The Balkan Peninsula is viewed by its population as a cross road between East and West. A long time ago a road called Via Militera used to pass through this region. It was and still is to the present day a crossroad of turbulent historical, social and economic winds. The Balkans are best described by the words of Petar II Petrović-Njegos, a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, venerated poet and philosopher well known for his 19 century epic poem “Gorski Vijenac” (The Mountain Wreath), which is considered a masterpiece of Serbian, Montenegrin and South Slavic literature, and a national epic of Serbia, Montenegro and former Yugoslavia:
“This world is a tyrant to the tyrant,
let alone to a truly noble soul!
It is work of infernal discord:
in it the soul is at war with the flesh;
in it the sea is at war with the shores;
in it the cold is at war with the heat;
in it the winds are at war with the winds;
in it creature is at war with creature;
in it nation is at war with nation;
in it a man is at war with others;
in it the days are at war with the nights;
in it spirits are at war with heaven”.
“Serbian poets. Anthology.”, 1946, p. 244 – 245
Notwithstanding the above discords so characteristic of the Balkans, the people inhabiting this small strip of land have been living together for centuries notwithstanding their differing ethnos, religion and political affiliations.
This cycle of paintings represents a mosaic of impressions of the historical cohabitation of different ethnic/religious groups on the Balkans, expressed through their temples’ architecture (churches, synagogues, mosques), often positioning them in close proximity to one another; their similar houses, music, heroes, etc. It was largely inspired by a place in my hometown Sofia which comprises its ideal center. In this tightly knit circle one can find four temples of worship: an Eastern-Orthodox church, a Catholic church, a synagogue, and a mosque. All of them have been built on top of seven layers of history of the city. They stand untouched on the same spot until present and are representative of the tolerance we have developed during centuries of cohabitation and preserved to date.
The cycle’s main message is that borders do not separate us on the Balkans, but it is rather our own prejudices that do that and the sooner we try to overcome them, at least partially, the easier will be for us to live together in tolerance like we have for centuries, thus preserving our national spirit.
An interesting backdrop to this cycle is that by trying to make the audience think about the idea of overcoming our prejudices and “historical baggage” on the Balkans, we could see more clearly our participation in the great migratory process of people and ideas which has occurred way back in the past and still does to a degree until today. This process has involved the transition of core ideas shaping the Western world as expressed in the humanities, arts and the social and natural sciences, which have migrated from the East, passing through our lands on the Balkans and being transformed to finally reach their final destination.