radev who designed a series of these during the first years of the XXI century for the Kibea publishing house in cooperation with foreign publishing houses. In 2016 Tochitsa published Maria Nalbantova’s graduation work Cherni Mechki za Beli Dni / Beli Mechki za Cherni Dni [Black Bears for White Days / White Bears for Black Days]. The author’s pop-up book includes 3D black-and-white elements. Emil Markov also does pop-up books, only his works were done after 2007 and outside Bulgaria (mainly in Spain), some of them in collaboration with Alya Markova.

Maria Nalbantova

Black Bears for White Days / White Bears for Black Days, 2016.

Book

Details

Maria Nalbantova

Black Bears for White Days / White Bears for Black Days, 2016.

Book

Details

Students in the Book and Printed Graphics program of the National Art Academy work on similar projects as part of their training process. Among them the works of Sevda Poturlian, Radostina Mincheva, Kapka Kaneva, Ivanka Tacheva, Margarita Ivanova, Bistra Musseva, Krassimir Stavrev, Radoslava Daskalova, Rositsa Yachkova, Vanya Kotarova stand out. Some of them are already an important part of Bulgarian book publishing. For example many of Kapka Kaneva’s book projects have been published and her work has become a trademark not only with its quality, professionalism and originality but also because she is the only one in Bulgaria to use that type of covers and the so called “unconventional plastic illustrations”.

Kapka Kaneva

Illustration to "Mrs Cherry's Kitchen" by Sylvia Plath, "List", 2018.

Painting

Details

  • Photographer: Kapka Kaneva
  • Material: paperwork, photo, digital retouche
  • Sizes: various sizes

These are done using hand-cut 3D paper shapes with fine detail. These are then photographed, adding the play of light and shade. In the field of d’auteur books, mostly children’s books, there are Mila Popnedeleva-Genova, Rin Yamamura, Asya Koleva-Stoyanova and her studio Byala Lodka [White Boat], as well as Nevena Angelova, Rositsa Raleva and Evgeniya Nikolova of the Ribka [Little Fish] publishing house. In recent years the youngest generation of artists has entered the field of book publishing and they are yet to show their potential and have their achievements. Promissing names include Martina Vacheva, Maria Nalbantova, Borislava Karadzhova, Simona Kassabova, Yana Dobreva, Martin Tzekov, Mila Yaneva-Tabakova, Nora Karaivanova, Albena Limoni. Milena Radeva is also a young illustrator working abroad and the author of a specialised website about illustration and the art of books.

Martina Vacheva

Serial Portraits, 2015.

Drawing

Details


  • Description: Tуин Пийкс (2015)
    Доктор Куин - Лечителката (2015)
    Спасители на плажа (2015)

Through it she has been popualrising her own work as well as that of young artists in the field, covering and reviewing events. One of the most active and recognisable authors is Boris Pramatarov. He designs books, illustrations, posters, comic books, cartoons and applied graphics with characteristic imagery, mainly in black and white. He works on everyday subjects, human relationships, his inside world. What is characteristic about his work are human and animal figures, fantastic creatures, plants and symbols intertwined in a complex way and inhabiting parallel magical worlds and conditioned spaces. His work is known not only in Bulgaria but also abroad where he works, does shows and has won prizes.  

Boris Pramatarov

The Observer, 2017.

Book

Details

  • Material: Digital print, japanese bookbinding

, 2018.

Book

Details

  • Material: Сито печат, дигитален печат, ризо печат

Independent Publications (d’auteur and art books, bibliophile publications, samizdat, zines) The field of independent[2] paper art publications can be subdivided into several kinds – the first to come into being were bibliophile books which are also closest to the classic shape and essence of books intended to be skimmed through, read, looked at. Bibliophile editions an the author’s interpretation of an existing literary text which inspires the artist for a series of graphic works using various graphic publishing techniques. Another kind are auteur art publications in limited issues which, unlike bibliophile publications, are an expression of the artist’s total creative freedom. Their texts can also be written by the artist and the image goes beyond the purely illustrative function, becoming a self-sufficient and often assuming a leading role which allows for a multi-layered interrelation between the verbal and the visual. Nowadays these auteur art publications are more and more often done using contemporary digital printing with their uniqueness reduced to hand biding. Unlike these publications which are printed in a number of copies, the unique book has only one copy but is still related to the structure of book space and the logic book composition. It can be said that the auteur object book is a work of pure art based on a conceptual idea. It is only formally linked to the classical form and logic of the book code, rather “working” with that form on another level, reserving itself the liberty to activate, replicate or oppose it. It takes on extremely varied shapes – they can be viewed as sculpture, installations, assemblages, kinetic plastics and the material used doesn’t even have to be paper. Around the world such issues are displayed at festivals, art forums and fairs. Two such international events have been organised in Bulgaria so far – Hip Hip Zine Fair in 2015 and Sofia Art Book Fair with its first edition in 2017 presenting photographic and art books. Both events were organised by Desislava Pancheva, owner of the Hip Hip Library – a private library with such publications from around the world as well as a place to meet and exchange ideas, successor to the Hip Hip Atelier. In 2016 Viktoria Staykova, Veliana Ivanova, Mila Yaneva-Tabakova and Andrea Popyordanova created the ТI-RE platform, presenting independent auteur printed publications by Bulgarian artists. Having graduated from the Books and Printed Graphics program of the National Academy of Art, they were left with the impression that the auteur books created during their years of study remained hidden to the public with no opportunity to be displayed. TI-RE aims to bring together authors of similar publications and people who appreciate this type of books not only from Sofia but also from other places in Bulgaria. This type of independent art publications (artists' books, art books, fanzine, zine) has its history around the world which some theorists trace back to the innovative work of the poet and artist William Morris who created a series of bibliophile book publications in the late XIX century. This was a way for him and his followers to try to counter mass book printing which erases their individuality. As a separate category in art, art books became more and more popular during the second half of the XX century but it does have its roots in early avant-garde movements such as Dada, Constructivism, Futurism and Fluxus. In this more contemporary version, the stress is not so much on the presence of a “graphic original” in the publication, as on its meaning as a conceptual object. In Bulgaria some rare examples appeared during the 90s and in recent years young artists have been turning to this form more and more. One of the first examples of an artistic approach to book publishing in Bulgaria is that of poet Vesselin Sariev (1951-2003). In 1990 he established SVEP, a magazine for visual and experimental poetry. It only existed briefly and only 4 issues were published in 100 copies but through mail art it managed to authors from all over Europe, Asia, the USA, South America. They sent their works over the mail with about 40 poems and illustrations received for each issue which were included in the publication. It also presented visual and experimental poems by Vesselin Sariev which he published in the democratic press of the time as well as works by Chillian emigrant in Plovdiv Guilermo Deisler – the key figure in introducing Vesselin Sariev to visual and experimental poetry after ’81. Today some SVEP issues are in the Akademie der Künste collection in Berlin, the MoMA archives in New York and at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles. In the 90s there have also been other examples of auteur object books which were presented at the Balgarska Art Kniga [Bulgarian Art Books] exhibition in 1997. The exhibition had a catalogue which is valuable evidence of the work of artists the likes of Nadezhda Oleg Lyahova, Yavora Petrova and Tihomir Manolov, Adelina Popnedeleva, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Pravdolyub Ivanov, Nina Kovacheva, Daniela Sergieva. Nowadays Regina Dalkalacheva works actively in the field of art books, showing her works mainly in Germany. Another field its its own right are limited-edition collectable bibliophile publications, combining text and auteur graphic prints. This includes for example bibliophile books published during the first decade of the XXI century in up to 40 copies by the Maslarski gallery in Samokov. They include Dumi i Grafiti [Words and Grafiti] with three-verse poems by Boris Hristov, interpreted in 31 colour etchings by Milko Bozhkov (2001); Dumi, Glina i Grafiti [Words, Clay and Grafiti] based on texts by Boris Hristov and engravings by Zahari Kamenov (2002); poetry by Konstantin Pavlov accompanied by 21 lithographies by Svetlin Rusev (2003). In 2007 a book was published for connoisseurs with select poetry by Omar Khayyam and 12 etchings by Kolyo Karamfilov in 60 copies in wooden boxes. Two years later Kanela [Cinamon] was published, combining poetry by Elin Rahnev and 9 drawings by Kolyo Karamfilov in 71 copies. It was published in a LP format in a velvet box. Such books usually have manual, rather than machine binding. Specially selected paper is used (often hand-made). The original graphic prints are sown together or otherwise added to the copy. Since they are works in a limited auteur edition, these publications are personally signed and numbered by the author, showing the number of the specific copy within the entire issue, 5/40 for example. They are usually expensive. Zines are a special part of the cultural landscape. Generally speaking, zines are self-funded publications on a given topic in small circulation (up to 1000 copies), almost always done by hand. All means of expression are allowed – from needle-and-thread interventions, through the use of a printing machine, to collage and drawings, artist’s comments and illustrations, special folds, combining different kinds of paper etc. They are generally distributed for free but are often sold at a low price in order to cover expenses production and printing. The main principle in publishing them is the inner need to share with no strict time schedule but with perseverance. In Bulgaria the zine culture includes authors like Martina Vacheva, Sofia Grancharova, Elena Nazarova, Boris Pramatarov, Anna Tsocheva, Sevda Semer, Andrea Popyordanova et al.  

Martina Vacheva

Serial Portraits, 2015.

Drawing

Details


  • Description: Междузвездни Войни (2016)

Comic

Books The history of comic book art in Bulgaria includes its publications, specific features and over 400 artists and writers who worked in this genre. Certainly the most experienced Bulgarian artist in this field is Lyuben Zidarov, author of the album Ostrovat na Sakrovishtata [Treasure Island] (2003) which he worked on for more than 50 years. Undoubtedly the most popular publication remains the specialised magazine Daga [Rainbow] (1979-1992), having sold millions of copies. Over the years more than 40 artists worked for Daga, some of them defining the outlook of comic books also in the 90s. Among them were Stoyan Shindarov, Vladimir Voronov-Harry, Nikolay Kirov, Dimitar Stoyanov-Dimo, Petar Stanimirov, Nikolay Dodov, Venelin Valkanov, Vladimir Konovalov, Hristo Kardzhilov, Konstantin Georgiev-Coco et al. Some of them continued working into the XXI century and making projects for future publications. Daga was diverse and enthralling – both in terms of topics and graphic style. It included stories in pictures about history, science fiction, fantasy, adventure tales etc. After 1990 different publications came out now and then and for short periods, the highest-quality ones being Riko, Rix, Stories in Pictures which later came out as Pulsar etc. Some American comic books were translated as well as some series of the Franco-Belgian school. The leading names of that period include Sotir and Penko Gelevi, P. Stanimirov, Ev. Yordanov, R. Manchev, Hr. Kardzhilov et al. who worked mainly in cinema and animated films, foreign publishers, videogame design, painting. In the first years of the XXI century 13 issues of Daga were published but with other artists and the style being influenced by manga and street graffiti. One publication which stood out with its characteristic style was Vechnata Muha [The Eternal Fly], a so called ‘tragicomic book’ by writer Georgi Gospodinov and scenographer Nikola Toromanov. This graphic novel was first published in Edno [One] and Europeo magazines and then in a lxurious album. The first conference on issues related to comic books was held in 2011. The Daga Project team published a comic album Nad Dagata [Over the Rainbow] (2012) which sold out in one week and was followed by Nad Dagata II (2016). In 2013 the Union of Bulgarian Artists established a comic book section which organised the First National Exhibition of Bulgarian Comic Books. The most successful young Bulgarian comic book authors include Ivan Koritarev, Svetlin Velinov, Daniel Atanasov-Satanassov, Konstantin Vitkov-Titis, Boris Pramatarov. Their work proves that the art of comic books is alive and has a future. You can follow news from the world of comic books on the specialised electronic media.  

Initiatives in the Field of Posters, Design Festivals and Exhibitions

Posters were one of the first graphic forms to develop in Bulgaria. Poster art went through dynamic development since the Liberation (1878). Since the end of the 80s it has been developing in two main directions – one of them is defined by the new market environment and the other is non-commercial and free of the demands of customers. Professionally done posters almost disappeared from public space (due to the different priorities of customers, the commercialised environment and the market’s new demands), being limited to galleries and catalogues as part of specialised exhibitions in the country and abroad. In Bulgaria these include the International Triennal of Stage Posters, exhibitions of works by students at the National Academy of Art and the posters section of the International Biennale of Humour and Satire in Art in Gabrovo. Graphic design generally is present at events such as the Bulgarian Design Biennale (2008 and 2011), Sofia Design Week (since 2009 till present, redubbed in 2014 to One Design Week), TypoFest, a number of specialised and thematic exhibitions organised by the Union of Bulgarian Artists or the National academy of Art etc. It is thanks to events like these that the art of posters, books, fonts or caligraphy have stayed alive, the experience of influential figures from the past is presented as a good example, some well-established names from the past continue working, new artists come onto the scene.

The International Triennal of Stage Posters

(with its first edition in 1995) is the successor to the Biennal of Bulgarian Theatre Posters which took place for the seventh and last time in Sofia in 1992. Since 1998 the main organisers have been Bozhidar Ikonomov, Bozhidar Yonov and Albena Spasova who have managed over the years to attract world-renowned artists as members of the jury and participants. Over the years Bulgarian artists of different generations have taken part in the triennale, like the doyens of Bulgarian theatre posters Yordan Petrov, Dimitar Tasev, Lyudmil Chehlarov, Ralitsa Stanoeva, followed by Bozhidar Yonov, Bozhidar Ikonomov, Ivan Gazdov, Kostadin Otonov, Hristo Alexiev, Stefan Despodov and the young artists like Dimitar Traychev, Krassimir Krastev, Stoyko Sakaliev, Silvia Lazarova, Georgi Yankov, Teodor Ushev, Kiril Zlatkov, Kalina Serteva et al. Parallel to the main exhibition, the triennale team organise mnumerous other events including thematic international projects such as Teatarat – Tova sam Az [Theatre? I am Theatre] (2000 and 2010), Great Poster Masters from Japan (2011), Plakatata – Ulichnoto Dete na Izkustvata [Posters – Art’s Street Offspring] (2011), RIO +20 – Posters for a Sustainable World (2012), Bukvite na Balgaria – Azbuka na Evropa [Bulgarian Letters – A European Alphabet] etc. Thanks to the thematic section at the Triennale, artists have the opportunity to do non-commercial projects. This section features mainly young authors, with the ones below 35 eligible for the Asen Stareyshinski prize. Over the years it’s been awarded to Kalina Serteva and Ivelina Ancheva (2001), Margarita Doncheva (2007), Strahil Dimitrov (2010) and Maya Staykova (2013). In the field of posters, it is also worth noting the exhibitions of works by students of Prof. Dr. Ivan Gazdov and Prof. Dimitar Trendafilov at the Posters program of the National Art Academy. One especially interesting field young graphic designers work in are auteur posters[3] – a concept which was developed and systemised by Ivan Gazdov in his book by the same title (2011). This allows greater freedom for creative ideas and experiments. Professor Gazdov himself is an interesting example in the recent history of graphics and poster art, having developed a peculiar graphic art form called GRAFIKATURA® which began in 1987. It was developed into an integral concept in books, posters etc. and the name is a combination of the words ‘graphics’ and ‘tour’, hence, in the author’s own words, it is a graphic trip. In a short manifesto of 1991 Ivan Gazdov synthesised his idea as follows: „Grafikatura concentrates perception. It’s like an entire hiking trail is under your walking boot. It’s a special aesthetic journey without moving, with a sense of joy.” Visually speaking, grafikatura is an interplay of black and white which produces clear images with a characteristic aesthetics which are involved in compositions and stories, often humourous. Among Prof. Gazdov’s disciples is Theodore Ushev. After graduating from the National Academy of Art in 1995 and before moving to Canada where he was successful in animation, he created many theatre posters. Subsequently he continued doing graphic design, creating book covers, illustrations, festival, film, social and political posters, web design etc. where drawing always plays a leading role. 

Since 2003 the International Biennale of Humour and Satire in art in Gabrovo includes a Poster section where both young and well-established authors like Bozhidar Yonov, Bozhidar Ikonomov, Todor Vardzhiev, Krassimir Krastev, Nikolay Mladenov, Damyan Damyanov present their work. The prize for posters awarded by the Ministry of Culture has been won by Nenko Atanasov (2005), Lyuba Tomova (2007), Milena Ebona (2011) and Krasimira Drumeva (2013). The Biennale of Bulgarian Design only had two editions (2008 and 2011), focusing mainly on industrial, interior and engineering design. It did however include a Graphic Design section, presenting the main fields of applied graphics – posters, logos, book design, stamp design. Artists awarded for their work at the biennale include Svetlin Balezdrov, Kapka Kaneva, Damyan Damyanov, Iliya Gruev et al.

Kapka Kaneva

Paperwork for the book cover of "Baba Yaga laid an Egg" by Dubravka Ugresic, Panorama Publishing, 2014.

Painting

Details

  • Photographer: Kapka Kaneva
  • Material: paperwork, photo, digital retouche
  • Sizes: various sizes

The Art of Bulgarian Books national exhibition is one of the important events in the field of book design, not least through its catalogue. The annual forum was resumed by the union of Bulgarian Artists in 2006 after a pause of 14 years. The exhibitions are rich in content, organised in categories: Graphic book design; Graphic design of periodicals; Graphic design and illustrations of didactic publications (textbooks and teaching aids); Illustration (all kinds: scientific and artistic); Fonts – both artistic and reference; parts of literary texts; typographic compositions, done as self-sufficient artworks and Cum Figuris – free artwork (graphics or drawings), inspired by specific literary texts, including ex libris. The event’s main achievement is bringing together in one place the good examples in the field of book design and illustration, presenting the various directions and stages in bookmaking as well as to stress the role of experts in making a cultural product that is of good quality and complete. The Sofia Design week festival played a key role in presenting design and raising it to new heights. It takes place in Sofia every year since 2009. In 2014 it was redubbed to One Design Week and moved to Plovdiv. The people who organise the festival are mostly young. They have a contemporary way of presenting diverse content, varying from historically oriented exhibitions to current events in design, viewed broadly and in an international context. The festival also features a series of lectures with guest-speakers, some of whom are world-renowned. TypoFest is a festival for fonts, calligraphy and typography. It is organised by Kiril Zlatkov, Boril Karaivanov, Velina Mavrodinova, Ilia Gruev et al., whose aim is to impose the Bulgarian graphic shape of the Cyrillic alphabet. During this period artist collectives and initiatives were very important for professional development beyond clichés and beyond the market, for provoking creativity as well as for presenting Bulgarian design at exhibitions. Those worth special mention include New Vision International Group (NVIG), Transformatori, Plakatkombinat, Stalker Studio etc. New Vision International Group (NVIG) was established in the first years of the ХХI century as an artist collective of Dimitar Trendafilov, Georgi Yankov and Nikolay Maldenov. Through the years they organised a series of significant exhibitions and actions in the field of posters in Bulgaria and abroad following traditions but also looking to show the new contemporary language. The events organised by NVIG include exhibitions Za Edin Po-dobar Svyat [For a Better World] (2003) curated by Georgi Yankov, organised with the support of the UN и as part of the celebrations of the 55th anniversary of the adoption of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at EXPO’2003 in Barcelona and a year later in Bulgaria at the Sofia City Art Gallery; actions 24 May (Sofia, 2003), The City (Sofia, 2011, and Bankya, 2012); curator projects Ecolisti (Sofia, 2007 and Malko Tarnovo, 2008) by Margarita Doncheva, Posters by Young Authors (Sofia, 2008) by Svetlin Balezdrov. Karavana na Desette Dumi [Caravan of Ten words] (Sofia 2010, 2011) by Damyan Damyanov, The Magic of Poster (Sliven, 2013) by Georgi Pavlov etc. The Transformatori association and their SocMuz project showed broader society the works of theatre poster classics like Asen Stareyshinski, Dimitar Tasev, Lyudmil Chehlarov, Ognyan Funev et al. both in a gallery and in a virtual environment. The Plakatkombinat platform was created by Anna Simeonova who does thematic projects and created an online platform to promote some of the best contemporary graphic designers allowing their works to reach a wider audience and find buyers. Also worth noting are the posters and typography initiatives organised by Dimitar Traychev and his art studio Stalker and Kiril Zlatkov.  

Bulgarian Cyrilic Characters

The design of Bulgarian fonts and calligraphic standards in Bulgaria has a history dating back to the XX century. Artists who have contributed to the development of this special art which is an integral part of book design and applied graphics include Vasil Barakov, Alexander Zhendov, Alexandar Poplilov, Boris Angelushev, Stefan Kanchev, Vasil Yonchev, Olga Yoncheva, Milka Peykova, Ivan Kyosev, Vladislav Paskalev, Dimitar Trendafilov, Kancho Kanev, Atanas Vassilev, Todor Vardzhiev, Kiril Gogov, Stefan Gruev, Zheko Alexiev, Totko Kyusemarliev and many others. There is good reason for many Bulgarian experts today working to improve font culture, to preserve the characteristic outlines of Bulgarian Cyrillic characters, for its the study, development and establishment as the norm in printing books, textbooks and periodicals, on the internet etc. The reason is that in Bulgaria Bulgarian Cyrillic characters are not known and used and most people don’t even know that usually we use the Russian ones. Lately there have been lively discussions about the art of fonts and the Cyrillic font system – forums, round tables, conferences, discussions have been organised. The participants include independent authors as well as artist collectives actively working on font design. Among them are Dimitar Traychev, Boril Karaivanov, Kiril Zlatkov, Radomir Tinkov, Vassil Kateliev, Botyo Nikolchev, Kristina Borissova, Iliya Gruev, Ani Petrova, TapeDepo studio - Alexander Nedev and Veronika Slavova, Font Factory Studio - Svetoslav Simov, Svetlin Balezdrov, Krasen Krastev, Christa Radoeva et al. The MA programs in Fonts and Calligraphy at the National Academy of Art train new experts in the field whose projects give hope for a positive development of the art of fonts and the Cyrillic font system.  

Outside traditional graphics, with the development of computer technology and vector graphics software and photograph processing (raster graphics), a whole new field of creative experiment opened up. In the case of digital printing we are still talking about an authentic print in a limited number of copies on special paper, only not with the traditional graphic techniques. The images and compositions are not drawn manually but with computer software. Also, sometimes a hand-drawn image or drawing can subsequently be digitalised and edited on a computer. In Bulgaria authors working in this field include Kamen Strachev, Filip Popov, Svetlana Mircheva, Yassen Zgurovski, Kaloyan Iliev-Kokimoto. Philip Popoff is one of the most successful and recognised Bulgarian graphic designers, known for his labels, packaging, book and catalogue covers, corporate communication design etc. Aside from that he also does digital graphic series in limited artist editions which have a very recognisable style reminiscent of the aesthetics of the electronic machine or the schematic shapes of computer hardware. Examples of this are the graphic compositions from the Posthuman and Totenkopf series through which the author aims to present the world of machines, their cold and overwhelming beauty and force which, if abused, may become a threat. Other series include Para Bellum (2015), Zero City (2015-2010) or Transorganic (2014) which always have a special message about issues in today’s world such as the destruction of the environment or the loss of humaneness. Kamen Strachev uses vector graphics for his abstract graphic series printed in limited editions through digital pigment printing on paper. His exhibitions include Posleden Reportazh [Last Report], Prechistvatelni Stantsii [Filtering Plants], Diversifikatsiya na Lunata [Diversification of the Moon] where he showed images from the cycles Dnevna Svetlina [Daylight], Tyaloto na Orfey [Orpheus’ Body], Zemna Svetlina [Earth Light], Nablyudenie [Observation], Izchezvane na Spomena [Disappearance of Memory] etc. They usually include philosophical reflections on natural characteristics and phenomena, apocalyptic moods, deep emotional states and a rich inner world. Starchev is truly a master of computer technology and achieves images with exceptionally deep messages and characteristic spatiality done with rich imagination and a unique vision. He goes beyond the decorative which is normally characteristic of vector graphics. The compositions give a strong feeling of musicality thanks to the characteristic rhythm of colour fields and lines. The outlook is minimalist, the details are extremely precise. Svetlana Mircheva works in the field of graphic design. She is the author of many logos, film posters, book covers. She has worked as artistic director of numerous advertising agencies and for periodicals. She is also the creator of the Pinkonion posters and post card label. She also does contemporary art. She experiments with various forms – installations, prints, models, short videos and digital images. One of her most memorable works is the Errors series – 103 different visualisations of the same damaged .jpg file – a digital drawing of two legs. Svetlana Mircheva planned to use it to do a short animation when she discovered that the file was damaged and instead of the drawing, each time the computer displayed a different abstract image of colourful geometric figures. She kept the images generated by this error which she then printed and arranged in a series of compositions. Yassen Zgurovski does illustrations, comic books, posters, covers and independent graphical works. They all share an original and recognisable style, combining pure, bright colours, a pop-art aesthetics and decorative elements – flowers, birds, stars etc. The feeling is one of positivism and joy with no deep messages as pure play of the visual outside the drama of the present day. He uses both computer software and collage.

Kaloyan Iliev - Kokimoto is a contemporary conceptual artist using various means of expression – acrylic paint or mixed techniques on canvas, objects, collages etc. In the field of graphics and graphic printing, he uses both classical techniques such as lithograph, lithography, seriagraphy or dry needle, and digital printing of computer-generated images like his “postcard” series telling about the travels of the fictional character Maneki Neko Kokimoto  or the images of the Duhovno Patuvane [Spiritual Journey] series. What is characteristic of Kokimoto’s work are combinations of images that would seem impossible , the comic book feel of his scenes, elements of pop-culture, combining a collage principle of drawing details and photography, integrating characters invented by him into stories that are half-fictional, half-true, conceptual puns.

Kaloyan Iliev - Kokimoto

Maneki Neko Kokimoto's world trip to old America, 2016.

Digital Art

Details

  • Material: Giclee print on paper
  • Width: 11.05 cm    Height: 15.05 cm    Depth: cm   

Kaloyan Iliev - Kokimoto

Maneki Neko Kokimoto's world trip to old Berlin, 2016.

Digital Art

Details

  • Material: Giclee print on paper
  • Width: 11.05 cm    Height: 15.05 cm    Depth: cm   

Slav Nedev mostly paints but he is also the author of a series of digital prints of his auteur works in limited editions. He often uses digital technology to visualise his projects through prints as in the case of Biotope which is about pollution of the environment.  

[1] These are books where, upon opening each page, a 3D image appears with depth of volume, accomplished through complex folds and special, manually driven mechanisms.

[2] Independent publications are the ones that were not published by official and mass publishing houses and are financed by the author or a sponsor. Usually they are examples of the purely artistic side of book art and are regarded more as art works in their own right (art objects). They are usually done (often manually) entirely by the author. They may take on unusual forms. They are published in small numbers or there is just a single one. Distribution is unorganised. They are often acquired by collectors.

[3] The auteur poster is an independent work, done independently of customers and with no predefined limits.