On any given weekend, you can find a small crowd outside the Dimitrov art gallery in the picturesque Mpumalanga town of Dullstroom. Unusual for a well-established artist, reminiscent almost of a Parisian scene, but here you experience it: someone wants his/her portrait painted; they take a pose on the veranda outside the gallery; Branko Dimitrov paints the head and shoulders in bold brush strokes; a while later, the portrait is completed – and the onlookers cheer and clap!
On the walls in the gallery, you find many paintings on music. A songstress in a red dress. A violinist. A few guitar players. Classical music plays softly in the background. The colours swirl from the paintings into the mind; they leave you feeling lightheaded.
As you turn a corner on the soft Persian carpet, you feel your body caught up in a whirl of hues and notes and fragrances. You almost do not want to conclude the turn; you want it to last and last. And you realise: you want to dance!
“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 characterise his landscapes, portraits and stilllives.
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.
Buba has much insight into the world of art. The responsibility for good art lies in three directions, she analyses the situation: with the artist, with the art galleries, and with the public. South Africa has gone through a phase in which art was highly commercialised: money talked; beauty was about lucrative investment. But the vibration she picks up now, Buba intimates, is such that art will grow simply because it is good.
Such is one’s experience when Buba talks of business, of art, and of Branko: always sensitive; with insight and care; fascinating and entertaining; with strong, informed opinions – mostly over an espresso; always in hope...
Branko Dimitrov paints during weekdays in his Pretoria studio. He and Buba can be seen during weekends at the Dimitrov art gallery in Dullstroom, which is open seven days a week.