An Interview With Kaloyan Ivanov
Kaloyan Ivanov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He received an AA in Fine Arts at Daytona State College and a BFA in Painting at the Pratt Institute. Ivanov currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
MamaProud: Tell me about your preferred style of painting.
Kaloyan Ivanov: I have always been drawn to abstraction. My style has changed due to the design problems I address and I am sure subconsciously my life experiences leave their bite marks on the painting somehow. Currently I am working with large black “void” areas in the center of the paintings and color is pushed to the area around the perimeter. I am fascinated with how the intensity of color varies as the black pushes it in different degrees to the edge.
MP: Tell me about what’s going on in your last performance piece. Is it set in Sofia? Does it tie into your latest interest of exploring the void and color surrounding its center?
KI: Yes it was set in Sofia in front/around the Soviet Army monument. The reason for this specific setting is that couple of months before my performance piece “I will not remember you when I am dead”, a street art group painted the soviet soldiers on one side of the monument as American cartoon characters. I saw this artistic defacement as a progressive move. This simple act changed the signification on the monument and the area around it. I understand the political weight of painting over a sculpture of the people that stopped fascism in Europe with the cartoons that capture the contemporary consumer’s escapist imagination, but for me what was an object/place of obsolete ideology now is an exhibition space! As far as the actual meaning of the performance which lasted over 3 hours, I hit an aporetic wall. Originally I conceived the project as a physical manifestation of the psychic and physical distance between two people. So one sees a sheet wrapping around and connecting two individuals. However some pedestrians asked to participate which meant that the piece would take different shapes and move around. As the random people who became the integral part of the performance were moving around creating shapes and discussing the aesthetic values of the piece, a man who walked by said “What is this, a fucking pool?!” So through this reductio ad absurdum, the piece’s ultimate meaning is void.
MP: How did you get involved in performance art?
KI: I think that art (if I am qualified to make any sweeping generalizations) dealing with form and content owes a lot to feeling/aesthetics. So some ideas are appropriate as paintings and others as performance pieces. So my involvement with performance is due to some kind of existential anxiousness, nausea and despair which fit more in the form of performance art as opposed painting on canvas.
MP: What were your first attempts at being creative?
KI: I was four years old and working expressively with some water colors. When I proudly brought my “masterpiece” to my mom, she said “What is this crap?!” So I have been painting the same painting for a quarter century.
MP: Tell me about your background?
KI: The majority of my childhood was spent in post-communist Bulgaria. Capitalism and democracy mutated in the Balkans, so I was subjected to an oversexed agrarian popular media. One of the mutant babies is a style of music still prominent in contemporary Bulgaria called Chalga. The music is a mix of traditional Bulgarian and pop-Eastern beats to which fake breasted women/macho men sing of marginal relationship issues of course with sexual innuendos. My parents are engineers. My early years were spent half the time in the city of Sofia, the other half in my grandparents’ (from both sides) villages. So when in the city, I was subjected to theater and art exhibits. When in any of the villages I experienced drunken buffoonery and Balkan philosophy. The move to the US was traumatic. The traumatic event still reverberates.
MP: Did the trauma of the event tie-in to learning the language and dealing with the social aspects of being the new kid?
KI: Learning/speaking English was definitely one of the initial social barriers that I encountered. My ethnicity also played an important role. I was not Black, White (to the whites), or Hispanic. So I felt isolated during the first years in the US. This was the time when I would find my love for drawing! The first year here I won the school’s creative award which gave me an incentive and also recognition from the other kids. Even though I felt out of place, I was “K”-the art kid!
MP: What are your artistic goals?
KI: I would like to show in New York and somewhere in Europe.
MP: Do you currently have any pieces featured?
KI: Currently there is a show up which I curated at Two Moon in Brooklyn.