The Battle, 1984, mixed media on paper, 4 panels (230 x 170 cm each)
Vanko Urumov is one of the most influential artists of his generation. His importance lies not only in his work, but also in his dedication to his colleagues and the artistic life in his home city of Varna. In the 1980s Vanko Urumov was one of the founders of the artists studios Vulkan in Varna, later he served as director of the Varna Municipal Art Gallery.
Vanko Urumov was born in 1941 in Varna. He studied at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia, where he graduated in painting in 1971 . However his talent has never been limited by media or technique – he has worked equally effortlessly in painting, graphic arts, applied arts, monumental sculpture, handmade paper.
Vanko Urumov created the two-sided diptych The Battle in 1984. On one side these are drawings on paper, on the other side – paintings, also on paper. The Battle was inspired by Leonardo's The Battle of Anghiari - an unfinished fresco in the Hall of the Five Hundred in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, which did not survive. Today Leonardo's painting is known only in fragments - through a copy by Rubens, as well as Leonardo's own preparatory drawings of some elements from the composition.
At the same time when Leonardo was working on his piece, on the opposite wall in the Hall, his rival Michelangelo was invited to create another battle – The Battle of Cascina. Michelangelo's work also remained unfinished and is too known today only through copies and studies. Both battles represented important Florentine campaigns from the Middle Ages and the murals were commissioned in commemoration by the Florentine statesman Pierro Soderini.
Vanko Urumov created his Battle in the context of a show he initated himself – the exhibition Artists and Peace in the Sports Palace in Varna. The motivation behind the show was to incite artists from Varna to create ambitious, large scale canvases and to claim their presence on the art scene.
Urumov's Battle was an audatious and ironic treatment of the exhibition topic of peace – a topic otherwise typical for the times, with its vague and over generalizing ideological message. The work of Vanko Urumov not only depicted a battle, but also repeated, not without irony, the artistic battle between the two Renaissance geniuses – Leonardo and Michelangelo. Indeed, Vanko Urumov's Battle was created as part of a symbolic encounter between talents. Together with Vanko Urumov, his friend – the artist Milko Bozhkov also created a Battle for the exhibiton. Milko Bozhkov took the role of Michelangelo and presented his interpetation of The Battle of Cascina.
Urumov's Battle is a free and abstract take on the movement, drama and energy of Leonardo's composition. Urumov's work seems inspired by the unfinished state of its Renaissance model, it has the quality of a sketch and plays with the juxtaposition of fragments. At the same time Urumov's "Battle" is a metaphor about life and death, the transient and the eternal, which go beyond the immediate suggestions of The Battle of Anghiari.
In a conversation, the artist shared that Hugo Voeten was particularly attracted by this work. "I had decided not to sell the work, but Hugo was a serious conoisseur, he had an eye and always took the best works. He also found a fantastic way to exhibit the work, by embedding it into an apperture in the wall, so it could be seen simultaneously on both sides".
Text: Dessislava Dimova, October 2015