International Festival of Glass, Sofia 2014

The International Glass Festival in Sofia is an unique phenomenon in contemporary bulgarian art. This is already an evidence even for people professionally far from the problematics of this material. The two previous editions of the festival (in 2010 and 2012) not only highlighted the specificities and traditions of artistic glass, but did more than that. They’ve proposed to a number of authors a touch to this fragile material, although they’ve never formally belonged to the guild of professionally educated glass-makers.

As one of the curators of the festival in 2012, I would like to emphasize this tendency. Two years ago, the festival was a meeting place between American and Bulgarian artists, and now a juxtaposition with other great masters of glass (which the Czechs undoubtedly are) is proposed. These joint exhibitions clearly show the understanding that working with glass is not only a craftsmen’s privilege, but this material can exist as a possible creative choice in the field of contemporary art as well. No surprise that gradually the “abstractions” in spectacular shapes and colors give way to more precised artistic views. “Glass thinking and working” are different in their essence, as far as the works are enriched by various advanced technologies (eg led lighting), or installation form and conceptual idea begin to dominate. Following this line, from the 2012 edition, we can mention the works by Anna Boyadjieva, Nina Kovacheva, Sasho Stoitzov, Valentin Stefanov, Dimitar Yaranov, Katya Getsova, etc. In this year’s exhibition, this approach is extended toward authors with a permanent presence in contemporary art, as Dan Tenev, Dimitar Grozdanov, Georgi Ruzhev, Georgi Yankov, Penka Mintcheva and Mirena Zlateva, using the glass to project their intelectual finds through its transparency. On the other hand, another interesting  line in the festival is drawn by authors like Anastasia Andreeva and Boris Shpeizman, or Constantine Valtchev and his students. The young artists Krasen Troanski and Elizar Milev are a real discovery in the field of silicate materials. With all of them, the original contemporary thinking is supported by professional (would call it “technological”) knowledge and skills. Something that continues to be crucial for the development of this beautiful, but relatively rare and often associated with technological obsession, craft.

This new edition of the Glass Festival includes numerous events that take place not only in Sofia. There are unique exhibitions of doyens of artistic glass. An important task of the festival is to promote the training of students in the field of art glass and simultaneously provide demonstrations, which will be conducted by the invited artists Chris Taylor and Stephanie Pender (USA), and Boris Shpeyzman (Israel). But perhaps the central event is called “Art Glass Czech Republic-Bulgaria”. Exhibitions with the participation of czech authors (eg ‘Brilliant by Design exhibition’ at the Czech Cultural Institute in Sofia) aim to reveal the specifics of this school through design decisions, historical documentation, modern productions and workshops. The main purpose of the meeting between czech and bulgarian authors is to create conditions for the exchange of experiences and ideas. A dialogue is always a future.

Svilen Stefanov