Once upon a time, there was a young child who lived in the land of sunflowers. Every summer, on a hot summer day in July, she would be despatched to her Granny’s cottage in the countryside to spend her school holidays running wild in sunflower fields, which stretched all the way to the horizon, with their golden crowns following the sun’s gaze. The young girl grew up falling in love with sunflowers, the colour yellow and Vincent van Gogh.
She went on to study art history in the land of thistles where she learnt that the fields of sunflowers didn’t exist in the 1880s when van Gogh was creating his iconic series of sunflower paintings. Back then, this exotic flower, recently imported to Europe from its native North America, used to adorn private gardens across Southern France as a sought-after decorative plant. With its weak stalks, it could neither withstand the winds of Provence, nor yield sunflower oil.
Just like the young girl from our tale, the artist Diana Savova grew up in Bulgaria, the land of sunflowers. She witnessed Soviet-style mass industrialisation of agriculture and the introduction of a new breed of strong stem variety of sunflower as a crop. Golden sunflowers, offset by the bright blue sky, came to dominate the fertile fields of her Bulgarian childhood. Soon the sunflowers appeared in her dreamscapes.
Just like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, Diana Savova was fascinated by the colours, size and shape of sunflowers, especially the ones she grew up with. Drama, struggle and a passion for life can be seen in every dash of paint in her sunflower paintings. In my opinion, each one shows an honesty and a virtuosity that speaks to the enduring power of this extraordinary plant.