Oil Colors

The Cycles of Vesselin Kourtev:

Resonance 2024 

Resonance explores how colors blend, bleed, and cross each other’s boundaries in order to create a specific narrative. The paint throughout this cycle drips with spontaneity, allowing the canvas to take on a shape of its own. Kourtev’s paintings consist of intricately drawn figures that seem ghostlike as they fade into the canvas. Themes of interpersonal relationships, human connection, and deep emotion are present across each intricate piece. The intention behind each painting is to persuade its audience to explore broader concepts of existence, as well as identify, through the nuance and abstraction of this cycle. Resonance contains similarities to previous cycles, but ultimately stands alone, as Kourtev includes elements of three-dimensionality, spontaneity, and paint splatter. Kourtev’s impressive evolution as an artist is evident through the newfound techniques he effectively implements throughout Resonance 

Chasing Memories: A Vesselin Retrospective 2023 

Vesselin’s subject matter includes the human form, capturing human relationships and interactions in global and personal dimensions. His work takes on an abstract style, creating environmental reconstruction. The state of the figures conveys Vesselin’s message, and their faces are reinforced with reserved gestures and movements. 

Phantasia: Expressions of Love 2022

Experimenting with otherworldly colors, abstract symbols, and dream-like imagery, Kourtev’s art allows viewers to enter into his imagination and to access realms of their own fantastical imaginings.  Throughout his artwork, Kourtev utilizes a vibrant palette of pastel colors that work to transport viewers into technicolor worlds of their imagination. In each of his individual canvases, Kourtev overlays meticulously-drawn abstract human figures over lighter pastels and darker colors. The hints of darker colors and shadows in his work recall the darker emotions of turmoil and sadness, while the brilliant rainbow of pastels recall the joys and pleasures of human connection.

Lifted 2020

2020 brought on many changes to the world, reflected in Kourtev’s 2020 cycle of works. While still holding true to his recognizable style of abstract and pastel scenes, there is a visible change in the focus of the works, centering more on the subtle relationships between the ghost-like figures in the paintings. Couples react to one another’s touch, groups engage in wordless conversation, and a repeated female figure stands out as a prominent representation of female authority and power. There are repeated feminine motifs in the moon, flora and fauna, and strings of pearls. The space of each canvas is also considered, as bodily characters seem to struggle to find a place within the flat, colored fog. 

Interpersonal Revelations 2019

Rendering both landscapes and figural scenes with brilliant colors and abstract forms, Vesselin tells a story through oil paint in the cycle Interpersonal Revelations. He creates a vivid and spiritual atmosphere through his use of light and color. The coordination of these elements are ultimately representative of fleeting emotions and moods that we experience in reaction to the environment around us, which are then manifested through the interaction of figures, recurrent symbols and landscapes present in each segment of the series. 

Vesselin’s 2017 cycle manifests many of his most astonishing and psychedelic works adopting a more maximalistic approach to his experiments with color and landscape. Figures appearing as double or even triple-visional entities adorn mellifluent tsunamis of color. In keeping with the folkloric themes of his previous cycles, Vesselin incorporates images of fish swimming through pigmented streams and multifaceted textures. Observing such elements ought not to distract viewers from other fascinating elements as well such as images of plant life and birds melting into the psychedelia of their surroundings.
Matters of the Spirit 2016
Marking another welcome stylistic alteration in Vesselin’s style is this captivating cycle incorporating charcoal drawn caricatures with some of his least abstract drawings and color schemes. In The Prayer, an expressionistic but nonetheless discernable church housing a fireplace sits surrounded by the forms of birds, fish, and several praying women imbuing the artwork with several folkloric and spiritual qualities. So precious is this particular work that Vesselin and his wife have opted to keep the work for their personal collection and never sell it. Such a course of action signifies the impact that the works in this cycle can convey. Even the far more abstract works display the mind-capturing color schemes that make Vesselin’s work so captivating.
Footprints in Space 2015
The pieces featured in “Footprints in Space” seem to be jumbled as if created on different planets. In some pictures, lightly sketched figures are cleverly integrated into oil color backgrounds. Seemingly common faces and objects are contrasted heavily with the surreal, otherworldly environment. The figures’ lack of color challenges exactly which part is alien, their slightly smudged features a nod at their own ephemerality. Each sketch is trapped within the confines of robust oil colors bordering the edges. In other paintings, vibrant colors roam free and swirl across the picture. Despite the lack of clear subjects, the movement of each pieces alludes to a life of their own. The series recognizes the vibrancy of life in all forms.  
The Message 2011
Vesselin’s works assume some of their most boisterous forms in this series utilizing explosive bursts of brilliant multidimensional color juxtaposed by backgrounds comprised of single hues of varying temperatures. Often contained within this series’ palettes are deliberately obscured figures, items and symbols. Kourtev’s painting, A Scent in the Darkness, demonstrates this visual quality to unexpected effect appearing only as an abstract work of art from afar and then slowly revealing the subject of its namesake upon closer examination. Two human faces with their eyes closed and their noses pointed toward one another can be observed exploring one another’s features through scent alone. Their shadowy surroundings of brush strokes and paint drips necessitate the disuse of their vision in the pursuit of finding one another. When they do happen upon each other, however, the result is a touching embrace symbolizing the inherent love we feel for our partners which transcends the superficiality of the human gaze. With transcendental themes like these, as well as naturalistic motifs such as coral reefs, are prevalent within this series, every painting has a story to tell and an aesthetic uniquely belonging to Vesselin.
Uptown 2010
Seemingly informed by a more abstract approach to his work, Vesselin releases his already middling stylistic inhibitions throughout this cycle, layering solid three-dimensional textures and arranging them as fountains of color. The seams of his canvases appear to burst from the pressure of these color fountains with figures emerging from their liquid. These figures, appearing as couples seem to symbolize the result of a kaleidoscopic birth of sorts. Instead of infants being birthed from these showers of color, relationships are born and camaraderie is cultivated on the canvas.
The Fish are Praying for Rain 2008-09
This series displays Vesselin’s facility for imbuing his canvases with visually engaging leitmotifs and aesthetics. His audacious use of striking, multifaceted hues arranged in overlapping expressive layers helps to form epic narratives redolent of myth and fable. With this assortment of colors bespattered across his canvases, Vesselin beckons to the very framework and multiplicities of the human soul. Cool deep blues and aquamarine greens amalgamate with earthy and sun soaked warm tones proliferating throughout the canvas. These naturalistic themes subtly enhance the embodied symbolism of Vesselin’s piscine drawings and figures.
Amid the excitement of the coming of the new millennium, it appears as though Vesselin worked to cultivate a change in his artistic approaches, experimenting with the use of more detailed drawn caricatures placed within his expressionistic worlds of coalescing color. Adorning the contours of these works are corridors of solid color housing fully drawn heads as well as more thoroughly rendered inanimate objects. As viewers will come to find, even the detail of the figures does not remain absolute throughout this cycle as transparent, featureless silhouettes melting into Vesselin’s color corridors can be observed. The stylistic evolution of this cycle marks what would be a change in Vesselin’s future approaches to his paintings.
The works within this cycle mark a return to the nocturnal themes explored by Vesselin previously but with a striking difference in aesthetic. Where previously, themes of the night entailed draping the canvas in subdued dark blues and greens, the night appears heavenly and luminous in this cycle. Figures appear before candlelight, and drink in the lustrous “night” sky adorned in yellow and gold but nonetheless displays Vesselin’s distinct crescent moon. Even those figures that appear dismembered or disembodied throughout this cycle exist harmoniously within the rich pigments and gaseous textures of Vesselin’s nocturnal world.
Energy 1997-1998
Radiating from this series of paintings is a distinct sensation of harmony and bliss that can only come from peace, understanding and reconciliation. Vesselin’s choices of color and intensity render these paintings nearly pastel-like in quality. Within these works, figures can be observed engaging in conciliatory and symbolic gestures of accord whether engaged in spirited dialogue or simply releasing a dove into the welcoming embrace of another figure. The ethereal atmosphere of their surroundings galvanizes their pursuit of peace.
Rhapsody in Pink 1997
Ubiquitous throughout this cycle is the presence of a lone cloaked figure often accompanied by a bird, most notably what appears to be a raven or crow. What this presence intends to convey is ostensibly up to the interpretive deduction of the viewer, however there are more qualities to this cycle to explore that helps to accentuate the presence of this cloaked figure. Accompanying him on his solemn excursions, many of which seem to involve prayer, are lighter hues that bring the attention of the viewer towards the comparative darkness of the figure’s cloak. Vesselin’s distinct liquiform hues seem to transport this figure to a world all his own, perhaps the only one he will ever know.
The Pulse of Time 1996
This cycle exhibits fascinating dimension of detail not only on the part of its figures but their surroundings as well. Within the works observed throughout this collection of works, viewers can observe reeds swaying in the wind and blankets enveloping certain figures. The recurring deep intimacy of Vesselin’s works is on display once again as images of embracing couples adorn backgrounds of warm aqueous hues. Though lacking the detail of those of his previous cycles, the presence of these figures is felt and upon longer examinations, figures of animals such as household pets can be uncovered by the eye as well.
Mysterious 1995
Maintaining many of the intense hues and aesthetic qualities of his previous cycle, Vesselin traverses new thematic territory in this series of paintings. With portrayals of monarchs, holy men, and amorphous figures of rather inhuman form, this cycle immerses itself in a world often barred from the eyes and understanding of the typical person. It is a world that merely gives a cloudy glimpse into the lives of rulers and the relationships religious individuals share with their exalted deities. The full extent of the activities, states of being, and personal lives of the figures throughout this cycle cannot be ascertained and this appears to be Vesselin’s preference.
Hot & Cold 1995
The moniker of “hot” or “cold” in art can signify a variety of aspects relating to color, tone, atmosphere and a litany of notions conjured by the imagination. Vesselin’s approach to these juxtaposed states of being entails applying some of his most intense color schemes, some of which serve as aberrations which obscure the figures present in this cycle more than the works prior. Turmoil appears to be the centralizing atmosphere of these works as equally intense warm and cool hues appear to fight one another for supremacy over the canvas. In keeping with this theme, Vesselin’s figures appear distant or dejected within each other’s presence. As the colors that comprise his paintings distort, so too do any previous notions of blissful romantic sentiment.
Love Sonnets 1994
Featuring many of Vesselin’s most intimately detailed works, the comparative clarity of the figures observed throughout this cycle of works belies their eye-catching translucency. Perhaps the notion of exploring the inner workings of human love is the theme which unifies this impassioned series of paintings though what proves to be without question is the purely intimate nature of Vesselin’s consistently nude figures. Portrayed in the throes of passion, these figures exist in a dimension of expressive color combinations that prove as unique and complex as the very human relationships Vesselin explores.
Moon Dance 1993
This cycle serves as one of Vesselin’s many studies of natural atmosphere and tone traversing the many qualities of human interaction with night and the moon. Adorned with many a speckled crescent moon and figures that appear to fade into the adumbral background of the paintings, these works radiate a somewhat ghostly, though nonetheless intimate, ambience. Displaying similarities to the cycle prior such as floating figures and individuals locked in each other’s embrace, Moon Dance explores nocturnal intimacy. With its dark blues and other similarly mellow pigments and textures, it becomes clear that this cycle serves as Vesselin’s personal ode to the night.
Intimacy 1993 
This cycle features portrayals of two or more figures exploring the world of intimacy whether as a close emotional or physical relationship. Vesselin portrayals women figures using simple lines to from the shape of the figures and the contrast of light and dark to explore the depth of the figure. As with intimacy comes a lot of vulnerability the manipulation of color contrast is a display of intense emotions to help explore the different eras of intimacy including but not limited to emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical intimacy. 
Kourtev’s Untitled 1993 cycle is one that appears to be about repetition of the self that is atemporal and aspatial. The pieces each contain the same figures, most often in groupings of four, arranged differently each time. The varying composition of these figures is the crux of the solidity of the self, but the unsolidity of others to the self. Where in one piece groups of two stand opposite to groups of another, allowing for a balance of power, in other pieces three figures confront one, or two figures seem to sneakily speak to one another so far out of ear shot that the remaining two figures cease to exist. In these cases, there is an uneven power dynamic, even with the same selves appearing across all their depictions. The shifting colour palettes, and colour arrangements, of this cycle also add to Kourtev’s selves that are not bound to any space but the mind and body. The shifting colours appearing to indicate shifting time and shifting space, perhaps even emotional shift. Across all time, across all “where”s, the self remains a constant.  
A cycle featuring many portrayals of female figures adorned in gold juxtaposed with layers of murky inky pigments, Vesselin explores the contours of the female form, as well as sexuality, through his own individual artistic lens. Intense displays of passion and emotional intimacy are found throughout this cycle as Vesselin’s manipulation of color unfailingly breathes life into his otherwise silhouetted figures. Whether giving the viewer a window from which they can observe two kindred souls floating into one another’s loving embrace or offering a glimpse into an unknown induction ritual for a stoic queen, Vesselin utilizes his penchant for fusing color and texture to marvelous effect. Each hue applied to these works contributes a new dimension of sentimentality and amity.
Troubled Times 1991-1992
Exuding the vivid, distinctive expressionistic aesthetic Vesselin has cultivated throughout his artistic career, this early cycle serves as a crisp introduction to his body of work. Dark, shadowy textures and subdued hues coalesce with one another to form amorphous figures and fauna. The sense of conflict and negative tension emanating from these figures gives visceral meaning behind the cycle’s namesake. Though lacking conventional physical details, even the gaunt appearance of the cattle flanked by figures obscured by shadow accentuates the aura of desperation and despair found throughout this series of artworks.
You and Me 1991
The works featured in You and Me are, at first glance, almost jarring in a way that forces the audience to take a step back in contemplation. The pieces are complex, busy, and not easy to decipher at first glance. The use of similar colors throughout the work can make it seem monotonous until the eye is able to recognize figures that are stylistically consistent in Kourtev’s art, though few other fully-figured forms come through. Perhaps this is reflective of the time in the artists life, surrounded by items and shapes but inside feeling like a part of the background in life. 
Duplicity 1990-1991
Deceit is dangerous, threatening, and inconceivable in these works by Kourtev. Depicted figures are less than human but more than apparitions as their silhouettes lurk in shadow or stand, overly erect, in a simple outline. Using a greatly primary colour palette, Kourtev is able to create contrasts and highlights which seem to both disturb the eye in its search for a familiar figure, and set the piece ablaze. Works in this cycle each contain contrasts in dynamism, where one group of figures is in movement, the other is still, like they are paralyzed. It is in this visual unrest that emotional disquiet lives – making the viewer choose a state of inaction, or a state of malice, in a moment of horror.  
Truth and Rumors 1990
Between truth and rumor, purity and impurity, there is a state of being that is less than absolute. It is that place, of unknowing, of some kind of purgatory, Kourtev’s figures live in. Terrains of monotonous colour are in movement across the middle of the canvas, establishing the non-existence of a horizon, equally the non-existence of resolution. The figure’s bodies are each lacking in physical detail like faces, musculature, even the delineation of parts, as they appear half in colour and half on fire. The figures burn in a bright yellow, orange, and red liquidous mass that takes on the role of body, land, and sun. It is as if to say that the purgatorial state is either not simply a human experience, but also an environmental one, or alternatively, that the inability to experience purity by human beings makes the environment impure, too.