Lulin district, 2005, oil on canvas, 180 x 320 cm
'Lulin district' is a monumental painting by Bulgarian artist Marina Marinova. It is one of the biggest paintings in a series of works created around Lulin, Sofia's largest residential complex. Named after the nearby Lulin Mountain, Lulin is well-known for being a "concrete jungle" and is a heritage of the communist-era urban culture. 240,000 persons are currently living in the high grey concrete residential blocks with very small apartments inside. Enjoying very few personal space, the inhabitants of the district often hang out laundry on balconies everywhere.
Born in 1978, Marinova belongs to a new generation of Bulgarian artists who pay attention to the heritage of the Communist period. Marinova grew up in Lulin and occupied one of the typical apartment of the district as her studio for more than 3 years, while working around the theme of urbanization. While walking in the streets of Lulin or staying on her balcony, she made hundreds of drawings and sketches before painting them into larger scale on canvas. For the Lulin series she developed a specific technique based on many layers of paint and drawings which corresponds to the structure of these peculiar concrete buildings.
To depict the buildings, Marinova chose greyish colors, not only to relate to the primary material of construction, concrete, but also to critic the total lack of bright colors during communism. She integrated texts on some parts of the painting when developing a technique to soak up the unnecessary amount of paint on the canvas by applying fragments of newspaper. By doing so, some of the printing ink remains on the canvas. The effect is consciously used by the artist to reinforce the relationship with reality. By adding signs, letters and words, she refers to people's doomed fate to live in Lulin.
The works from Marionova's Lulin series have been exhibited for the first time in 2005 in her solo exhibition at the Circle + gallery in Sofia: ''Lulin district, bl.906B''. The title of the show corresponds to the address of her studio at that time. In his opening speech of the exhibition, painter Svetlin Roussev (°1933) expressed his consideration for the pictorial achievement of his young female colleague: "The world of Marina Marinova is severe and poetic. It is closer to the poetry of Atanas Dalchev than to painting. Everyday signs are rendered in a plastic formula. They refer to the lacking individuality of the town nowadays, to pain, charity and love".
Hugo Voeten visited the exhibition during one of his trips to Bulgaria and decided some time later to buy the work for his private collection. The painting has been on view in Herentals since the opening of the Art Center in April 2012.
Text: Simon Delobel, February 2017