Christo Dagorov does not consider himself as a hyperrealist/surrealist or as part of any other conventional genre. Indeed, his production is hard to classify. His mature style might best be seen in his signature “Lips” series. Here, a focused exploration of visual complexity and organic form achieves a universal dimension via the specific.
He was born 25 November 1970 in Sofia, Bulgaria. He immigrated to Switzerland in 1977, where he set-up his first studio. Here, he started producing hyperrealistic paintings of dilapidated machines, and experimenting with mixed-media techniques. Finally, the artist developed a version of pointillism using five colors: cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, cerulean blue, paris blue (in lieu of black), and zinc white (for lightening the cerulean blue) – see „old cat“).
Tired of pure hyperrealism, he started to merge and overlay objects on the surface of his work. These images, and mesmerizing visual effects insinuated horror-vacui. Aware of the potential of the new techniques he was working with, Dagorov created a new style involving the experimental aspects of his practice (for example, his method of hand-engraving chromium nickel steel plates with dentists’ tools). He continued to experiment, and realized that the professional exploration of his vision was his life’s work.
Christo Dagorov does not identify himself with a codified artistic movement. His singular imagination is focused on a productive plan. The evidence is fecund, and indicates a way forward.
Psychology of Perception in the Work of Christo Dagorov
Using the psychology of perception combined with design, Dagorov investigates the mysteries of the perceived and depicted form. His intuitive infusion of pathos tempts the viewer with vaporous truths that the artist manages to reveal without the weight of a worn Freudian Hermeticism.
The first thing that comes to mind in an analysis of Christo Dagorov‘s work is the way in which the initially perceived subject is transformed by the natural deceitfulness of visual perception. The form reaches its destination in two stages, chronologically distinguished one from another, followed by the suggestion of a possible third manifestation of the subject’s essence.
The psychological aspect in Dagorov’s work is characterized by an intuitiveness that guides his aesthetic choices. The fluency of such audacity is a stylistic peculiarity of the artist developed through habitual transcription of the perceived form. In this regard, the artist approaches athleticism. His constant aesthetic visual and conceptual training does not necessarily focus upon academic technique. It does require an inclination to creative obsessiveness.
Dagorov is a perfectionist. He has a strong personality and does not fear comparisons with his fellow artists. Some of his work flickers between anamorphosis and the double reflection of the moving image. Aspects of his work is worthy of comparison with masterful 16th century engraving. Both ancient and modern techniques can be recognized in Dagorov‘s drawings. Again, the comparison is a fine academic shadow that belies the intuitive boldness that he improvises with his inspired historic and contemporary zeal.
If we consider his drawings as something incomplete – a kind of unfinished painting, we hold a position that is too simple. Even in relation to the times in which the sketchiness of drawing was considered a shadow element – it was, in fact, venerated as a rock-solid foundation. The primacy of drawing is expressed by the term “linear painting.” 1
In Dagorov‘s work we find a return to the primeval inclination to „rewrite nature.” The human form becomes an animal or plant. The inanimate takes shape in unusual ways, tickling the viewer‘s thinking with promises of a return to a paradise that is destroyed, but not forgotten.
For Vasari and the Florentine Mannerists, drawing is the soul, and structure, the foundation of all the arts. The design should be understood as the parent of the arts. Drawing as the foundation, the basis of the artistic conviction is a stance acquired long before Vasari.
For example, Cennino Cennini, a pupil of Agnolo Gaddi, in his “Book of Art”, written at the end of the fourteenth century, writes in chap. IV:
“The foundations of art and all these manual works are drawing and color.”
Christo Dagorov agrees with this principle by challenging the later convention that suggests the diminution of drawing and design compared to painting, sculpture, music and multimedia.
“Artistic” photography counteracted the mechanical (indiscriminate) recording of reality. This editable conceit allowed the medium to interpret a personal stylistic contribution of the “author.” Thus, photography entered the artistic field.” 2
Dagorov incorporates recurring elements of the cinema in his work along with photorealistic techniques and related aesthetic theories. Dagorov’s subjects are often caught by a faint feeling or amazement. The range of emotions depicted are rather vast. The prevailing emotions are of the awareness of beauty and of their kinetic and manipulative power compared to the seven veils of perception which, revealing from time to time, lead to an almost objective inner sincerity.
In the „Lips“ series, for example, it is difficult to disregard the central perspective of a photographic frame from which references surrealist cinema. The influence is somewhat superficial, as the aesthetics of Buñuel are further skewed by a mental dimension that has taken hold in the collective imagination after the new-surrealism currents of the second half of the 20th century. We cannot discount the cumulative effect of psychoanalysis, the unconscious, and the related sciences such as anatomy and neurology.
In the „Elements“ series, Dagorov takes on the poetics of environmental activism. The inseparable bond between man and nature is characterized by bodies and movements designed to contain a dynamism and sensuality that few artists, until now, had the courage to represent in such a direct way. Without filters or metaphors, we can glimpse a self-portrait of the artist, which according to Pommier takes on different meanings depending on whether it is a social, realistic or hyperrealist.
Pliny the Elder, on the other hand, regarding the portrait, used the expression “iconicos duces,” which, according to Panaino, brother of Phidias, is to be understood first of all as a means of recognition. The evolution of the self-portrait emerged from a compulsive need for self-analysis. This is linked to a negation of the perceived world in contrast to the individualism, narcissism, and the ego‘s desires. There is a nod to a universal primal urge. An urge seen in birds that feel an intense compulsion to look at themselves in a reflecting surface. Dagorov is reflected in the real and in the imaginary worlds using himself as a filter. His is the gaze of the observer looking for something that makes him reconnect with himself – to identify himself with the other – to awaken an emotional range that goes beyond the primary emotions.
From a compositional point of view the Dagorov’s subjects are centered on white backgrounds. In the series dedicated to city views the perspective is central with a view from below. The elements are individually distinguished by the fact that they have their own individual stage. Regardless of the scenographic structure, the focus is on gestures, glances, dreams or events that upset the compositional order. The background is solidified without resorting to chiaroscuro.
Dagorov‘s work is influenced by 1930’s French poetic realism without making any direct references to it. His delicately incisive refinement runs counter to the crudeness of Italian verism, or European literary realism, or Rossellini‘s cinematic neorealism (intended to describe rather than to interpret). Dagorov’s work does not contain the elements of „dark surrealism.” It cannot be defined as hyperrealist. So, what remains. The artist has assimilated notions from different sources to create a style that cannot be categorized.
1. The Drawing by Gianni Carlo Sciolla, published by Banca Intesa San Paolo, 1991 2. Alfred Steiglitz, Joseph T. Keiley, Dallett Fuguet, John Francis Strauss in the paragraph (extrapolated from the introduction): „Photography as Art“ (1903-1908), „Camera Work“, Michela Vanon, published by Einaudi, 1981