Exhibition reunites old friends

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Toronto art exhibit for Elena Popova is a collaboration with Newfoundland roots

Bulgarian-born, Newfoundland-based artist Elena Popova is having the first exhibition of her work in Toronto. The exhibition is being held at the Tinku Gallery - a space owned by Amrita Chandra, an old friend of Popova and her husband, sculptor Luben Boykov.

In fact, Chandra said she was introduced to the visual art world by the pair more than a decade ago.

Newfoundland-based artist Elena Popova works on a painting. Telegram file photo

Bulgarian-born, Newfoundland-based artist Elena Popova is having the first exhibition of her work in Toronto. The exhibition is being held at the Tinku Gallery - a space owned by Amrita Chandra, an old friend of Popova and her husband, sculptor Luben Boykov.

In fact, Chandra said she was introduced to the visual art world by the pair more than a decade ago.

It all began with a coffee date.

"I received a phone call from Amrita," Popova said, remembering their meeting in Newfoundland. "She was a nice person. She was just out of university and looking for experience abroad."

Chandra, who was in the province visiting her parents at the time, said she was considering going to Bulgaria and had heard that Popova and Boykov had emigrated from the country.

"We gave her a little bit of insight on what to expect," Popova said. "That was the beginning of a very long relationship."

Chandra made the trip, returning fluent in Bulgarian, said Popova. The student continued to visit with the artists and took an interest in their work. In turn, they introduced her to other artists, friends and artwork.

"It really kicked off my intro to visual art and contemporary art," said Chandra, who began researching Western artists in particular and learning more.

"Ten years later, I own a gallery."

Open now for 18 months, the 400-square-foot Tinku space is titled after a childhood nickname for Chandra. The space is meant to be comfortable, said the founder, even for people usually uncomfortable with such spaces.

"I started it because the traditional gallery seemed very intimidating for some people," said Chandra, who also wanted to expose more people to artists with whom they might not yet be familiar.

Chandra said she works one on one with visitors as well as distance clients. "I really try to get a sense of what their personal esthetic is and find new artists they may be interested in," she said.

When asked about the upcoming exhibition of Popova's work, Chandra made it clear it actually was about favourites - but favourite art, not artist friends.

"For the gallery, I have to love it in order to bring it into the space," she said.

The Tinku Gallery website describes what Chandra said will hook visitors to Popova's Toronto show, entitled "The Eternal and The Everyday."

"Elena's imagery is emotionally explosive, rich and complex - a momentary registration of the spiritual world in a state of constant flux," it states.

The Tinku show far from the first for Popova, who describes Newfoundland as an inspirational "white canvas" when compared to the old world of Europe. Popova's existing works reside in private collections, but also at the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador and the National Gallery of Bulgaria.

The painter has had multiple gallery shows in Newfoundland, including a feature showing in March at Red Ochre Gallery in St. John's.

The paintings for the Tinku Gallery, according to representative Danielle Simpson, are all new and there will 10 or 12 used in the show.

The selections, said an appreciative Popova, were made collaboratively between herself and Chandra.

"When a gallery owner really talks with an artist, they can do something very special," she said.

The Tinku Gallery is located at 437 Roncesvalles Ave. in Toronto. The show featuring Popova's new work opened Friday at 7 p.m. It will run until Oct. 31.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: National Gallery, Red Ochre Gallery

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto, Bulgaria Europe St. John's

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