by Rada Pletnyova; photography by Daniel Lekov

An analogue artist in the digital era

Greddy Assa

Born in 1954 into a Jewish family in Pleven, Greddy Assa graduated from the Art Department at Veliko Tarnovo University with a degree in mural painting. Between 2000 and 2004 he was associate dean of the National Art Academy and to this day remains one of the most highly respected professors there. His paintings are in the Holocaust Museum in Washington and in the Bundestag in Berlin, as well as in galleries in Tel Aviv, Aachen and elsewhere. He has had solo exhibits in Germany, Hungary, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. He recently returned from a one-man show in Beijing.

Has contemporary Bulgarian visual art succeeded in transcending national boundaries?

It's very good for art to reveal its authenticity, to be local, to show where it comes from. But when you speak only one language, you remain within certain limits. A foreigner who admires or purchases artwork always tries to put it in some kind of universal framework. Bulgarian art does not have the same rich history as Italian or Greek art, so it is very important for us to speak in the most universal language possible so that people from other nations can understand us. Bulgarian artists cannot define the direction and place of their works in the global art history. Each one works however he wants. But that isn't enough to sell paintings or even to be understood.

Is there an art market in Bulgaria?

Yes, there is, but it is unregulated and uncategorised; it follows no rules. The same applies also for galleries – they should be cultural centres, and not just places to sell paintings at. There is no specialisation, nor are there professional distinctions between true art and amateur works.


Does an artist really need academic training?

My recent observations on contemporary art, not just in Bulgaria, show that you can be a computer scientist and still draw. So artistic education isn't obligatory. However, desire is. It's the same with great musicians – you can't have skipped over playing Mozart and Bach and create high-quality contemporary music.

What's the most important thing you teach your students?

Perseverance. Nothing else will make you a good artist.

Have you learned things from your students?

I've learned many things. The modern electronic world is very foreign to me. I still don't use a computer and I'm amazed at the speed at which my students master new technologies. They possess a decisiveness that sometimes I envy them for. I'm a person who tends to mull things over for longer, to have doubts. Sometimes this is a good thing, while other times I wish I hadn't thought so much but instead just acted in the moment.

Would you rather live abroad?

I think it's good for a person to live abroad for a while to be able to compare even little things with those in Bulgaria. This is especially useful for artists. My almost year-long stay in the United States completely changed my worldview. When you really live in a country and aren't just there as a tourist, everything looks very different. It's not always as pleasant as it may seem when you're just passing through for a short while.


What is life like for Jews in Bulgaria?

The same as it is for Bulgarians – there's no special attitude towards us. Then again, there's so few of us here in Bulgaria that we're sort of exotic attraction. Over the years most Jews have left. The people who have stayed are those who are closely tied to a certain activity, often in culture.

Which places in Bulgaria would you recommend to foreigners?

They shouldn't stay only in Sofia – in my opinion the rest of Bulgaria is far more charming and magical. Teteven, Troyan, Lovech – that part of Stara Planina is like a fairytale. Troyan Monastery is worth seeing, as are Rhodope villages such as Kovachevitsa and Leshten. You can also go for great hikes in the Strandzha. Even along the overbuilt Black Sea coast you can still find a few wild places.

Which places would you rather stay away from?

For us Bulgarians the problem is that we don't take care of our beautiful places. For example, take Perperikon – it's a magnificent spot, but there's no footpath, no lighting and not even a single brochure explaining what you're seeing. There's nowhere to sip a cup of coffee while admiring the view. Bulgaria has the potential to become a tourist destination, but first Bulgarians themselves need to develop a culture of tourism. For that reason I won't name any places that foreigners should avoid – let them see the beautiful along with the unsightly.


If a foreigner could see only one painting by a Bulgarian artist, which one would best illustrate Bulgaria in your opinion?

Without a doubt, a painting by Vladimir "The Master" Dimitrov. Bulgarian life and our sense of the world are readily apparent in his paintings. They can also be found in Bulgarian carpets and weavings.


    Commenting on

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

The charity exhibition Buy Art, Give Future To a Child is a chance to buy top photography from some of Bulgaria's finest authors and to help disadvantaged children to realise their talents and potential.

The New Yorker is an institution; a magazine bought and read by generations for its captivating and meticulously researched, fact-checked and proofread texts, the dry witticism of its cartoons and the illustrated covers that offer a visual commentary on bot

Sinemorets, which name means "blue," is one of the most picturesque parts of the Bulgarian Black Sea cove: a rare combination of pristine beaches, impressive cliffs, a river and thick oak forests.

We had visited Bulgaria briefly and loved the rich history of the country, the traditional culture still honored and close to the surface, the welcoming people we met, the Balkan cuisine and the wines of the countryside.

Through vivid and at times poignant images Communist Bulgaria shows what has remained of this country's Communist material heritage.

Yambol, in southeastern Bulgaria, has been a hub for various folk traditions for many centuries. Nowadays, alongside Pernik in western Bulgaria, it is thought of as one of Bulgaria's capitals of Kukeri, or mummers.

Yet Greece is a lot more than the well-travelled destinations such as Cassandra and Kavala.

The exhibition was organised with the support of the American Embassy in Sofia. Ambassador Eric Rubin opened the event, together with Amelia Gesheva, the deputy minister of culture.
"There are many such places," he continues. "Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary… For myself I'll take Moab, Utah.

The exhibition covers some of the mesmerising and atmospheric remains of Jewish heritage in Bulgaria: from the mosaics of a 2nd century synagogue in Plovdiv, to abandoned and crumbling synagogues and cemeteries, the only reminders of the Jewish presence in
For over 10 years Yambol, the city in southeastern Bulgaria, has been the host of a major street festival attended by dozens of groups of mummers from all over Bulgaria.

Photography has of course changed beyond recognition since the digital revolution.