In his new exhibition, Stefan Petrunov confronts us frontally with fantasy creatures, dreams and fictional scenes, which make us renegotiate with ourselves the boundaries of the known and the unknown, the inner and the outer. Rethinking the attitude towards the depicted “objects” requires an assessment of whether these are a source of threat or attraction, or probably both.

Undoubtedly, the works of Stefan Petrunov surprise, provoke and magnetically attract with their “unearthliness”. Encountering them is like peeping from the other side of the mirror, where our own reflection and that of the surrounding world have been transformed. Through the clash of mutually exclusive elements, different cultural models and epochs, the artist creates a new universe, changes the way of thinking and activates the imagination.

The human body is a subject of interest to Stefan Petrunov. He examines the psychological states, public and social positions of the individual and their reflection in the body language. The female figure dominates Petrunov’s work. By taking it out of a certain context and placing it in a new one, mystifying its image, the artist builds his own, idiomatic, artistic language, in which he includes other motives, combining them in unexpected configurations.

Even though static, figures are rarely passive. The postures of the bodies are tense, bending, S-curved, they hint at movement, causing discomfort to the viewer and involving him/her in a plot where he/she is looking for a cause and effect, beginning and end, previous and subsequent “stop” events. The artist deliberately makes the viewer ask himself/herself questions. Relying on the element of surprise, through the inclusion of unexpected visual comparisons and mental puzzles, he puts us on the border of the rational, between dream and reality, life and death.

Beautiful faces of perfect proportions in women’s bodies, often models from magazines, have been replaced by animal skulls. The images are hybrid, mutating (similar to modern culture), defining their own parameters and identity, violating the conventions of beauty.

Technically and stylistically, Stefan Petrunov’s art may also be defined as hybrid. The realistic image is lined with collage, clippings from glossy advertising, with borrowings from surreal visions and expressive overlays. There are direct references to Pop Art. The color is bright, saturated, “fauvistic”, intrusive, obsessive… Meanwhile, lively and energizing, strongly present and influential.

Drawing is a catalyst for his art. It is an independent artifact, the main element around which the collage or sketch develops, on which the painting unfolds. For the artist, painting embodies the process of thinking, thus becoming a living act of creation…

It is logical that among a generation that feels increasingly comfortable within the open boundaries of identity and masters the enormous toxic and transformational fluidity of the Internet, artists to create aesthetics rooted in change and hybridity. The permanent state of transition is a constant. In a sense, everyone is subject to mutation. This striving for exploration and overcoming the boundaries of human experience, no matter how disturbing or alarming it may seem to reconstruct and rediscover the body, gives rise to some of the most vital and complex arts being created today. The individual artistic language of Stefan Petrunov fits fully and with dignity among them.


PhD Ani Venkova

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