By Towles Kintz
From Atlanta Buckhead Magazine, May 2005
Among the lush landscapes of Buckhead’s most grandiose homes lies Rossin Raichev’s roomy, but humble, ranch. He, too, is unassuming, opening the gray double doors of his home with a slight bow, wearing jeans and dark, loose-fitting, button-down shirt. This man could be any 41-year-old husband and father.
Rossin- known by his first name for his portraits of presidents, pop stars, and business moguls-recently completed a work of epic proportions, entitled “A Meeting in Time.” The painting, measuring 20 feet wide by 13 feet tall, includes all of the 20th century’s american presidents in one room together. The work is a striking composition of history, leadership, authority, personality and power mixed with the unique characters and spirits of each individual. Rossin contrasts Clinton’s open, affable presence to Carter’s reserved stance, slightly removed and positioned to acknowledge his commitments to the international community.
As the world celebrated the new millenium, Rossin began thinking of how he, as an artist, might mark the occasion. On his 36th birthday, “I woke up and I thought, why not put all of the presidents…in one room together? Why yes, of course!” he said, clapping. “It’s the-the portrait of the century. It was just like that – boom, boom.” Perhaps even more intriguing than the painting itself, which took nearly four years to complete, is how he, a Bulgarian citizen, came to admire, so unabashedly, the United States.
Rossin was born in the opulent Bulgarian city of Russe, known for its proximity to the Danube River, its thriving arts scene, and its stunning architecture-a testament to the city’s rich and complex 5,000-year-old history. As a child, he was facinated with art and poured over the volumes of art albums his mother, a librarian, collected. At the age of six, the boy was transfixed by portraiture. “I knew it from the very beginning,” Rossin said definitively, his words accented with the staccatos of Old World charm, “I wanted to be an artist, and this was the only thing I wanted to do.”
Rossin’s tireless pursuit of that dream led him to Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. There, he attended the High School of Fine Arts and the Art Academy of Sofia, where he was selected first, among 1,200 candidates, for only nine coveted spots. After graduating with special honors for painting in 1991, Raichev began traveling the world with his wife, Dessa, also an accomplished professional artist, on various portrait commissions. “The Art Academy gave me the solid ground for my professional life,” he said reflectively. “The actual studying occurred when I was traveling. For five years in a row we went to Japan to do portraits and paintings. We went to Africa, even, to Nigeria, for four or five months again on portrait commissions. Meanwhile I had exhibitions in London, Brussels, Germany, and Paris.
Rossin’s travels gave him impressive and influencial contacts-from Japanese impresarios to European kings and generals-but also offered him a broader philosophical and cultural view, which in turn cultivated his high regard for the united states.
“There is no country in the world where you could have this tremendously powerful, victorious spirit,” he insisted. “This is the only place where you could dream big and things could happen and did. Your dream may not come true, but there is a possibility…whereas in most the world, that means nothing.”
Moreover, for “A Moment in Time,” Rossin chose American presidents, because in his painting of those 18 men, he said, “you don’t see tyrants, you don’t see dictators, and you don’t see kings. No matter how much you like this guy or this guy, it doesn’t matter. After finishing their term, they went home peacefully, and that is huge.”
While ambition has always been a driving force in Rossin’s life, and although many of his subjects are famous (Britney Spears), powerful (George H. Bush), or influencial (former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell), his work as a compassionate touch. “I don’t care whether I am painting the president or just a girl from the neighborhood,” he said. “I am interested in each and every one, honestly. Every individual presents to me the different aspects of life – a different age, a different angle – so it is exciting. To me, it’s not just a production- it is research, trying to answer the big question, why we ware here.”
For Rossin’s part, he knows that he is “here” to paint. Working every day, including the weekends, he said that the fire is still there, ignited anew by each portrait with whom he “begins a conversation” and each commission won. What intrigues me is how to capture the human being and the spirit of the human being on a piece of canvas,” he said, “I extract the beauty, the harmony, the human, spiritual aspect of each and every one. That amazes me every time.”