Milan Hristev and his Chronicle of Time
by PhDr. Alesh Hradlichka
Since oldest times artists have been depicting the symbols of harmony, beauty and eternity. At the same time they have been trying to catch Time, its structure, its respecting laws of unity, have been trying to penetrate into the depths of its “psychological” category, which is related to the perception and experiencing of the world, to assimilate present from a past that extends endlessly the continuity of today.
Milan Hristev assumes this same approach towards his cycles, trying to create images that provoke the feeling of merging borderlines between past and present, constructing an extra-real visuality. This is an extensive shooting project situated on a strictly subjective approach towards the “registration” of antique-, Thracian- and Byzantine cities and temples and distinctive natural shapes and details. This succession of photographs that thematically encompass architectural monuments from Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, the Belogradchik rock figures and the Forest series could be provisionally named Chronicle of Time. Instead of descriptive images or tracing of typical architectural marks or overwhelming natural fragments, Hristev targets a line of “hints” for something already seen or known from somewhere, that always repeats itself. Though the viewer has not physically visited the photographed places he has surely fixed them in his subconscious through links to other, earlier visual encounters, seen either in films or on illustrations. This is the connection on which the author relies. He accentuates the attack of illustrative tools by their multiple, continuously repetitive and widely known visual variations, through multiple development upon one and the same frame. Thus a spontaneous primary contact with the viewer is achieved through which the main contours of the photographs “bring out” the latent images on the surface of the conscious. This “introductory speech” prepares the process of meaningful journey into the author’s creative concept. Through the continuity of his cycles Milan applies yet another approach: change of focal distance of the separate frames, thus trying to underline the endless diversity of spatial and temporal dimensions. The result is a collective picture, a multi-layer conglomerate of visual cultural and historical dimensions and symbols that provoke a melancholic feeling for the seclusion of our lives and nostalgic crave after the glory of times past.
It is remarkable that the presented sketches are unobtrusively “draped with the toga” of the past, and create the sense of peculiar immersion into the night of history. Shapes, their shadows and reflections loom out of the darkness of this night. We are being captured by the presence of endless earlier lives and their “worship” creations: fairy-tale characters, gods, and extraterrestrial creatures. At the same time, because of our belonging to the present, we cannot fully detach ourselves from the visual parallels with our time. Just like the groups of small trees and their dynamic disorder are balanced by the rigid tectonic rhythm of ancient temples, their columns remind us of industrial landscape of numerous factory towers and chimneys. Here, in our mental images, sunlight penetrates the smog in an effort to reach those who need it. The feeling of hopelessness before the danger of possible return at the starting point is evoked. Something emerges in the depth of the photographs that has not been factually present in the shot object and something else disappears that has been there.
Thus we can express doubt in the general assurance that photography shows only real objects and nothing beyond this frame. The photographs of Milan Hristev precipitate the existence of something and reveal the participation of someone, of “actors” of non-materialized presence. This conclusion leads to the necessity to change our perception of Time.
A number of image layers, a couple of jumps through time fuse in our minds into one whole imperceptive verbal whole, in a feeling that “measured” time has no beginning and no end. The process illustrates both the bottomless potential for influence of photographic artifacts and the boundless aesthetic impulses of creativity.