COVID-19 “turns” sculptures into drawings

From her Paris home, artist Bistra Lechevalier shares the dream that set her on the path of sculpture

I do not want to think about humankind having to leave Earth, but it is high time that we changed our lifestyle. Sculptor Bistra Lechevalier, who has been living and working in France for many years, wrote these prophetic words long before our planet was given its recent grave warnings and shaken out of its deep sleep.

It is as if the new coronavirus came to make us slow down, gather our thoughts and make sensible decisions.

For April, the Structura Gallery in Sofia had planned a solo exhibition by Bistra Lechevalier entitled Here and Beyond. The artist was in Sofia, working on her project at Markov Studio. Unfortunately, the sculptures are still unfinished and await better days. The exhibition will take place sooner or later, likely at the beginning of next year, according to gallerist Zoya Petrova. In the meantime, however, Structura is offering art fans a month-long online exhibition of drawings created by Bistra Lechevalier between 1993 and 2017. Even though her drawings are a completely different practice from her sculptures, they capture similar moods ranging from the figurative to the abstract. Like new stars exploding in the Universe, the drawings, created by the artist mainly with a mixed Chinese ink technique, are also available for viewing in the gallery itself. Access will be provided exclusively to collectors and only following an appointment. Prices vary between BGN 1,000 and BGN 2,000.

In a touching video message shot at the garden of her Paris home and now up on Structura’s YouTube channel, Lechevalier shares with her Bulgarian audience things she has not told anyone before. A long-ago dream prompted her to apply for the National Academy of Arts with sculpture as her primary subject. “I remember that when I was a kid two strangers came to our home and took away my father. Years went by and we still hadn’t heard anything about him. When I was in 11th grade, I dreamt that I had made a lot of statues and my father had returned. That was it for me – I was going to apply to the Academy,” she shares. She found a class that would prepare her for the exams, worked hard and was eventually accepted. That marked the beginning of a happy period in her life until one day she was expelled as an enemy of the state just because she was her father’s daughter. Later Bistra met a Frenchman named Jacques Lechevalier, who would take her to his home country and marry her, giving her a fairytale happy ending. Bistra started travelling the Universe with her artworks. “It is 2020 and I have lost any hope of finding my father’s grave, but in some deep corner of my mind I keep looking for him,” the artist confesses.

Today, when national lockdowns are changing the mentality of people in Paris and Sofia alike, Bistra intends to change the title of her upcoming exhibition of sculptures – from Here and Beyond to the more apt for the new reality Before and After. “We are no longer as we were. I am different. Before, I was preoccupied with travelling the Universe, seeking signs of other planets, searching for a living cell from another planet. Now I think that perhaps we will do better to stay on Earth and take a look around, preserve our world and ourselves,” the artist told the Bulgarian National Radio.  

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