Dissection of Memories

December 3rd - 20th 2017

In his project Dissection of Memories Kiril Cholakov explores the complex relationship between personal memory as a part of collective memory and historical time. Through text and figurative drawings (2014) and, later, wideformat canvases (2017) he tells stories from different stages of his life, which appear spontaneously and out of order, depending on the way creative imagination intertwines with images from the past. If all the images were to be dated historically, they come from the period of state socialism, but very few of the stories in this project can be related directly to the political content of that period. The generation which began its professional development alongside the democratic changes represents a community for which the visual codes adopted by Kiril Cholakov in the present series create a shared emotion of the times when our parents were young, our friends – full of energy and unconventional ideas about, and the focus of existence was not on dealing with everyday problems, but on shaping us into individuals with a unique moral code. Those born during socialism will recognize it in the interiors and exteriors, the vehicles, the tediousness of small communities, exemplified by the village Izvor, with the disappearing silhouettes of its inhabitants, and by the “Geo Milev” neighborhood, which is a far cry from urban dynamism. These two places not only bring together Kiril Cholakov’s memories of Bulgaria (he has been living in Italy since 2000), but have also been chosen as the locations of his future exhibitions. As a symbolic gesture, the exhibition in Izvor in 2014, which presented the first drawings from Dissection of Memories, was organized in the memorial service building at the village cemetery. The second exhibition – in Stubel Gallery, adds four paintings depicting images from the artist’s earliest years. The first reaction to those paintings, which were created based on black and white family photographs, is less an inspection of Kiril Cholakov’s mastery, but rather the observation that here at last emerge specific personas, whose faces pierce through the veils of the past. What disappears is the setting, comprised of the typical for that time socialist architecture, Russian Grandpa Frost – a substitute for Santa Claus during those years and the main character in all the New Year’s school celebrations, the sought-after landscapes, used as a background for family photos taken during the summer holidays. The focus of each work is on the small boy and the captured emotions in his relationship with his mother, his father, his first love…
The French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs introduced the term collective memory, because individuals who belong to a community are able to remember and to store memories only through things they have learned by communicating with others. Dissection of Memories is a nostalgic panorama of a reality frozen at the border between life and death, symbolizing the crossing between two worlds – that of the known and that of the unknown, be they different political systems or different countries. Looking back through the fabric of the new cultural identity, the new family or friend circle, is like looking through a camera obscura – real images appear on the sheet, because the memory-ray, having passed through the dark box of emotions, projects only the images that have become permanently sealed in our mind. In this sense Dissection of Memories is an illustration of the way personal memory is situated within the parameters of collective being in the field of art – it is impossible for the images of the memories to be stripped completely of the emotion of the unique facts of each biography, but every narrative, arising in such exceptional circumstances, is another part of the story.

Irina Batkova

The author

Kiril Cholakov