Bulgaria, as much as it has become a popular travel destination in the last years, is still undiscovered land, especially for Balkan maniacs. Searching for new mysterious sides of this country, I accidentally found out about Bulgarian Banksy.
You have probably heard about Banksy, the anonymous British artist who, for many years, has been leaving traces of his artistic activity on the streets and many other places, mostly in England. He inspires a lot of artists in the whole world, makes people go and discover his pieces of art and doing research, pointing out one still unanswered question: „Who is he?”.
Well, as interesting as Banksy was – still is and will be – this article is not gonna be about him. Instead, let me tell you a story about a Bulgarian artist, calling himself „Banksy on the Stone” (bul. „Банкси на камък”).
More than two years ago I went to Plovdiv. In the heart of the city I was climbing the hill rocks covered with multiple paintings. It was visible that the paintings were made by the hand of one person as the style of all of them was the same – colorful and vibrant portraits of famous and less famous people of the world. What comes to your head after seeing this wall of rocks with loads of faces on it, ascending to a higher point of the city, is that the person who made it surely is a hardworking and patient man and considering he is painting in hard-to-reach places probably also a bit insane (in a positive way though). Then, you may ask who is the author and you may probably even want to meet him in person and interview him a bit. And who are those people on the portraits? First, what any Bulgarian would notice are probably the images of national heroes and poets, as Vasil Levski or Hristo Botev. Next to them are saints, politicians of the world and even famous singers or actors.
A year later I came back to Bulgaria, just for the summer at the Black Sea and I stayed in a small touristic town, Primorsko. Being an explorer by nature will push you to go and look around instead of just laying on the beach. That, I did, wandering along and across the place. When I got to the promenade, which is around one and a half kilometer long, I saw the familiar portraits on the rocks again! They lie there like a nice company on the walk from the beginning to the end of the promenade. The difference was, that comparing to the portraits in Plovdiv, I found those in Primorsko more „worldwide”. There you can find Van Gogh, Roger Federer, Marie Curie-Sklodowska and many others.
If you ask Google about these paintings on the rocks, you will probably get very few results, mostly in Bulgarian. After seeing for the second time art left by this enigmatic Bulgarian Banksy, I was trying to get more information about him/her. What is the story behind? How is this person like? Where else can I find these paintings?
For the answers to all these questions I had to wait for another long year. I came back to Primorsko this summer, went for my regular walk on the promenade and… I met Bulgarian Banksy in the flesh! In that moment he was painting Charlie Chaplin and as much as you feel you shouldn’t bother an artist in the creation process, how can you stop your curiosity and not start a conversation when you have a chance?
So, let me introduce Stoyko Gagamov, the mysterious Bulgarian Banksy. In fact, he graduated in fine mechanics and his first art teacher was his grandfather, who was also an artist, a self-taught one. While his grandfather was gifted in painting birds and flowers on wagons and carriages, Stoyko decided to go on with conceptual art, painting on syenite and granit. „I wanted to paint great people on the stones, because it seems very natural and it becomes part of a landscape” – as he said. – „My conceptual art makes you think and remember about those great people who lived on this earth before us. It’s something like education and a reminder for young people to think and remember about them, and even if they don’t know some of them, it can prompt one to check on the internet who this person was…”.
Why painting on the stones and not on walls, for example, someone may ask. „Stones come alive with this, otherwise they are sad, like a cemetery, grey…” – said Stoyko. – “My technique is very colorful and immediately noticable from the distance, it grabs people’s attention, especially childrens”.
If you happen to be on Tenerife, in the charming little town of Santa Cruz, you will find more portraits on the rocks, starting from The Auditorio de Tenerife „Adan Martin” and going 8 kilometers long straight to the fishing village of San Andres. Stoyko was creating them for 3 years. Maybe one day it will be in The Guiness Book of Records? Fair enough to put it in there, surely. Local people, fishermen from San Andres, used to call him „fast hand” or „fast paintbrush”. They knew him well there, the mystery is why not so many Bulgarians know about his artistic presence.
He lives within art. Doesn’t drink or smoke, riding a bicycle a lot instead. A simple and humble human being, who barely earns any money from painting portraits. Sometimes, in the evenings, you can meet him near his own creation zones, where he comes with simple self-advertisement, to ask money for materials and for food. There are different concepts of being rich. And I think that the world should know that there is someone like Bulgarian Banksy on the Stone, who has a conceptual exhibition on the ocean, sea, river and land. As rich as one can be.