For Belgian artist Marie-Chantal Biela the local art scene is not just a curiosity but a source of creative power
Issue 49-50, October-November 2010
interview by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff
Cracked ice covered the river and chunks of it were floating on the surface, forming a giant jigsaw puzzle. The sight caught the attention of Belgian Marie-Chantal Biela. She stopped, took a picture and walked on. What she had seen, she later turned into an abstract lithograph.
The ice blocks on the frozen Moskva River were exhibited as a part of Mouvances, Marie-Chantal's first solo exhibition, which took place in Sofia, at the Culture Ministry's Sredets Gallery in late September. Most of the exhibits, nonrepresentational lithographs that she has created during her stay in Bulgaria, were printed at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia.
Marie-Chantal holds degrees in law and management, and has worked in both areas. She also paints, and has been doing it ever since she can remember.
"I started when I was a child, like everybody else, and I was just lucky enough to enjoy it," she says. For the last two years she's been living in Sofia with her husband, Marc Michielsen, the Belgian ambassador to Bulgaria.
Dublin and Moscow, Paris and Brussels. The cities in which Marie-Chantal has lived are not just addresses. For her, they are the links to her encountering and mastering new techniques and styles. In Paris she learnt to draw, in Brussels to paint in oils. In Dublin she got involved with watercolour and in Moscow she embraced sculpture.
"For me it is a permanent and endless process," Marie-Chantal says. "I like to learn every technique that I can. So many possibilities, all of them connected. Everything in my work evolves, and I love that. I like the feeling of putting pastel on paper or the feeling of drawing on a stone. I like the lightness of the paper, the surprise of the wood, the weight and the splendour of the bronze. I see something and I take a picture of it; then I start drawing and end up with a lithograph. Having finished that, it might happen that I make new sketches – small, big, black, coloured – and sometimes I end up with a sculpture, from where I make a new lithograph or something in mixed media. And so on."
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers