Tchapp and the Art of Protecting Cities
The entire world is an exhibition hall for sculptor Georgi Tchapkanov, laureate of the Award of Perfection from the Henry Moore. Competition of the Hakone Open-Air Museum. Georgi Tchapkanov–Tchapp is a sculptor with a happy fate – because his best-known sculptures are shielding cities and are dispersing messages of love. His “St. Sophia” is a protector of our capital, and two-metre high butterflies are symbolizing love in Seoul. He made them from metal scrap and the winged creatures have landed, in addition to South Korea, in cities across the Netherlands and Japan. They can be found in Sofia as well – on top of a pylon in front of the City Library and in the Oborishte Park. Erected in downtown Berlin is “Passing through an Imaginary Wall”, which is reminiscent of the power of human will. All these places scattered around the world are like an open-air exhibition hall, and they are representing Tchapp’s most sizable works. He isn’t concealing his contentment with the fact, albeit he escapes from conceited giddiness. Star mania has never caught him. “It’s for models and football players. And for politicians, of course. They are the ones that get excited from things like that. We artists, too, of course, as people who’re exposing our work publicly, are exhibitionists from a given standpoint. But I don’t want to annoy anyone. This is why the things I’m making, I see to it that they acquire this state as if they always were at their own place. Instead of being obtrusive and reminding that their place isn’t there”, notes humbly the sculptor. When mentioning some of his numerous distinctions, he’s waving: “I cared about that in my youth. It’s long since I couldn’t care less about prizes, And with that, they’re worthless to me. They make sense for young people, to motivate them in their work, to make them happier, to get them noticed.”
Still, Tchapp’s distinctions are truly impressive. Among them is the Jury’s Prize of the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan. The artist participated in the contest with a sculpture of a foot with a grasshopper on top of it. “The work was inspired by Cesar’s Thumb. This is why it bears the name of ‘Ecological Presence in Homage to Cesar’”, explains Tchapp. Another distinction is the Award of Perfection in the Henry Moore Competition. The Bulgarian earned it with his abstract composition ‘X Plus’. As of today, however, the sculptor qualifies them as “old stuff”.
Currently, he’s secluded himself in his atelier and is sculpting small erotic sculptures. All they are in his characteristic style, inspired by Ancient Hellas, and are a touchstone of good taste and sense of balance. And of Tchapp’s cult of the beautiful, too. An unfinished composition, representing a male and a female bodies tangled in love passion, lies onto the table. Another unfinished work is left at its sides – a thoroughly gleaming small bronze donkey, with a female figure on its back. At this moment, Tchapp pulls from somewhere two other miniature bodies – of a man and of a woman. He ensconces them, too, onto the back of the long-eared animal and says through laughter, “And this composition is called ‘A Man’s Delight’ – being on top of a donkey with two women”. Then, he adds that the sculpture was ordered by a pal of him.
In addition to the Eroticon, Tchapp is also toiling over the New Testament. He has buried himself in the parables since a few years ago and is fond of illustrating this part of the Bible. His plan is to make about fifteen pictures and to publish them, jointly with some publishing house, as illustrations to the New Testament, but in limited total print. “I never get up to finishing them. In order for this task to go smoothly, one must be humble. A great quietude should befall upon me, such as to let me start from scratch, not to be concerned with other things”, explains the sculptor. In his opinion, every episode described in the Bible is related to today. “Things do recur in an astonishing way – as much as merchants did occupy the Temple, likewise somebody should come out to drive them out. The temptations to which one is subjected, faith and non-faith. All this is bonded to our time and we’re living it constantly. Remembering those things is good, because while rushing, in the everyday, one forgets being mortal”, argues Tchapkanov.
Obviously, such thoughts are haunting him often, because to the question whether he’s happy, the sculptor replies, “Happiness is a momentary state. It couldn’t go along a person all the time. How would you comprehend and assess something as very good if it is constantly swoops down on you. This is a special moment, in which God caressed your head and you felt unstuck from the Earth, from flimsiness.”
In December 2002, Tchapp received yet another award: a gold medal from the National Salon of the Fine Arts in Paris. The event dates back to the end of the 19th century and ends always with an exhibition at the Louvre. The grand prize was given then to Tchapp for his sculptural composition “The Abduction of Europe”. With it, the sculptor marked the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union. “Europe begins here, from the Balkans. We don’t have to go anywhere, because we’re at our place. The others have to keep in mind this affair and to stop kicking us around in such a cowardly way. Because, if not with anything else, at least in terms of culture we are preceding the others by close to two millennia,” says the great artist on that occasion.
After the Paris award, the work was also cast in Sofia and since then decorates the small square at the intersection of “Solunska” and “Angel Kanchev” streets. Alas, thieves attempted to steal it. Since then, the sculpture’s spot is gaping empty. Tchapp’s headaches with “The Abduction of Europe” started earlier. Initially, the intended location of the sculpture was the park in front of the “St. Sedmochislenitzi” church. Our national clerics, however, raised an outcry: first, the sculpture was pagan, and second, Europe’s nudity was defiling Christian morals. On the other hand, in Paris – the Light City – it was proclaimed the most beautiful and its creator won the prize in competition with 650 artists from 11 countries.
Georgi Tchapkanov got 67 on January 24.
He’s the only sculptor for whom Federico Fellini posed for a portrait in his lifetime. For this work, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro honored the Bulgarian with an order.
Tchapkanov is a co-author of Bulgaria’s new coats of arms.
The idea of the work “Passing through an Imaginary Wall” emerged at the end of the 1970s. After German reunification, the sculptor decided that Berlin is precisely the place where the statue must be erected. The Wall that divided the East from the West is no more but the work of the Bulgarian artist will stay as a symbol of the thirst for freedom.
Among Sofia’s symbols due to Tchapp are also the monument to Petko and Pencho Slaveykov, on Slaveykov Square, the statue in the fountain in front of the National Theatre, and the metal bas-relief “The Sun” on the façade of the National Palace of Culture.
The sculptor is a fervent hunter. In the last years, however, he’s chasing game less and less frequently. Once, he began hunting because of his belief that it’s worthy chasing an animal within an area it knows thoroughly rather than putting it into a pen, feeding it, and then slaughter it.
Text: Elena Krasteva