Bold Brushes

 Branko Dimitrov was born in a small village, 2000m above sea-level, in the southern area of the former Yugoslavia.

 He started drawing and painting at the age of seven - “animals, mostly” - and, he says, his style evolved as he grew older and has matured in the time that he has spent in South Africa.

 His inspiration for the dramatic skies, depicted in his work, is the memory of the sky above his village of birth. “Because of the high altitude, the sky is more vivid, the clouds more starkly etched.” When he emigrated to South Africa, he immediately noticed that the sky over Pretoria shares the same vividness.

 He has been painting professionally his entire adult life and has the ability to skilfully capture the eye and imagination of his audience. He says he has never had any formal training in art. In many respects, he opposes the concept.

 “Going to an art school can teach you the history of art. It can teach you about the different art periods, the styles and the Great Masters, but it cannot teach you to paint from the soul. This must be born in you. “

 “For me, great art is an expression of freedom. I am inspired by all the great expressionists who have gone before.”

 ”Branko’s unique style of bold brushstrokes and evocative colour composition has made him one of the foremost Expressionist painters in South Africa. His art is a rarely concordant blend of colour which rings with an eye-catching vibrancy. Although his colours are bold and imaginative, there is also a compelling harmony to his work. When I see an image that strikes me, I try to file it away in my memory. I’m not saying that the work I do is always an accurate depiction of a specific place or time, but it is not supposed to be truly representational. It is an image in the mind.”

 The explosions of colour and light, the moody skies and Branko’s portraits, which capture the soul of the subject, never fail to inspire. For Branko, it is all about passion – passion for his family, his art, for music and friends. He works in an open-air studio overlooking the Magaliesberg mountains of Pretoria and paints with the accompaniment of the haunting strains of Chopin’s music.

 “Art, for me, is freedom”, says Branko. “You can do whatever you want, but you must be happy now. Happiness is freedom...”

 This is not a quest for bliss driven by only earthly desires, though. There is much that is spiritual to the Dimitrov experience. If we live simply for the sake of money, “we lose intuition, and our connection with the divine”, Branko clarifies.

 Branko seeks to live meaningfully, and he conveys this through the rough brush strokes and powerful colours which characterize his landscapes, portraits and still lives.

 The eyes are not to be trusted, Branko explains paintings are not just about light on the retina.

 Rather, art is the continuation of impulses from God. For that very reason, he continuously moves forward with his art. There must be movement growth productivity. Apart from the people and scenes that enthuse him, Branko thus takes deep inspiration from the guiding lights of such artistic luminaries as Rembrandt, above all, and Vermeer, Cezanne and Stern.