‘From the Imperial Garden’
on the occasion of Andrey Yanev’s exhibition at
the Contrast Gallery
In 2019, Andrey Yanev participated in the Eighth Beijing Art Biennale with his painting ‘From a Window’; for the medium of watercolour, it was astounding in its dimensions (140 x 125 cm), even for the Chinese. For our Bulgarian art lovers, however, who are well acquainted with the artist’s aesthetic aquarelles capturing the silence of time, from his exhibitions dedicated to Mount Athos, the unreachable horizon and the sea, this choice was not fortuitous.
In February 2020, at the height of the coronavirus epidemic in China, Andrey Yanev received another invitation from the Biennale’s organisers and team to submit a painting to an online competition and exhibition on their website section, under the impressive title of ‘Love Can Defeat the Virus’.
What did Andrey take back with him from his visit in 2019 to China’s Imperial Gardens of the Forbidden City and the northern lakes, in order to create a series of aquarelles dedicated to China—particularly his remarkable work, ‘Lotuses in Love’, a painting we shall see for the first time in the exhibition at the Contrast Gallery? It was chosen by 240 participants from all around the world, after a precise selection by the curatorial team among 36 artworks best reflecting the theme.
Why is this, fleetingly blooming, fragile flower—the lotus—the focus of the exhibition, when there is such a variety of flowers in the Imperial Garden?
As is well known, in China, even before the spread of Buddhism, the lotus was revered as a sacred plant. In its flowers, gods and the exceptional people of the world were born. It was associated with the creative force, with the place where life originates, and hence, with fertility, immortality, resurrection to eternal life and spiritual purity. The appearance of the lotus was also considered a harbinger of the birth of the Buddha, in other words, the Annunciation. And not only that: in the art of the East, in the Western Heaven, symbolising Paradise, there was a lake where lotuses grew, each of them connected to the soul of the deceased.
In Buddhism, the appearance of the lotus is associated with the beginning of a new cosmic era. What does Andrey Yanev want to tell us with this exhibition in the traumatic times we live in today? In his paintings, along with lilies, jasmine and the hollyhock, the emphasis is specifically on the lotus. Moreover, his aquarelles, suffused with luminiferous colours, are reminiscent of Egyptian cosmogony, where the rays of sunlight illuminating the earth, which had previously been in darkness, emerge from the blooming lotus flower. Is the artist not reminding us of the fragility of the human path, resembling that of the lotus?
Whatever thoughts or inventions these paintings—exquisite, contemplative, bathed in light—have induced, they are like an invigorating breeze that can help us capture the brief instant when the Truth about Life is revealed to people, for it is so easy to miss the moment when ‘Love Defeats the Virus’.