The Close Stranger
The Close Stranger
14 December 2018 - 20 February 2019
Lika Yanko is among the legendary female artists in Bulgarian art. Her creative work has always been linked with apocryphal stories about her specific, distinctive, and brave style of work, her reclusive personality, the freedom she was able to maintain while surrounded by a system of administration and control. Familiar, yet always remaining somewhat distant, a stranger, the Albanian refugee Lika Yanko is the close stranger in the history of Bulgarian art.
The current exhibition at Vaska Emanouilova Gallery focuses on precisely this ambivalence of the author’s figure and displays a large number of her works from the collection of Sofia City Art Gallery, works owned by private collectors, and archival items exhibited for the first time. Lika Yanko was simultaneously “present in” and “absent from” the artistic life in Bulgaria. Her first solo exhibition in 1967 was banned shortly after it opened. For a long period of nearly twenty years, she was not allowed to participate in events jointly organized by the artists. Her creative work was independent and non-compliant with the official regulations on art and was therefore rendered inacceptable. Meanwhile, her works were exhibited abroad, and in Bulgaria she was popular with Western diplomats and foreign nationals who bought her paintings. In the early 1980s, with the changes in the cultural policy implemented under the auspices of Lyudmila Zhivkova, Lika was granted certain restoration. Yet, she continued to be an exception in the artistic life. Her participation in common art exhibitions was rare, but her works were shown in Stockholm, Basel, Paris and elsewhere. After 1989 she preserved that mystic air about her, and her paintings continued to sell successfully in the free market. The artist donated a large part of her artworks. She left representative collections of her works, one each for the National Art Gallery, Sofia City Art Gallery and the Gallery in Tirana.