ljuba popovic

︎Artist, Painting, Surrealism   
︎ Melt

Ljuba Popović was a Bosnian-born French surrealist painter. He is renowned for his many erotic
and unconventionally juxtaposed subject matters.

Born in Tuzla, Bosnia, Popović studied Fine Arts in Belgrade. During a visit to Paris, he was impressed by the discovery of 1959 exhibition of surrealist art from the Urvater collection. In 1960, he founded the movement “Mediala” meaning ‘Honey and Dragon’, to express concepts of desire and fear.

Popović arrived in Paris in 1963 and was immediately taken in by French gallerists and surrealists. Living in Paris and supported by the Thessa Herold’s gallery, he painted fantastical scenes, full of disturbing and desirable creatures, reminiscent of Dali’s work, according to a Mandiargues‘s review in 1970. Inspired by Renaissance and Baroque painting, as well as his grandfather’s exorcisms, Popović’s works deal with the demons of a dark pessimism. -

“he founded the movement “Mediala” meaning ‘Honey and Dragon’, to express concepts of desire and fear.”

He is the subject of the short documentary film L’amour monstre de tous les temps (1978) by Walerian Borowczyk.

Interivew transcribed and translated from vreme

You're in Paris for thirty-six years. The French use exactly that number and meaning of something that is very, very, indefinitely large.

Yes, and thirty-six years is a lot, it's a lifetime. But during all that time, I regularly went to Yugoslavia, Valjevo or Belgrade, especially in the last fifteen years, so the contact was never interrupted. Because of this double track, it seems to me that I can say, without being pretentious, to know and track events that have taken place or are happening in our area, as well as the state and development of Western civilization, culture and society. But before we start talking about the subjects that interest you, I would like to say a few words about myself, first of all because there are many young people who do not know me well, or just superficially, based on what is published from time to time in our prints. I lived in Belgrade in difficult conditions, as did all students then, in the time of Josip Broz. I did not go to Paris for political reasons. It is important to point out that at the time of Broz's Yugoslavia I was never a member of the Communist Party, unlike many who are now engaged in politics. At the same time, I regarded the Communist Party as a normal phenomenon, against which it was, and could have, fought. But, I repeat, I did not go to Paris for political reasons, but because I learned something and learned something. That's the first. Second, I belong to people who do not make compromises. I arrived in Paris when the abstraction was in full swing - about which we can say something later - but I did not agree to the settlements and contracts of traders. All these thirty-six years I've been doing what I thought was my task in the field of painting. On the other hand, or better to say, from another angle, I belong to people who do not drive. The horror of today's civilization is causing me to destroy the vital and living environment with full steam. I never put a suit in my life or a bowel ... I did not make compromises even when they were going to important receptions and when it was important to leave the expected impression. Since I was twenty years old, I have visited the entire Adriatic with kayak. Today, at sixty-six years, I'm happy to ride a kayak, unfortunately, along some other shores. It's some kind of self-portrait sketch. As far as some other things are concerned, I would like to emphasize that culture is far above and more important than politics. When I talk about these things, I'm trying to be objective. And "Weather", the list we call this conversation, will continue to look for a golden environment and objectivity, because it only gets you in everything. It is necessary to calm down the fans' passions and try to help, as much as it can, that our country will come out with somehow all of these hardships that it is selling.

At the same time - in Paris, a year earlier, which you later arrived by a group of affiliated Yugoslav artists, Dado, Petar Omcikus, Bata Mihajlovic, Vlada Velickovic ... What, in your opinion, is the advantage, what a handicap, residence and creation in the artistic a center like Paris, which imposes its canons, its tradition, and its fight against tradition, and compared with your colleagues who continued their work on the soil of former Yugoslavia, Lubarda, Murtić and others ...

In order to answer this question, I have to return to the time when I was in Belgrade. Yugoslavia, although a communist, was then an open country, was the only one - unlike all other Eastern European countries - which maintained cultural ties with the West. That could be a special topic for the conversation. Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, and even the Russians - are not present at all in Modern. For them Moderna was a taboo. Certainly, there was a Russian Moderna, initially, with a group of painters who made a great boom from Malevich to Kandinsky in Modern, especially abstract. However, today, when you look at all these painters from countries behind the iron curtain simply do not exist in Paris. We in Belgrade, browsing the magazines that came to our Academy: Quadrum, Arts- we what we were seeing in the West, in the so-called modern movement, were considered a miracle. As if it was a complex of lower values.

Your pictures are in the famous galleries of the world. How would you rate in Paris on this side: on the part of personal affirmation as an artist?

First of all, it should be emphasized that we are suffering a little from mythmomania, it is often overstated in writing. You should have a dose of realism, know exactly where we are. Once I said that, we are not in a sub-commitment, but we are not at the top of the first league. So, we are somewhere down, at the bottom of this first league, and we are fighting for survival. There are a whole range of artists in Paris, I know about a dozen, from my generation, a generation between the sixties and seventeen years, which from abroad, the French, who, because they persisted in their path and created a work with a recognizable own logic, , should take the rudder, if they still have strength. Among this generation is the painter Yugoslav, Italian, French, one from Iceland, German and Belgian. So this is our position. We try to live from what we do, which, in my opinion, is important for a painter, that he can live from what he does, without making compromises. It means that it does not fit in fashion, it does not adhere to the taste of the audience, but simply by its attitude, by its pictures, tries to impose its own mode, so to speak.

But when you come here, when you are confronted with this world, when you begin to live in this area, this complex disappears, and a man begins a battle on the ground and simply has less respect and fear for what is happening in the West. Of course, there were two generations - the generation of Peter Omcikus, Bata Mihajlovic, and their husbands, Kose and Ljubinka, among them were Jovanovic, Andrejevic (later went to America) and sculptor Knezevic, known as Prince, who recently died . This first generation was breaking the road and it was difficult to deal with the French. But, unlike our pre-war painters who came to France, I mean here Konjović, Šumanović, Marko Čelebonović and Milo Milunović, they somehow lived under the strong influence of French painting and French Impressionism, they suffered a strong influence of abstraction, although they were all figurative. And this is seen in their paintings in the National Museum, and in everything that they did after that. Bata Mihajlović, Petar Omčikus and this group introduced a freshness to the French school, but under the strong influence of this French abstract school. They had a lot of trouble to bring out their artistic chalk. My generation: the first came Dado, and Tošković, after me, Veličković came, and others. But for the three of us, Dad, the Government and me, the problem was that we practically experienced an electric shock, between what we wore in ourselves, like sludge, and the western ones, cultured civilization, with her own painting laws. Fortunately, we managed to preserve this sludge, to take on some of the ethical and aesthetic values of the West, but this electric shock was sustained, and for thirty years we have been fighting for some of our ideas, which are partly contrary to Western thinking and the way of painting. It seems to me that we have not lost this original energy, and that we are still trying to stay our own.

Art never needed us more than today, art as an escape or a cure of truth and reality. But it is in a deep crisis, so it can not help itself, and it is the productivity, the hedonism of quantitative consumption, the low level of mental and emotional life, that is devastated by us. How do you perceive it?
So the whole 20th century is a very destructive age. On the one hand, destruction, on the other, multiplication. This means that the XX century slowly but surely left the spiritual sphere and entered the inevitable process of consumption. The greatest painter of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, can best be read on this plan. When you look at his work, in the beginning, it is classical, has extraordinary values, especially its blue pink period, has some stability. The problem with Picasso at the time was the problem of human tragedy, and poverty, so to speak, as you can see from those fake characters, clowns, from the atmosphere he probably brought with them from Spain. However, as time passed, if you observe his work, his work was accelerating more and more, as production increased, for example, the production of cans, or anything else in today's production world. Spiritual slowly disappeared from his paintings, and a magician appeared who skillfully made up to two or three images each day. In one of my unfortunate interviews, I once even said that it was an artistic diary for me. Perhaps it is too strong a word, because it is a creator whom the 20th century can not pass, but I must say that I did not learn anything from Picasso, except optics. I do not know if it's my or his fault. But in that Picasso, from this stage, I do not see either the spiritual, nor the inner charged with tensions. We see how image destruction is slowly emerging in the 20th century, so that later on, at smaller caliber from Picasso, the grotesque conditions were taken and brought to the absurd: the case of Manconia that ended by exhibiting his own shit, sealed, probably stunned, and after that, it was interesting for him that I was interested in Iv Kline, who painted women in blue and wore them on canvas, in order to finally reach Andy Verhola , which turned into a real industry and some kind of exhibitionism, and Boys, whom the Germans had invented to compete with the Americans, and who wrapped the objects around them in some form. 

Of course, there could also be located Michel Zurnikak, whom I knew, and who made spiritualist sessions by placing his own blood in sausages - the French say it to finally reach Andy Verhole, who turned into a real industry and some kind of exhibitionism, and Boys, whom the Germans had invented to compete with the Americans, and who wrapped the objects around him in some form. Of course, there could also be located Michel Zurnikak, whom I knew, and who made spiritualist sessions by placing his own blood in sausages - the French say it to finally reach Andy Verhole, who turned into a real industry and some kind of exhibitionism, and Boys, whom the Germans had invented to compete with the Americans, and who wrapped the objects around him in some form. Of course, there could also be located Michel Zurnikak, whom I knew, and who made spiritualist sessions by placing his own blood in sausages - the French say itBoudin , I think it's better to say the bleeding in our language - and that's where the bleeding was shared by visitors at the opening as a nafora. Of course, they did not know what they were eating, that the blood of the author was in that bleed. After these extreme cases, I am telling you, the 20th century ends with bomb-art , the famous bombing of Yugoslavia, in a way that is simply identical with hepening. All these exhibitions, hepenines and the destructive form of the 20th century have created an allergy to me. The French say contre-courant , which we would say with the hair. Contrary to all this, I devoted my creation to inner mood, internal impulses, trying to regain the dignity of the image.

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