Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Stankova, Julia

Julia Stankova


I was born on October 30, 1954, in Bulgaria. After twelve years of working as a mining engineer I quit my job (1990) and dedicated all my time to painting. Fortunately this crucial turn in my personal life coincided with the ending of the totalitarian regime in my country. In communist times I wouldn’t have been allowed to exhibit my artistic interpretations of biblical events. Meanwhile the Theology faculty of Sofia University had opened its doors for women and I was admitted to study there. And so I obtained my second degree in Theology (MT) in 2000.

In my artistic work I gradually developed my own technique of painting on wood based on the pictorial techniques of the Byzantine masters. During the last twenty years I had thirty individual exhibitions in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, the Netherlands and France.

I publish regularly (essays, poetry, theological analyses, articles on art) in Bulgarian literary newspapers and magazines. I am married with two daughters and two grand children. I work and live in Sofia.

My art and my faith

In my childhood I used to contemplate the frescoes on the walls of the small church in my grandparents’ village. The tender embrace of the Mother of God depicted on the altar wall reminded me of my own mother, who I was actually missing. I tried to compensate her absence by recreating the icon of the Virgin and Child with oil on plywood (materials found by chance at the house of my grandparents).

Many years later, when I had almost lost my soul, I started reading the New Testament and layer by layer detected the sense of the biblical events. While I familiarized myself with the teaching of Christ, my own personality was increasingly uncovered. This process was extraordinarily emotional and every piece of enlightenment in my soul made me create a new image. When I was painting the healing of the man born blind, I also started to see; I came back to life together with Lazarus; I took my place in the queue behind the apostles waiting for Christ to wash my feet too… In this way Christ also healed me.

In my work I try to keep my soul emotionally honest before God’s face and to remain honest in this way towards the people I share my paintings with.


1. The Healing of the Man with the Unclean Spirit, 40 x 30 cm, mixed media on wood. This miracle of Jesus Christ is not understood by the people around him. They are not ready to accept their healed brother back into their society and it is not clear what is more important to them: that their pigs stay alive or that their brother is healed. Aware of this, the man who had been demon-possessed begs to go with Christ, but Jesus tells him to remain in his village and to tell everybody about the mercy of God. Through this miracle Jesus not only heals the suffering man but also reminds people about one of the most important commandments in the moral law given by God: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  

2. Portrait of Thomas, 45 x 65 cm, mixed media on wood. St Thomas is the only disciple who needs to touch the wound of Jesus, like a sculptor who carves his faith through matter. Sculpturing his faith he actually creates his own spiritual face. In this way he exists in two worlds at the same time, separated by the Tree of knowledge. With his presence in the New Testament St Thomas provides the basis of the idea that art can be a spiritual path. 
3. The End of the Way, 30 x 40 cm, mixed media on wood. The mission of the body is to bring the soul undamaged to the doors of the Heavenly Jerusalem – the place of their parting. 
4. The Unction of Christ (John 12:1-8), 60 x 40 cm, mixed media on canvas. 
5. The Guests of Abraham, 30 x 40 cm, mixed media on wood. 
My writings can be found in the Literary Forum newspaper, Ek magazine (cultural edition of State Agency for Bulgarians abroad), Literary Balkans magazine, and the electronic literary magazine Liternet.
On the internet
My paintings are permanently presented in the Astry Gallery, Sofia; Natalie Gallery, Sofia; and the Cathedral St Nedelja, Sofia.
For an article by Julia Stankova about her own relationship to iconography (the making of icons), click here