Tales of clay

Stoyan Raynov's works capture the imagination with intricate ornamentation

Tales of Clay is the title of an exhibition dedicated to renowned Bulgarian ceramist Stoyan Raynov (1894-1978), which opened to the public on 2 July at the Vaska Emanuilova Gallery in Sofia. Raynov is among the founding fathers of contemporary Bulgarian ceramics, drawing from the country's artistic traditions. The show explores some of the most important aspects of his work, highlighting his workshop and most accomplished students.

The exposition presents works from his early period as an illustrator as well as pieces he created as an established ceramist. Raynov's vases painted in the Secession style are characterised by elaborate decoration, deep symbolism and even elements of literary works.

Raynov developed his talent in the field of ceramics art as a student in some of the best workshops around Europe. He studied ceramics in the National Academy of Art in Sofia under the tutelage of Prof. Stefan Dimitrov before he went on to specialise in Bechyne, the Czech Republic. He also attended the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and the Institute for Ceramic and Glass Art, Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, Hoehr-Grenzhausen, Germany. He was also a student of Prof. Mano and engineer Bertrand at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris. From legendary stories to mystical coincidences, European schools and hard work in the workshop, Stoyan Raynov simultaneously studied traditional ceramics and created art with a splash of modernity. From 1932 until 1937 he taught at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia and later was a professor and dean of its Faculty of Applied Arts.

Stoyan Raynov specialised in decorative ceramics containers. He introduced multi-colour embellishment applied beneath the glaze in the crafting of tableware, vases and medallions. He brought back the open-work technique used by the First Bulgarian Empire craftsmen in Preslav and Patleyna by applying it to pieces of faience and red clay.

Stoyan Raynov's most valuable accomplishments before his death in 1978 can be found in the legacy he left to his students in the National Academy of Arts, and most importantly in the comprehensive programme for building a new Bulgarian art in the ceramics field.

The exhibition presents over 50 artworks from various stages of his artistic career. There are several outlined themes, including illustrations from his earlier years and ceramics pieces from his most prolific period. The exhibition reserves a special place for the Museum Collection of the National Academy of Arts, which presents 23 works from its fund - both from Stoyan Raynov's earlier and later periods, as well as classroom tasks carried out by his students between 1932 and 1961, when Raynov headed the Ceramics Atelier of the educational institution. The exhibition also includes numerous works that are kept nowadays in private homes and collections and have not been publicly displayed for decades.

Raynov's creations have been shown to great acclaim outside of the country thanks to his participation in exhibitions in Brussels, Prague, Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, etc.

The project Tales of Clay is realised in partnership with the National Academy of Arts in Sofia and will remain open until 1 September.

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