Peng Feng, Ph.D
On invitation, I attended the 55th Venice Biennale at the end of May this year. Just at the point when I was beginning to feel disappointed by the scarcity of good work, Ana Tzarev’s solo show at the Museo Diocesano di Venezia re-ignited my long-lost enthusiasm for art. From my perspective—that of the “Other” hailing from the far east — Ana’s works brought to life everything my imagination had once dreamed Venice might be.
More than flowers, to be honest, these large substantial blossoms resemble the jaws of menacing and eager wild animals, and also human countenances full of life and passions and finally, feelings, excesses of the body and psyche. Here then the metaphorical dimension follows the historical one, in which the flower is also a cliché of femininity, of beauty and fragility, of that which is fleeting, seasonal and perishable, pulsating and eager. And finally, the blooming of a flower is also a symbol of death and sexuality, as Mapplethorpe has epitomized in his photos.
Ana Tzarev has a story that many people find magical. Here is someone who simply decided, at a certain point in her life, that she wanted to be a painter, full time. That this was a gift she had to give to the world. Having made the decision, she began a voyage that took her to many different countries and through many different spiritual realms, not only in search of things that she wanted to portray, but also in search of her own true relationship with them.
Véronique Chagnon-Burke, Ph.D.
Flowers have always been central to Ana Tzarev’s artistic practice. Wherever she has traveled, wherever she has lived; flowers from all parts of the world have found their way unto her canvases. Through the years, flowers have provided her with an entry point into the indigenous cultures of each new country she encountered. From Africa to Hawaii, from Thailand to Japan, through her flowers, she has been able to communicate the essential bound that we all have with nature.
Ana Tzarev’s artwork does feel like a branch that swished in a flash before your eyes. Viewers witness a spectacular demonstration of motion, color, shape and texture and perfume that leaves no spectator indifferent, making them either recoil in fear or rush forward with wonderment.
Ana Tzarev’s relationship with Hawaii began in 1989. Since then she has returned many times, fascinated by the island group’s exuberant local flora and rich cultural traditions. The passion she feels for the place and for Hawaii’s legendary hospitality comes across powerfully in her many vibrant studies of its flowers, costumes, customs and rhythmic hula dancing.
The central characteristic of Tzarev’s art is the generosity of its response to new experiences, its hunger for visual stimulation, its glorious colour, and its accessibility. Her paintings evidently pour out of her in an almost continuous stream. But they are not, simply, even the numerous flower-paintings, a response to what she encounters in the external world. They are about what she discovers, on each occasion, within herself.