10 QUESTIONS FOR TANYA ATANASOVA

  Tanya Atanasova  is a contemporary figurative realist painter based in Antwerp, Belgium. She grew up in an environment where different kinds of art were constantly interacting. She studied in a classical academy of art in Sofia, Bulgaria which has given her a strong foundation to build on in a variety of different media. Afterwards Tanya studied in a "modern" academy in Ghent, Belgium to develop her conceptual thinking and artistic work. She is currently working on a large series of non-traditional portraits to be exhibited in a solo show in 2019.

Tanya Atanasova is a contemporary figurative realist painter based in Antwerp, Belgium. She grew up in an environment where different kinds of art were constantly interacting. She studied in a classical academy of art in Sofia, Bulgaria which has given her a strong foundation to build on in a variety of different media. Afterwards Tanya studied in a "modern" academy in Ghent, Belgium to develop her conceptual thinking and artistic work. She is currently working on a large series of non-traditional portraits to be exhibited in a solo show in 2019.

Q&A

1. What is different from your work than others when painting the figure now?
I often portray people, but no matter if I work on a proper portrait or on a full-size body, I try to include elements, attributes or expressions of the models that characterize them best, which helps me on the way of storytelling, which is my main goal.

2. How important is process versus end results?
I love finishing a painting, the moment of stepping back to see the final results and claim it “finished”, but from there on the paintings start their own lives and they don’t excite me that much anymore as when they were in progress. Visitors often come to my atelier or to a show, making compliments and very much loving what they see, but to me it feels like my work is done. But there is something in the creative process itself that makes me excited and restless for as long as it takes to finish a painting, which is much more interesting to me than the end result. The healthy stress of does the magic will work or not is crucial.

3. What is your ultimate goal when painting the figure?
Technically I try to paint it realistically and correctly, but the most important to me is telling something about my model.

4. What do you like best about your work?
I paint detailed and realistic, but I don’t go for hyper or photorealism. I like best to balance one step before hyperrealism, the structure of my paint, the imperfection, that makes even a portrait a bit dynamic and more “alive” like.

5. What do you do you like least about your work?
Often I’m telling my students that they should “stop on time,” before they “overwork” a piece, but in reality, I have a problem with it myself. I love unfinished paintings – they have space, spontaneity and they breathe, but my perfectionism is often killing me at the end and sometimes I can’t let go, I always think I can make it better until I ruin it…  

6. Why the figure?
Even though my last project is about portraits, my fascination for the figure and especially nude is rooted back at the time I was five, when my granny use to take me to the mineral public sauna-bath of Strelcha (Bulgaria) every Saturday. I have grown up between these hundreds of tummies, butts and breasts of beautiful unknown women and I have developed my absolute love for any shape, color and age of body.   

7. Which are your greatest influences?
My dad Dimitar Atanasov, my brothers Ilia & Atanas, my first painting teacher Varcho Varchev when I was a child and one of my best friend and a father figure for me after my father died - Nicky Sredovski when I was a teenager. They all worked towards to make me a painter since I was three. More recently I have been fascinated by the work of Nick Alm, Eloy Morales, Aleah Chapin

8. What is your background?
I was born in Bulgaria in 1978 (OMG, I’m getting old, I still remember communism btw). I was studying art in the poorest, most miserable and hungry years in the contemporary history of the country and everyone has claimed me crazy. It meant a world to me to become the first Erasmus-student (exchange student) of National Art Academy of Sofia in Ghent, Belgium. After my Erasmus stay, I was forced to go back to Sofia, where I graduated with the best possible score for final work. A few months later I returned to Belgium to stay. I have settled in Antwerp since 2006. I have taught painting classes since 2008, and in 2017 I started my own atelier and became a full-time painter.  

9. Name three artists you'd like to be compared to in history books.
Ha ha, now, that’s a funny one…. Well, they paint in other styles, but maybe:Nick Alm and Aleah Chapin

10. What is your favorite work in the exhibition besides your own and why?
Alessandro Tomassetti’s “Lie to me”. Because it is very very difficult to make something look that spontaneous, elegant and gorgeous without going too far in the process and overwork it. It is so vivid, so subtle and beautifully lit, so well balanced - a true masterpiece to me! You couldn’t see me happier than when I found out my “Banana boy” was published on a page next to him!!