Horseman, 1999, painted wood, metal 140 x 38 x 104 cm.
Alyosha Kafedzhijski was born in 1937 and graduated in sculpture in 1964 from the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, where he studied with prof. Lyubomir Dalchev. Kafedzhijski has worked equally well in monumental and intimate formats and has experimented with various materials and their combinations – wood, clay, stone and bronze among others.
Horseman is very representative for Alyosha Kafedzhijski's work. The sculpture is executed in painted wood – a technique which is characteristic and specific for the artist. Wood is an intuitive and spontaneous material. Kafedzijski has followed its form, letting transpire its inherent qualities, as well as its various cultural and historical connotations. The wooden figures of Alyosha Kafedzijski travel freely between times and references – early gothic sculpture, the icon, folkloric and vernacular motives. The horse for instance is inspired by the wooden horses in childrens's carousels. At the same time the motive of the horseman is one of the most ancient figurative representations to be found in Bulgaria. It is well known in art history from the Thracian reliefs of the nameless god, hero and conqueror – the Thracian Horseman (its earliest representations date from V-IV centuries BC).
The hunched horseman of Alyosha Kafedzhijski is far from these heroic iconographies and its effect operates precisely in the tension it creates with the image of the victorious horseman that we know from history. Nevertheless, the laconic lines and the stylized volumes render Kafedzijski's sculpture both iconic and symbolic. The figure of the horseman reminds simultaneously of the flatness of the icon and the architectural weight of the column. These impressions are further strengthened by the decorative use of color.
The Horseman mixes styles, references and techniques yet remains solid and integrate. It is both monumental and small-scale. The three dimensionality of the sculpture meets the flat planes of color. The element of the horse brings memories of childhood and evokes the decorativeness so intrinsic to the wooden material, while the treatment of the human figure brings to the surface questions of representation and its relationship to the spiritual and the eternal. But these contradictions are at the same time precisely what unites the elements in the whole. The patina of the paint, the general impression of a relic and of a time gone-by, make the paradox and the anachronisms not only natural but also beyond time.
This movement of time from anachronism to timelessness is underlined by the banality of the only contemporary element in the sculpture – the piece of metal pipe that the artist has used for the bridle of the horse. Folded into a strict right angle, and by the virtue of its very material, it is more static and solid than the other parts of the compostion. The pipe's functional elements – rings, rivets, joints – become decorative. This contemporary element completes not only the temporal dynamic of the work, but also its movement towards abstraction, which Kafedzhijski manages to carry out from and through figurativeness.
Text: Dessislava Dimova