Original artwork, 100 x 120 cm, Oil on canvas, 2014
Blue Dreams is the first part of Pavel Mitkov's ballet triptych – subtle in conception and deep in embodiment. The blue colour is a reference to clear blue skies – as high and pure as this fragile little girl's dream of ballet dancing. Blue is the colour of reveries, fantasies and dreams, it is epiphany. “Blue is darkness weakened by light,” wrote Goethe. Blue is also the colour of creativity and is proven to facilitate learning. Yes, evidently, this little girl is only beginning to learn. The cute tutu – the fluffy tail of a future magnificent swan – is a proof of passing her first test, the stringent selection among many aspiring dancers to be initiated to the enchanting world of ballerinas.
The tiny girl has it all – the right body type, flexibility, thin ankles and curved foot arches. The small but sturdy body is fit for physical strain. Her artistic temperament and disposition to emotional intensity is highlighted by pitching the small childish figure against the pink background. Pink is red lightened with white. It keeps the passion of the red colour adding the purity, mystery and touching innocence of white. Pink and white are the perfect mix to render the character's gentleness. It looks as though in her new adult boarding-school life, the girl is carried away by memories of the pink room of her younger years.
The little ballerina's dreamy world is protected by silver tinkling in the air, much like in Konstantin Balmont's poem: “There it is, an invisible colour. It has air and silver jingle about it, yet no name.” The artist has used icon-painting silver leaf in his work. Silver denotes virginity, the feminine nature and, at the same time, the mortality of human beings, who need to constantly struggle if they are to reach anywhere near perfection. Silver also hints at genuine talent, recognised, “kissed by God”, for it is said: “The Lord's words are true and pure like silver melted in a hot fire. They are pure like silver that was melted and made pure seven times.” (Ps. 11:7, LXX).
The little ballerina's hands, in a somewhat clumsy gesture, and her sight, all draw attention to her right foot. A human foot is nature's masterpiece. With a high-rising arch, the foot perfectly aligns with the stretched leg in one finished straight line drawn in a dance or in the ballerina's frozen, sculpture-like body posture. And it is from the character's beautiful, perfect, divine foot that a “fountain” of blue butterflies shoots up. It is where an observer's attention is focused with all, hand movement, sight and the most exquisite butterfly, pointing at it. But why?
“Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.” There is a price to pay for everything in this world! Ballerinas look like butterflies, ethereal fairies, incorporeal creatures. But, oh, how much sweat and blood this gravity-defying “flight” takes! The little dancer will have to pay a hefty price for her “blue dreams”: Dancing en pointe will inevitably distort her feet. Her big toes are in for strain beyond what nature has devised them to take. From now on and for good, she will have foam rubber toe spacers between her toes, as well as foot pads. Nothing comes for free in this world!
And how gently, in compassion, the morph butterfly – the blue butterfly of dreams – is clinging the child's foot, as though to soothe the pain-to-come, to wipe away the inevitable tears and support the child in her effort to transform, asserting that the miracle of changing from one form into another does exist.
The tiny girl, still a child, has chosen, with so much feminine self-denial, to serve great art. So many emotions, feelings, reflections and doubts! The first part of Pavel Mitkov's ballet triptych has a strong potential for a fascinating plot. How will the Blue Dreams end up?
Original artwork, 100 x 120 cm, Oil on canvas, 2014
The final part of Pavel Mitkov's ballet triptych is painted according to the best traditions of complex, multipart artworks. It has it all: a link back to the first and second parts, a summary, a persuasive conclusion and an end to the story. In an interesting twist, the triptych comes a full circle with a new level of interest that refers back to the beginning, prompting observes to have another look at and give another thought to the entire three-piece composition. Mitkov's tiny dancer is the same and yet different. She has gone from naïve childish dreams in the first part (blue butterflies of dreams) to schooling and studying in the second (the open “secret book”) and finally, the first experience on stage, evidenced by the focused professional manner she fixes the pointe shoes, and by a lovely snow-white rose at the bottom of the painting. The flower is a sign of the secret that the young character has at last grown up to discern, a sign of admiration, gratefulness and audience's sincere love. Where there is talent, there are admirers. Yet, the admirer of the young ballerina's talent, bestowing a single white rose, is not what one would call unsophisticated. Rather than a bunch of flowers or a fancy floral arrangement by a passionate master florist, it is just one divine flower, the Mount Everest Rose, inspired by the world's highest peak. The sharp snow-white petals symbolise eternal ice, snow and frosty cliffs where flocks of cold white clouds drowse. The rose stem and leaves are rid of the naïve spring greenery. Their black colour hints at the undiscovered, the hidden. This is a colour concealing feelings and thoughts. So, the gift is ambiguous, both a wish for achievement of top, sky-high excellence, and a grave warning: the way to the top is so demanding that passing a certain point, one cannot afford the luxury of morality. Those aspiring to perfection are so engulfed with themselves that they have no strength to think of or help others. This is what is known as the Everest law – the higher one gets, the less humanity is left. So, what has prompted the unknown bestower of the white rose to such reflections? Was it their own bitter experience? Doesn't the ballerina's round clear forehead seem indeed more and more unyielding? Aren't flashes of red, showing under the childish sweet pink, evidence of inner pressure, struggle and pursuit of power and success whatever the price? Away with doubts! What we see is a hard-working little dancer. How zealously (just as she has been taught) she puts her hands to her pointe shoes! She needs to “break in” the shoes, and then sew lace-ribbons, as well as sheathe the toes and the heels. Only in the course of movement, practice and hard work, will one shoe become right and the other – left. And the rose... For Christians, a white rose is the symbol of purity and chastity. Furthermore, a rose is the unofficial symbol of Bulgaria, where the divine flower has been grown industrially for ages. And then again, the young ballerina is rising above the rose, above the greatest vanity of all, above the temptation of fame and the mercurial adoration of wowed crowds. The tinkle of pure silver, the rhythmical chords of white, the serene attentiveness on the face of the little dancer, who is growing, developing and has already filled up the canvas, they all convey St Benedict's simple and fathomable motto “Ora et labora” (“pray and work”).
Ballet is comprised of emotions and form. It is a very sculptural kind of art. How thoroughly Pavel Mitkov knows the essence of ballet is clear when looking at all three pieces of his work together. What bell does the triptych ring? A splendid sculptural group of an elaborate fountain? Circular, clockwise movement following the sun. And every step develops, reveals the image, much like the bud of a lovely flower is blooming before our very eyes, filling up the canvas. The right foot, “kissed” by the blue butterfly of dreams in the first part, joins the left one, put into a pointe shoe, in the final part. On the whole, the girl's legs and feet in this triptych are like links of a jewellery piece created by a goldsmith's whimsical imagination. It is, indeed, a chain whose centre is pinpointed by the ballerina's body position in the second painting, where only one of her arms is well visible. The right and the left sides of the arrangement are highlighted by the right and left sides, respectively, of the open book lying in the centre. In all three pieces, the ballerina is portrayed sitting on the floor. In this pose of a tightened spring, there is a huge energy, emotional and creative potential accumulated. A fore-taste and admiration of the flight, exultation and victory in touching with one of the oldest forms of art – ballet – is what Pavel Mitkov's wonderful triptych gives us.