Support Talent—Donate!

‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund launches a fundraising campaign under the motto ‘Support talent—Donate!’ for individual financial support of the nominees in the competition for the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Prize for young talents in contemporary arts and science.

The main objective of the initiative is to support young people financially and morally by encouraging their professional development and their participation in international educational exchange.

Presenting to You Our Talents

Victoria Vassilenko

performing artist, pianist

  1. Was the piano a case of ‘love at first sight’ for you?

When I was three or four years old, my mother played me W.A. Mozart’s operas, ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. I was enormously impressed by the music and begged her to play them over and over again. They were more interesting for me than children’s films—I learned them by heart. This opened my heart to music—of course, a small child cannot begin a professional musical education directly with singing. So, since my parents are pianists, I began to learn the piano. I gradually decided that this was to be my future—ever since I was small I have been firmly convinced in and focused on what I want. Music and the piano were and have remained my strongest desire and love.

  1. You have studied in many places abroad; can you draw a parallel between Bulgarian education and that abroad?

In Bulgaria, I received the most wonderful basis for development, including the opportunities of performing on stage that I have had and I have. I have played on the most prestigious Bulgarian stages and with some of the most magnificent and talented Bulgarian musicians, for which I am infinitely grateful. It is very important that one never forgets from where they started and what was it they were given to achieve success at an international level. Bulgaria has always produced incredible talents who proudly bring fame to its name abroad, and continue their development there. I am firmly convinced that its future depends on our responsibility towards it as its ‘products’. We receive a lot, and we have to return even more.

  1. You have been awarded prizes in many contests; are you the competitive type?

Yes, I have always been the competitive type. However, this has never affected my love for music—the world we live in today is a world of business and it is forcing a constant self-affirmation. There is a danger that we might forget the point of what we are doing and why we have dedicated our lives to art. Music is a language through which we learn to express ourselves—a language of purity, perfection; of the divine and the human. Described in this way, we cannot imagine how it can be combined with contests—every artist is unique and should not compete with another. But contests provide wonderful opportunities for us to be heard, to be appreciated; they are an incentive for even harder work and make us mentally stronger. The adrenaline of the competition podium is perhaps the strongest. Whatever happens in a contest, the valuable experience we acquire thanks to it is indispensable.

  1. The prizes, the talent or the character—which is it that opens the doors to the big stage?

It is different for every artist. Personally I would say that it is a combination of the three, but certainly the strongest role is played by character.

  1. Music is a universal language; do you have a dream orchestra, or a stage, for your future performances?

One of my big dreams is to play as the soloist at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

Dr Ivalina Trendafilova

nanoscience and nanotechnologies

  1. For the unenlightened in your science, the term ‘nano’ means something very small, invisible to the naked eye. Can you explain in simple words what exactly your work is?

My work is mainly focused on developing materials with preset parameters, because when we can control the size, composition, even the form of the particles, we can control their properties. My research possesses a potential application in the therapy and diagnosis of various diseases, allowing for the reduction of undesirable side effects of medicines with toxic or irritant impacts, and improving the solubility of biologically active substances of natural origin, thus allowing delivery to the desired organ or tissue without damaging the healthy ones. In addition to them being carriers of medicinal substances, the materials that I obtain can, after appropriate modification, be successfully used as catalysts in the purification of industrial waste water.

  1. New technologies are uncharted territory; are you sometimes afraid of the consequences that accompany achievements?

We should always approach the unknown with respect and a calculated risk. Historically, for example, many of the major discoveries have been made as military developments. The consequences can either be terrifying or to the benefit of all mankind. What is important is that the goals and motives of the people responsible for the development of new technologies are noble.

  1. Since the time of Marie Curie, science has not been considered purely male territory, but prejudices still exist. Have you ever faced any of these?

No, I haven’t. Worldwide, the number of male scientists still takes precedence, but I think the prejudice that this is a ‘male’ profession is something long left in the past. In the teams that I have worked with, there has always been respect for the ideas and work of every member of the group, regardless of gender or age.

  1. You are currently on a postdoctoral specialisation at the National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia. What attracted you to this particular educational institution?

My research supervisor, Prof. Margarita Popova, has a long and fruitful record of cooperation with the team I work in, a result of which was my one-month internship in Slovenia during my doctoral studies. On my first visit, I was extremely impressed by the modern equipment available, and the base they have, while the team of young and already established scientists is a wonderful environment for developing new ideas.

  1. Do you see ‘bright minds’ among your students, and is there a hope for science of high quality in Bulgaria?

In Bulgaria, being involved in science is not an easy path to follow, but our education is still at a very high level and universities have the capacity to prepare promising specialists. Among my young colleagues there are many agile minds with an enthusiasm for development in science, who I hope will continue to maintain science in the country at a high level.

Rosen Georgiev

scientific research in the field of atomic layer deposition and its applications

  1. It is obvious that it is difficult to explain simply and briefly the application of the deposition of atomic layers, but please try!

Atomically deposited layers are materials with properties different from those of layers of the same composition, but with a greater thickness. For this reason, these atomically applied layers aim to improve the efficiency or solve problems of existing devices. Undoubtedly, the smaller layer thickness leads to miniaturisation, greater integration and less power consumption in the devices created. They find application in all spheres—electronics, sensory equipment, medicine, construction.

  1. How did your interest in this branch of science arise? What ‘enchanted’ you?

It was indeed a coincidence. After completing my Master’s degree, I returned to Bulgaria and came across an advertisement for doctoral candidates at the Institute of Optical Materials and Technologies (IOMT) at BAS. I had graduated in Design of Optical Telecommunication Networks, and decided that I wanted to explore in more detail the materials used in them. As with anything, you start with less sophisticated technology and smoothly and, imperceptibly, you become involved in more advanced technologies. But this curiosity was well supported by my colleagues at the IOMT and I shall always use every opportunity to thank them! Because these really are people who are able to motivate you, not merely with words but also through actions and personal example.

  1. In scientific and technical subjects, what is the place of curiosity?

Curiosity is the beginning. This is the first step that we always say is the hardest. So I think that curiosity should be provoked at any moment. After that come persistence, patience, precision—things that are equally important, but meaningless without that first step.

  1. You have a Master’s degree from the Technical University in Berlin, you were a scholarship holder of the French government. So you have cognisance of government policies towards science both abroad and in our country.

In my opinion, government policy is a reflection of society’s attitude towards science. In Germany and France, people understand the added value that science brings; not least that business is trying to take advantage of it, which is why it is more successful, more competitive and more innovative, and this also determines the greater willingness of the governments themselves to support it. Personally, I find Japan a much more striking example, where, in the year following the nuclear accident, the budget for this allocation remained almost untouched. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria, there is still no such understanding; however, in the last 5 years since I’ve been working in this sphere, I have noticed a change. I think we are taking steps in the right direction. I am optimistic.

  1. What is your motivation for returning to Bulgaria?

Science is collective work. It is extremely difficult to develop science only on a local level, whether in Bulgaria or Germany, and therefore I hope that, wishing to achieve a better professional realisation, a large part of my future will be outside Bulgaria. But, enough of hopes! Because I know for certain that I will always return home. Bulgaria is my home. My family, my friends and my life are here, and there’s nothing more valuable. Bulgaria is the place where I find peace, energy and positive emotions.

 Denitsa Todorova

hot glass design

  1. If you had to describe the magic of glass in a few words, what would you say?

For me, glass is an extraordinary material, possessing energy that borders on the sacral. It gives me the opportunity to express imagination and sensuousness, as well as to combine the techniques of painting and sculpture. It provides a wide range of expressive options that vary from one extreme to another—it can be fragile or extremely solid, to absorb light, but also refract it, to be crystal transparent or opaque in chromaticity, two-dimensional or three-dimensional.

  1. Is it the transformation of the formless mass into an artistic work that attracts you in the hot treatment of artistic glass?

The process itself is unique and inspires research into the possibilities of the material. It is exactly the transformation of the shapeless glass mass into an artistic work that attracts me because, to an outside eye, the process resembles a game, whereas it is actually very complex.

  1. How did your specialisation in Barbara Zehner’s Glass Studio, Fürstenzell, Germany, affect your work?

This specialisation brought me many positives: I added to my knowledge, learned new hot treatment techniques, created several new works and established good contacts in the field.

  1. Many believe that hot treatment of glass is a dangerous occupation. Is this opinion exaggerated, or does the thrill lie in the difficulties?

It is by no means an exaggeration, not least because not everyone can stand the high temperatures and dynamics that the hot treatment process requires. At the same time, once you take the plunge, the thrill in question of how far you can go is very energising.

Liliya Pangelova

glass design

  1. Are you surprised that two ladies who are engaged in the treatment of glass are nominated for the National Prize of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund?

The participation of two young women as creators in the field of artistic glass is pretty much unique owing to the nature of the work and the dominant presence of men in this sphere. This fact can only be a reason for national pride and prestige.

  1. Is anyone else in your family involved in this kind of art?

I grew up in an environment of artists and intellectuals, thanks to which I developed my personal talent and artistic style.

  1. It is evident from your specialisations that you are mastering different techniques, national styles and ways of artistic treatment of glass. Is that a deliberate aspiration or a concurrence of circumstances?

I believe that professionalism manifests itself in the detailed study and acquisition of a specialism in both philosophical and material terms. In this regard, the temporal journeys to the history of glass in Antiquity, the poetisation of the material and its conceptual rationalisation, as well as the perfection of the various techniques of processing glass in a cold or hot state, have been the deliberate direction of my research.

  1. In some of your projects, you are dealing with a peculiar archaeology—you are reconstructing ancient Roman furnaces for producing glass. What are the challenges?

Communicating with such an ancient craft as glass-blowing is an encounter of the individual with his past as some kind of ‘inner’ archaeology. Ancient furnaces for glass are built by hand from natural materials and are kept at the temperature necessary to melt the glass by constantly loading with wood. In this regard, what I find valuable in the restoration of ancient Roman furnaces is the rediscovery of man’s connection with the land and the community through the recycling of natural raw materials and the collective work necessary for the proper functioning of this type of structure and the final product. Antiquity can serve modern man in looking back to his roots as he rediscovers himself in the process of joint creativity.

  1. Have you studied ancient glass in the Bulgarian lands?

Based on my Master’s thesis on ‘Ancient Roman Techniques of Treatment and Decoration of Glass’, I continue my research on the theme of the origin and methodology of the production of antique glass artefacts in Bulgaria and abroad. Compared with the glass products that I have analysed in Germany, Turkey and Malta, I can say that Bulgaria is rich in unique finds from Antiquity, some of which are displayed at the Regional History Museum in Stara Zagora and the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia. On the territory of the capital, the remains of an ancient furnace for melting glass were discovered, providing proof of the presence of an ancient glass industry in Sofia. All this means that glass was one of the existing and important crafts in these lands, which has yet to be extensively explored, accepted and propagated as part of Bulgarian history and culture.

Viviane Vassileva

musician, percussionist

  1. You evidently have а Bulgarian-German upbringing, but, in your motivation letter, you say that, wherever you go, the Bulgarian theme runs through your concerts. With what does it attract you?

My repertoire is predominantly by contemporary composers. They use many irregular beats, which, for most musicians, are something very exotic. But, everywhere in the world, it is known that we have these irregular beats in our folk music in Bulgaria, and that they run in our blood. And I really like to play different, wild irregular beats, and especially the typical ‘natrisane’ [abrupt stressed beats] of the three [instruments] in Bulgarian music immediately gives me a huge inner smile when listening to them, and especially in playing them.

Moreover, as I compose music I always become inspired by our folk songs and rhythms, which terrifically and very deeply touch and inspire me, and make me very proud to know that I am a Bulgarian, and that my musical roots come from this Balkan magic.

  1. In your performances, what do you think is more important—emotion or technique?

Of course, emotion, love and energy are most important in our art in general. Without it, what is the point of our desire to express ourselves? Only with technique, I do not believe that you can touch the soul of people, but for me, as I grew up with music, my brother’s music especially, the contact and the change of mood through a beautifully played melody was my first acquaintance with music.

However, technique is very helpful in achieving this magic. The better the technique one has mastered, the easier the playing, the more natural, and without any hitch, one’s emotional energy flows through the instrument and reaches the listener. That is why technique is very important, but it is, rather, the path to the goal, and not the goal itself.

  1. What is your favourite percussion instrument, and why?

I am asked this question very often. I began playing the violin as a child, but I obviously missed this diversity, which impresses me very much with percussion instruments. It is always interesting; on one and the same day, we play 3 or 4 different instruments—for example, a small drum, the timpani, djembe or goblet drum. And we constantly find new percussion, especially as we travel in different countries.

I love melodic percussion such as the marimba and the vibraphone. I am most excited when I combine a variety of percussion instruments, for example in my arrangement of the folk song ‘Kalino Mome’ [Kalina Damsel] or in concerts for orchestra and solo percussion.

  1. You have won many awards. With what qualities do you outperform your competitive rivals?

Contests are competitions that motivate and set a purpose for young musicians. For me, the biggest prize is, after a concert, for someone from the audience to tell me that I have managed to touch them.

  1. Your first contact with a percussion instrument was in your early childhood at an exotic beach; do you like to experiment with unusual or ethnic instruments?

Absolutely! The fact that we always discover new instruments is what feeds this fire and this passion for percussion. Whenever I travel to new countries, I discover new traditional instruments. As we have the tapan, so every culture has another kind of similar drum that brings us different sounds and shows us new possibilities and techniques of approaching the instrument.

Interviews were taken by Magdalena Gigova