Obsessively searching for Bill

An exhibition explores the world of ‘bad guys’ who share a name.

March 4, 2018 21:01
Obsessively searching for Bill

BOYAN PAINTS with a color-dripping technique made famous by the American artist Jackson Pollock. The completed paintings are later hung in the gallery as they were painted – raw, exposed, and unstretched.. (photo credit: EFRAT LOZANOV)

While we’ve been focusing on other things – like the war in Syria, threats from Iran and Hezbollah, and our prime minister’s legal problems – a really bad guy quietly came to Israel and is now living in Tel Aviv.

He is currently holed up in a South Tel Aviv art gallery, lurking menacingly in around 30 large paintings.

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The bad guy is named Bill, and the artist who found him is known simply as Boyan. His exhibition of paintings, tersely entitled “Bill,” opened February 15 and is showing at the RawArt Gallery in Tel Aviv.

So who is this “Bill?” Boyan replies, “Bill is the man inside the canvas. Bill is Buffalo Bill. Bill is Billy the Kid. Bill is the Bill from the movie Kill Bill.

Bill is a bad guy.”

Is Bill always bad? Says Boyan, “In my art, I always deal with the bad guys.

I’ve never been interested in the good ones. Bill here is the image that appears on canvas.

The one I’ve been looking for for a very long time. It’s not a portrait. It’s not a specific person.

He’s just one that I’m trying to find in every work I have produced lately. He is the man who hides inside the canvas.

These paintings are different from anything I’ve produced before.”

Boyan Lozanov was born in Bulgaria almost 43 years ago.

Unlike many artists, who begin to draw as children and never stop, Boyan did not pick up a brush – or have any desire to do so – until he was 24. This came after years of professional judo.

“After judo I never really felt anything that made me feel the same way. Painting was the first thing that did. The high concentration. You’re kind of completely isolated in your own world. The things outside don’t matter. Painting kind of came into my life like a storm and stayed there,” he says.

And that “storm” hit Boyan shortly after his arrival to Israel, where he was exposed to the art of Francis Bacon.

“Francis Bacon is the reason I paint,” he says. “When I came to Israel I was wandering on the beach. I didn’t know what direction to take. So by mistake I saw a movie about Francis Bacon called Love is a Devil. I didn’t know anything about art then. I thought it was mostly things like landscapes.

“The movie was not about the paintings. It was about the artist – a psychological portrait about the artist. I saw a lot of me in that portrait; the drinking, the nightlife. I wanted to see what this artist was painting.

So I went to a bookshop and got a book of his paintings.

And this was my first great shock in life. I didn’t know such paintings could be ‘art.’ That this was what art looked like.

I discovered I could do things like this, that my hand could express these insights. I got obsessed.”

That obsession led him quickly to Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“I really love painting, and I really have this need to paint.”

That need has thus far produced paintings that have appeared in several solo and group exhibitions in Israel, as well as in Zurich, Switzerland.

Boyan divides his time between Israel, Bulgaria – where his studio is located and where he works – and lately India, where he derives inspiration and new ways of conceptualizing the process of painting.

“India has changed the way I think about art,” Boyan says.

“I have gone from trying to make things happen, to pushing my art in a certain way, to now going more with the flow of it and not ask too many questions during the process, or going back and asking questions later.”

“Bill,” his current exhibition, consists mainly of large-scale paintings created in his studio over the past two months. He works very quickly, he says, sometimes creating as many as five paintings a day. “I’m very impatient when I paint,” he says.

These paintings are, in fact, hundreds of meters of fabric spread out and painted on the studio floor. He does not subject the canvases to any preparation process or stretching before he begins to paint.

Boyan paints with a color-dripping technique made famous by the American artist Jackson Pollock. The completed paintings are later hung in the gallery as they were painted – raw, exposed, and unstretched.

“My paintings stay on the floor,” says Boyan. “I have a very large studio, so I can afford to have a lot of canvasses on the floor. The reason I do the dripping paintings is because I see something on the canvas and I want to freeze the moment.

The dripping is like a spark that lets me get the image out of the painting. You’re trying to create an accident that will surprise you.”

Asked when he decides that a particular painting is finished, Boyan laughs and replies, “This is a very tricky point that I’ve been dealing with all my life.”

He adds that he constantly tries not to kill a “raw and spontaneous image” by overthinking it and adding to it later.

“I try to leave it. People ask me, ‘Are you serious? You’re going to leave the painting like that?’ I tell them yes. And I’ve been trying to do that more and more. When you’re doing art on a daily basis, when you’re doing it most of the time, it becomes your life. It’s a way of living. I don’t ask many questions about it. I just do it.”

Asked finally whether he could live without art, and live without being an artist, Boyan ponders the question a moment and says, “I could live without art, but what kind of life would it be? I don’t know.”

“Bill” is showing until March 24 at the RawArt Gallery, 3 Shvil Ha’Meretz Street. Building 8, 4th Floor, Tel Aviv. For further information: (03) 683-2559, or www.rawart-gallery.com.

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