Doncho Donchev: I draw on the knowledge, imagination of humankind

They guided me to create my take on the “God particle” discovered by CERN

Photo: Emil Drindolov Doncho Donchev in front of one of his paintings from the Timeline Of The Universe cycle

Logic and the privilege to observe human achievements can provide inspiration at times. In other cases, an item, a type of material or a feeling is the thing that moves me to create, says Bulgarian painter Doncho Donchev in an interview to Europost.

Mr. Donchev, an impressive variety of materials and techniques is incorporated into your artistic projects. Do you choose the art form or it chooses you instead?

I am constantly seeking new challenges and avoiding setting limitations for myself when it comes to work. Experimenting with materials and techniques allows me to open my mind and have more freedom. What happens between me and the art form is a two-way process, a dialogue. Sometimes I start out with a concrete idea and a clear vision for how to realise it, and other times a particular technique or the colourful landscape around shows me the path to a new artwork.

Logic and the privilege to observe human achievements can provide inspiration at times. In other cases, an item, a type of material or a feeling is the thing that moves me to create. Perhaps this is the kind of inspiration that finds you, not the other way around. It comes to you and you have to be alert so you can capture it and take advantage of its fortuitous visit.

In that case, is it fair to say that you see yourself more as an explorer, an adventurer, rather than an artist with an adventurous spirit? How important is venturing into the new, the unknown, the different, for an artist to be considered "good"?

It is hard for me to describe myself, but I probably am an explorer and an adventurer. However, searching for new and uncharted territories is not a prerequisite for being a good artist. Those who rely on what they know, and their so-called own style, earn a name for themselves, which they then feel compelled to serve for the rest of their life. They are good and instantly recognisable.

I, however, prefer change - the new and evolution. This mindset requires courage and being at peace with failing from time to time.

These qualities have certainly helped you to become the first and only Bulgarian artist to have works shown in CERN. Can you tell us something more about the Particle Metamorphoses exhibition and how did it find its way to Geneva?

Particle Metamorphoses is a project that involves both logic and mythology. It is an example of me drawing on the knowledge and imagination of humanity, at the same time. It presents my take on the “God particle” discovered by CERN.

I submitted my idea in writing along with some of the artworks. I was then permitted and invited to put my project on display there in 2016. Having been introduced to the science and opportunities that CERN provides, I was inspired to create a new and much more ambitious project.

Are you speaking of the audio-visual project Timeline of the Universe? What made you decide to use your talent to once again weave science and art into one?

Timeline of the Universe comprises seven large-scale paintings revealing the evolution of the Universe from its origin until the genesis of Man. Every stage is associated with a certain colour in the rainbow pattern. In its complete form, Timeline of the Universe represents a circle, big enough for visitors to enter into, and it mimics the geometry of the Large Hadron Collider and the human eye. Standing at its centre, the viewer is enveloped in a harmony of colour and music.

I was inspired by the multitude of common topics that science and art examine. One example is the creation of the world. I started asking myself questions like: does space have colour and what is the dynamic of creation? The music is by Emil Pehlivanov, while Prof. Leandar Litov played an instrumental role in the overall realisation of the project, which is part of the Art@CMS initiative and in the hands of CERN, so it can tour and be seen by many people in various countries.

What are the challenges that an artist faces when trying to communicate scientific concepts through art?

There is no shortage of challenges and they often went against my idea of colour harmony. Categories such as warm and cold colours are defined by different tones in painting than in the scientific explanation of the evolution of the Universe. I had to do some recalibrating, but that gave me a new and fresh perspective.

How so?

It gave me this sense of infinity and taught me that I had to get rid of all the insignificant fluff and the small-minded ego. Actually, the artist and the person are one, and so I look at them as a whole.

Speaking of ego, I recently read an article arguing that if vision and action are the two main components required for making art, then the ego is the glue that binds them. Would you agree with such a sentiment?

Having an ego is necessary, of course. Used with measure, it can have a constructive influence. All artists love to be applauded and are flattered by public praise. But complacency can degrade any talent.

When it comes to challenges that artists face, it would be remiss of us not to mention the public painting sessions that you often do. For many artists, creating an artwork is an almost intimate act, but you enjoy painting in front of an audience. Why is that?

I work mostly in my workshop. These are two completely different approaches. Painting before an audience feels thrilling and honest. The connection between the artist and the viewer is unique, something words cannot describe.

What is your preferred method then, or is it hard to compare the two?

I love the warm atmosphere of my workshop, surrounded by my works. I also love the excitement of the unknown, which painting live for an audience brings. I need both to achieve the perfect harmony.

Finally, would you share with us what other projects you have on your mind?

I know that there is not enough time in the day for me to paint everything I want. I work a lot and try to keep up with this dynamic modern world and the constant changes around us. I am working on two more satirical projects for next year, and I have several shows in Switzerland and Dubai planned for 2020.


Born in 1974 in the town of Gabrovo, Doncho Donchev graduated from the secondary Art School in Tryavna in 1993 and completed Master's studies at St Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo in 2000, specialising in Painting. He works with a variety of materials, holds solo exhibitions, illustrates books and participates in music projects, drawing before an audience on stage. Since 1997 he has been exhibiting his works in various cities worldwide such as Zurich, Bern, Locarno, Geneva, Liechtenstein, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Minden, Vienna, Milan, Brussels, Maastricht, Barcelona, Bratislava, Istanbul, Izmir, Sofia, Plovdiv, etc. Meanwhile, his big one-man performances were at CERN (Geneva) in 2018 and 2016, Astana (EXPO Astana) 2017, Milan (EXPO Milano) 2015, National Museum of Liechtenstein 2015.

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