BETWEEN ROMANCE, LITERALISM AND ART MARKET
Prof. Doctor of Arts Svilen Stefanov
Robert Baramov has been recently known to the connoisseurs of modern art chiefly as an engraver. His works have been traditionally associated with virtuosity of execution and high professional literacy in the process of graphic printing. These compositions, however, emblematic of his artistic presence, rich in metaphors and bizarre images, seem to have given place in the last few years to a painfully concrete social realism brought to life by the means of installation and multimedia.
This somewhat surprising metamorphosis began on September 16th 2011 with the project “BG PARADISE — elitist art on every table in every home” in cooperation with the Dyakov gallery in Plovdiv. These mostly installation works are displayed in the city streets but consciously they do not remain outside the museum environment and quite un-accidentally the installations “Romantic temptation” and “Reservation” happen simultaneously in the space of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia.
It is obvious that namely the multimedia installation “Romantic temptation” plays both a boundary and a key role in the process of creating of Robert Baramov’s recent works. This installation is like a semantic link between his work as an engraver and his desire to experiment in new fields of expression. One of the emblematic graphic works of the artist is digitally displayed before the visitors to the museum (seated on an especially installed for the purpose garden bench). It depicts some “paradise garden” where giraffes, elephants and lions coexist surrealistically with old automobiles, and a helicopter is flying in the sky. However, this large composition suddenly turns into a multimedia work when birds flit unexpectedly across the sky of the otherwise handmade (in the most classical sense) graphic image. The romance here has a double encoding as far as it is unclear whether this is not a sophisticated and deceptive illusion. The viewers should recognize themselves as tempted by the romantic feelings evoked by an unearthly garden which, however, is rather a sham in itself as far as it is populated, among others, by automobile remains. For each of the love couples sitting on the bench there is a souvenir from the event.
But these remains of romantic temptations seem to contrast with the other works by Robert Baramov distinguished by an utter directness in their message. The romance in them is simply missing. It is hardly accidental that “Home, Sweet Home” is a detailed and circumstantial installation. A sculptural figure of a dirty begging little boy is placed besides a pure white waste container with the word “Refrigerator” on it. The idea is that this actually is not a refrigerated cabinet, not even a place for food storage, but namely a rubbish bin which is the only alternative to the above-mentioned mentioned child. This kind of literalism is also deliberately sought in the work “A white Mercedes is chasing me...” provoked apparently by the lyrics of a famous Bulgarian pop-folk song.
The “Reservation” action is a compiled final illustration of the events presented on the night of 19th September and is accompanied by an action on the Internet. The speculation on values here is two-sided. In 2010 Kolio Karamfilov turns napkins into art, while here Baramov asks himself whether the reverse process — of printing graphics on napkins — does not destroy the unique aura of the work, or is a rare chance for successful investment? Here you can find another one of the important benchmarks of his thinking. In one of his writings, in a completely utopian way perhaps, the author presents a scenario for the art market in Bulgaria: “On the Internet Bulgarian consumers unite in order to obtain the privileges for buying which the individual Western collector, who is ordering certain quantities, already has. He buys total prints paying royalties and printing costs. The decrease in cost when buying total prints is beneficiary both to the author, who receives a full remuneration for his work, and the collector, who, by owning many copies of a work, is able to exchange it with other collectors (owners of other total prints) and to control the prices on the gallery market, thus accumulating considerable profits. Unfortunately in Bulgaria, due to the financial insolvency of the potential art buyers, such a model is possible only if they unite in their efforts”.
The vulgarity and the lack of cultural interests as a problem of the contemporary Bulgarian chase (like a white “Mercedes”) the viewer in each of the new works by Robert Baramov. It is plain that nowadays people are haunted every minute by the manners of living and sound environment which put them automatically on a very low stage of mental development. It is more than clear that namely because of taking account of that stage of human development the author finds the meaning of his work in depicting a deliberate “literal illustration” of contemporary social reality in our country. This also is a possible strategy — from the romantic, through the directly social, to the futurology of the domestic art market. Clear and impressive.