Houben Tcherkelov, (Bulgarian: Хубен Черкелов; known as Houben R.T.; born January 23, 1970) is an artist who lives and works in New York.
In his early photographs, film and installations, post-communist society is a recurrent theme. In his more recent work, Tcherkelov paints images from American and other national currencies using foil and acrylic.
In all of his work the artist seeks to suggest the way in which symbolic images legitimize national power. His works have been featured at The Bronx Museum, NY, The Brogan Museum, FL, the 54th Venice Biennial and galleries in New York, Boston, Washington and Charlotte. He is the subject of the 2011 documentary, “Houben Paints Money,” by director Georgi Tenev.
Artist Statement :
My paintings are a way to enter into a dialogue with different subjects, different eras, and different ideologies. In currencies, many cultures are manifest in the most clear and direct way. Sometimes this communication is subtle, but often it is overt. As an artist, I translate and distill images on money into an artistic product that will receive its own value and, ultimately, be moved into exchange in the same way as currency. Art and money are similar, in that both rely on trust in order to communicate, since the intrinsic value of painting, as with a printed bill, is just a fraction of its value.
I use repetition of the same subject to highlight this connection further. From early icon paintings through the Renaissance, to Pop Art and Superhero movies, repetition is common in art history, and highlights principles of desire, consumption and commerce. The representation of money stands in for this desire; whereas previous generations of Pop Art reflected the desire for material objects, the depiction of images from currency may represent an evolution in consumption from material goods to net worth.
In my paintings I use acrylic and foil on cotton or polyester blend canvas to mimic what mints are using to print and secure banknotes. I start with selecting an image and then enlarge it so that it can be first transferred onto foil and canvas. In this process, I embrace all of the serendipitous glitches and surprises that may occur. Although the images are easily recognizable, they are built on collage-based principles allowing each painting to acquire unique qualities. My goal is to capture the spirit of the original while maintaining the painting’s own happiness. When complete, each painting represents a mirror into how a given culture wanted to represent itself, but through a 21st century lens.