Through rich oils and textured watercolors, Vesselin Kourtev paints compositions ripe with associations of both allegory and mysticism. His works are suffused with light and pastels; his colors saturate the entirety of each work. Kourtev’s abstract, ethereal backgrounds allow the faces of his carefully drawn figures to stand out in sharp, detailed contrast. Kourtev, however, does not limit the emotional content of his paintings to a one-dimensional idea. Though his body of work has a distinct and repeating style, each painting tells the viewer a different story and shares a different idea. Kourtev’s ideas are not only about the mechanics of art (though he makes a lot of creative statements on the subject) but are also about the past, present and future of our human memory and psyche.
“A Tale of Sheherazad” gives a modern vantage point to the tale about the murderous king who intends to kill his bride on their wedding night. Sheherazad saves her life by telling him a tale that lasts a thousand and one nights, thereby winning his heart. Though Kourtev uses watercolor and pencil in this work, he creates the illusion of a collage loosely held together. Each character in the story occupies a different section of the collage, disconnected from the other. This truncation creates a mood of isolation and strange loneliness within the painting. The King and Sheherazad eye each other from their separate patches of color, illustrating the tenuous nature of their relationship before Sheherazade has won back her life.
“Thoughts About Origin” has a dreamy quality that permeates the viewer’s imagination. Where the “Sheherazad” picture may illustrate unexpected and dangerous connection, “Origin” generates feelings of deep connection to history and ancestry. Kourtev uses pastel colors that blend easily into one another. The two elderly figures in the center seem to emerge, ghost-like from the amorphous beauty of the landscape. Next to them is a pristine egg, symbolizing potential and new life. The interplay of color and light creates an atmosphere of fluidity that nicely compliments this vision of connection.
Vesselin Kourtev is originally from Bulgaria. He obtained his degree at the University of Veliko Turnovo in Fine Arts in 1985. His work has been widely exhibited throughout Eastern and Western Europe and in the U.S. He currently lives in New Jersey.