Monthly Archives: November 2017

ZORAN VELIMANOVIC: The Night before great events

~ Olivera Bjekic ~

1. Zoran Velimanovic, photo credit Nebojsa Babic

Zoran Velimanovic, photo credit Nebojsa Babic

Over 6,000 people visited the September exhibition “Fantastic 6”, and even 2,000 attended the opening night. It tells us that we are highly qualified and that people are looking forward to seeing the figurative painting, classical canvas, and exhibitions, rather than performances. There are a lot of smart people in Belgrade, those who read, who are educated, who are eager for true arts, and that’s good, the fact they have recognized it as an interesting event – says Zoran Velimanovic, a Belgrade artist who recently participated in the exhibition, together with Milan Tucovic, Sergej Aparin, Vladimir Dunjic, Zeljko Djurović, and unfortunately late Zeljko Tonsic. Huge exhibition, “Fantastic 6” was held in Belgrade Heritage House.

We chatted with Zoran one sunny October day on lower Dorcol about “Fantastic 6”, about the idea of gathering those six artists, about his life and work.

Zoran Velimanovic: The idea for this exhibition originated from Maja Zivanovic, a journalist, and art critic, who was also the curator of this exhibition. Nobody has organized us before. We all knew each other before, and each of us was in some kind of our own projects, but Maya organized and gathered us. And it was a great pleasure to be together with such painters …

'The Last Day on Earth', triptych, 148 x 256, oil on canvas

‘The Last Day on Earth’, triptych, 148 x 256, oil on canvas

Explaining why this exhibition was important and where Serbian fantastic art is in relation to the worlds, Zoran Velimanovic said that there are many wonderful things present is Serbian art tradition.

Zoran Velimanovic: Myths, dreams, magic tales, symbols, and many more miraculous are present in our artistic tradition”. Although in the world of fine arts, Mediala is our only authentic direction, and there wasn’t group international exhibition at the Fantasy Art Center in Gruyeres  (Switzerland) held without our representative; artistic fantasy is a rarity on our cultural scene, and actually we are a group of artists who each have the elements of the strange and fantastic in their own way. That is why this exhibition is very important and therefore considered as a special event; we are six artists of similar sensibilities.

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: How did you become a painter? What made you an artist?
Zoran Velimanovic: 
I studied at the Faculty of law, I played rock and roll and always had the need to say something. I thought that I’d be realized through music… And then, suddenly, I realized that I had a strong need to paint. I did not even know if I had the talent, the only thing I knew, was that I had a strong urge to paint that dragged me and was more important than anything else… That need makes sense for me and for people who recognize it and while I am feeling so, I’ll do that.


Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: You had the great courage to engage in painting and interrupt something that looked like a safer life (Faculty of Law). How did that happen?

Zoran Velimanovic: Yes. I started in those insecure times in Belgrade, in ‘90. I had the first exhibition in 1997. I did not have family support and I’m the first painter in the family. I realized that I was not interested in studying law at all. I began working as a real estate agent for a while and a single sale gave me a little space in a sense of material stability so that I could dedicate myself to painting, without thinking of everyday existence. I bought one canvas and a few colors and started to play with the colors and ideas, I painted a small purgatory… And that’s the topic that haunted me to this day… Cleaning is the point of our whole life, cleaning up and going in some direction. We have the opportunity to reset at some years; we are given a chance, the opportunity to get better. The Purgatory gives us this opportunity and if you see a mature man who is angry, he has not recognized or just ignored that moment…

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: How did your artistic journey start? Who was your first buyer?


‘Purgatorium’ – Gallery of Frescoes, National Museum of Serbia, November 5th, 2015 — in Belgrade, Serbia.

Zoran Velimanovic: My first painting was taken by a girl-neighbor. She was delighted and that first canvas went to Monza, Italy. Then I took the next canvas and more pastel colors, I started combining and playing… I followed my inner feelings and I am convinced that you cannot make a mistake as long as you follow that strong inner sensation. When I collected about 10 pictures, I went to Olja Ivanjicki, our family friend (I loved very much art movement ‘Mediala’), to show her my work and she was very pleased. Then she helped me with connection and some people offered me a workspace for free. So, my life started to unwind. One day, I took a huge canvas, I wanted to make a triptych, but the panic caught me when I realized how much white was in my room. Then I stopped and said to myself: ‘Ok, what is it that you want? What’s presses you?‘ And so it all started. I feel this, I feel that, this bothers me, I brought the atmosphere I felt … And everything was like a miracle, something that’s on the edge of something, like the ‘night before great events’ (the song of Johnny Stulich album ‘The Sons of the Bastard’).

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Where did you hold the first exhibition?

Zoran Velimanovic: The first exhibition – performance I had in the Astakos studio in 1997. The opening of the exhibition was fantastic – with the music of the band ‘This mortal coil’. Some friends of mine brought the lighting, there was some kind of haze everywhere, and it drew a huge number of people. And it’s been following me all these years… There was a police cordon outside on the street, it was a complete chaos on the streets of Belgrade…  A young journalist came to me and asked for the title of the exhibition, and I said that the performance is called ‘Night before great events’. And then there was an exhibition at the October Salon that autumn, in ULUS, and in Budapest in spring, then Barcelona, and I left Serbia for a while. My international career has begun. Only after ten years, in 2007, I made an exhibition again in Belgrade at the O3one Gallery.


Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: There are many faceless people in your paintings, insect shapes, hybrid beings … How is it to live in a world of such characters?

Zoran Velimanovic: I do not want to show any expression on the face, I do not even want to have a face on the paintings, because I think that the emotion is universal when it is not helped with the expression of the face, body or legs … I have no strikes in the pictures, no aggression, I do not suggest anything, everything is passive, just like the night before great events… I’m not changed… I paint the situation before some event, sensing the events when people are reconciled with what will happen… There are no more choices, you can scream and shake, but you have no choice, as at the time of death; we all go to our waterfall … I really like this reconciliation with certainty. So I do not have characters, I do not suggest anything, I do not give you a template for your life, but my painting will suggest you to think about things in your life that you can still change to become better human being. I still have a strong urge to paint and I still believe in my painting. I am only medium and I am grateful to God for using me. I am only watching this from the first row of seats. I am privileged that I am in some way a channel between the Creator and the canvas.

'In the Workshop', 30x30, oil on canvas, 2014 — in Belgrade, Serbia.

‘In the Workshop’, 30×30, oil on canvas, 2014 — in Belgrade, Serbia.

 Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Are you working on a new painting?

Zoran Velimanovic: Yes. I am happy because I return to my art studio after this exhibition. I have to dedicate myself to the painting, in solitude that is like monk’s solitude… Painting is blowing … You have to get into the state of this constant work, otherwise it will not help you… As famous Serbian painter Olja Ivanjicki said you need to be small and humble. Only then, the moment of magic may happen.

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Is it possible to live by selling paintings?

Zoran Velimanovic: I have been living in France, Germany, now I’m living in Serbia, exclusively from painting. Maybe I am a modest man, I used to travel a lot, I visited almost everything I wanted, and saw a lot of places, but painting is my greatest adventure. So, yes, I live from painting, but I never thought about the price and money, otherwise I would never paint a canvas of nine meters. Who would have the money to pay that – the six months of my constant life? I’m just doing what I’m doing. I’m not thinking about money and about the price of a picture. I can give it as a gift. The prices of my pictures are the same for all people no matter whether they are in America, Europe, Australia. It’s my paintings, and every painting will find its buyer.

 4. Poster for the exhibition 'Fantastic 6'

Poster for the September exhibition ‘Fantastic 6’ in Belgrade, Serbia 

 Olivera Bjekic

Zoran Velimanović: Noć pred velike događaje

~ Olivera Bjekic ~

Zoran Velimanovic, photo credit - Olivera Bjekic

Zoran Velimanović, izložba “Fantastičnih 6” u Beogradu

– Preko 6.000 ljudi posetilo je septembarsku izložbu “Fantastičnih 6”, a čak 2.000 bilo je prisutno  na otvaranju. To govori da smo kvalitetni i da su ljudi željni figuracije, štafelajskog slikarstva i izložbi. U Beogradu je ostalo dosta pametnih ljudi, onih koji čitaju, koji su obrazovani, i koji su željni istinske umetnosti, onog što je kvalitetno i onog što su prepoznali kao interesantan dogadjaj – kaže Zoran Velimanović, beogradski slikar, koji je nedavno sa  Milanom Tucovićem, Sergejem Aparinom, Vladimirom Dunjićem i Željkom Đurovićem, učestvovao na izložbi “Fantastičnih 6” u beogradskom izložbenom prostoru Kuća legata.  Na zalost jedan od fantastičnih šest umetnika, slikar umetnik Željko Tonšić, preminuo je 5. jula 2014. godine. 

Sa Zoranom ćaskamo jednog oktobarskog dana na Dorcolu o “Fantastičnih 6”, o ideji da se slikari okupe i izlože svoj rad, o njegovom životu i radu i ostalim interesantnim temama.

Zoran Velimanović: Ideja za ovu izložbu potekla je od Maje Živanović, novinarke i likovnog kritičara, koja je bila i kustos ove izložbe”, kaže on. “Niko nas ranije nije organizovao. Svi smo se znali od ranije i svako od nas je bio u nekim svojim projektima, ali nas je Maja organizovala i okupila. I mnogo je lepše kada smo zajedno…” kaže on.
'Heautontimorumenos', 150x200, oil on canvas, 1999-2000

‘Heautontimorumenos’, 150×200, oil on canvas, 1999/2000

Objašnjavajući zašto je ova izložba važna i gde se nalazi srpska likovna fantastika u odnosu na svetsku, Zoran Velimanović kaže da je u našoj likovnoj tradiciji prisutno mnogo toga čudesnog. 

Zoran Velimanović: Mitovi, snovi, bajkolike priče, simboli, i još mnogo toga čudesnog prisutno je u našoj likovnoj tradiciji. Iako je u svetskoj likovnoj umetnosti ‘Mediala’ jedini naš autentični pravac, i ako nijedna grupna međunarodna izložba u Centru za fantastičnu umetnost u Grijeru u Švajcarskoj nije održana bez našeg predstavnika, likovna fantastika je retkost na našoj kulturnoj sceni. A mi smo grupa umetnika koja, svako na svoj poseban način, ima elemente onostranog i fantastičnog. Zato je ova izložba veoma bitna i zato se smatra posebnim događajem, jer prvi put okuplja nas šestoricu sličnog senzibiliteta.

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Šta je to što je vas odredilo kao slikara?

Zoran Velimanović: Studirao sam pravo, svirao sam rock and roll, imao sam oduvek potrebu da nešto kažem i mislio sam da ću se realizovati kroz muziku… A onda sam shvatio da imam jaku potrebu da slikam. Nisam ni znao da li imam talenta, jedino što sam znao bilo je da sam imao jaku potrebu koja me vukla i koja je bila važnija od svega…  Ta potreba ima smisla za mene i za ljude koji je prepoznaju i dok je tako ja ću to da radim.


Photo credit: Nebosja Babic

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Odakle vam hrabrost da se upustite u slikarstvo i prekinete nešto što je naizgled moglo da vam pruži sigurniji život (Pravni fakultet)? 

Zoran Velimanović: Da. Ja sam počeo u onim nesigurnim vremenima 90-ih godina. Imao sam prvu izložbu 1997. godine. Nisam imao podršku porodice i prvi sam slikar u porodici. Shvatio sam da me pravo ne zanima, počeo sam da se bavim  nekretninama i jedna prodaja mi je omogućila malo mira da mogu da se posvetim slikanju, a da ne mislim na svakodnevnu egzistenciju. Kupio sam jedno platno i nekoliko boja i naslikao sam mali purgatorijum (čistilište)… I  evo ta tema me prati do danas… Čišćenje je poenta čitavog života, čistiš se i ideš u nekom pravcu. Imaš priliku da se resetuješ u nekim godinama, data ti je šanša, mogućnost da se popraviš. Purgatorijum daje tu moguchnost i ako vidiš matorog čoveka koji je ljut, nadrndan to znači da nije prepoznao taj trenutak ili ga je ignosrisao …

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Kako ste poceli da slikate? Sećate li se svojih prvih kupaca slika?

'Purgatorium' - Gallery of Frescoes, National Museum of Serbia, November 5th, 2015 — in Belgrade, Serbia.
‘Purgatorium’ – Gallery of Frescoes, National Museum of Serbia, November 5th, 2015 — in Belgrade, Serbia.

Zoran Velimanović: Moju prvu slika uzela je jedna devojka. Bila je oduševljena i ta slika je završila u Monzi. Onda sam uzeo sledeće platno i par boja, počeo da kombinujem i da se igram… Pratio sam svoj unutrašnji osećaj i ubedjen sam da ne možeš da pogrešis sve dok pratiš taj osećaj. Kad se skupilo 10-ak slika otišao sam kod Olje Ivanjicki, naše porodične prijateljice (voleo sam ‘Medialu’), koja me uputila na neke ljude koji su mi dali gratis prostor da slikam. Tako je klupko počelo da se odmotava. Jednog dana uzeo sam ogromno platno, hteo sam da napravim triptih, ali me uhvatila panika kada sam shvatio koliko je beline na malom prostoru moje sobe. Onda sam stao i rekao sebi: ‘Dobro šta je to što ti hoches? Šta je to što te pritiska?’ I tako je sve krenulo. Ovo mi smeta, ovo osecam, unosio sam atmosferu koju sam osećao… A sve je bilo kao nešto što je na ivici nečega, kao ‘Noć pred velike događaje’ (pesma Džonija Štulića sa albuma ‘Kurvini sinovi’).

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Gde ste održali prvu izložbu?

Zoran Velimanović: Prvu izložbu – performans imao sam u ‘Astakos studiju’ 1997. godine. Otvaranje izložbe je bilo fenomenalno – uz muziku benda ‘This mortal coil’. Drugari su doneli dobru rasvetu, puštali su neku maglu… U časopsiu “Vreme” izasao je članak o velikoj gužvi na ižlozbi I to me prati sve ove godine… Na ulici je bio kordon, bio je to haos… Sećam se da je došla neka mlada novinarka i pitala za naziv izložbe, a ja sam rekao da se performans zove ‘Noć pred velike događaje’ (kao pesma Dzonija Stulica sa albuma “Kurvini sinovi”). Onda je na jesen bila izložba na Oktobarskom salonu , izložio sam istu tu sliku, pa onda na prolece  u Budimpešti, Barseloni i više se nisam vracao. Tek nakon deset godina, 2007. sam napravio izložbu ovde u Beogradu u galeriji ‘Ozon’.

Photo credit: Nebojsa Babic

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Na vašim slikama ima mnogo ljudi bez lica, ljudi u obliku insekata, hibridnih bića… Kako je živeti u takvom svetu i medju takvim likovima?

Zoran Velimanović: Ne želim da prikažem bilo kakav izraz na licu, ne želim ni da imam lice na slikama, jer mislim da je emocija  univerzalnija kada se ne pomogne izrazom lica, tela, nogu… Nemam nikakve  poteze na slikama, nikakvu agresiju, ne sugerišem ni sa čim, kod mene je sve pasivno, baš kao noć pred velike dogadjaje… Ne menjam se… Ja slikam situacije pre nekog dešavanja, naslućivanje dogadjaja kada su ljudi pomireni sa tim što će se desiti… Nema vise izbora, možeš i da vrištiš i da se dereš, ali nemaš izbora, kao  na samrti; mi svi idemo ka svom vodopadu… Ta pomirenost sa izvesnošću mi se jako svidja. Zato nemam likova, ne dajem  predložak za tvoj život, ali sigurno navodim da razmisljaš o životu, o stvarima koje još možeš da promeniš da bi postao bolje ljudsko biće. I dalje imam jaku potrebu i dalje isto verujem u svoje slikanje. Ja sam samo sredstvo i zahvalan sam Bogu što me koristi jer ja samo sve ovo gledam iz prvog reda i povlašćen sam u tome što sam na neki način medij izmedju svevišnjeg i platna…


Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Da li radite na nekoj novoj slici?
Zoran Velimanović: 
Da. Srećan sam zato što ste posle ove izložbe vraćam u svoj atelje. Moram da se prilicno osamim, gotovo monaški da bih mogao da slikam… 
 Slikanje je razvaljivanje… Moraš da se uvedeš u to konstantno stanje, inače neće da ti pomogne… Moraš da budes mali i ponizan, kao što je govorila Olja Ivanjicki I da se dovedeš u stanje da radiš najvažniju stvar na svetu da bi te nadario. Tada trenutak magije mora da se desi.

Urban Culture Tribe, Olivera Bjekic: Da li je moguće živeti od prodaje slika?

Zoran Velimanović: Ja sam živeo  u Francuskoj, Nemackoj, sada živim u Srbiji, i svim zemljama cene mojih slika su iste. Ja živim isključivo od slikanja. Možda sam skroman čovek, putovao sam, prošao sam sve što sam želeo, video dosta toga, ali slikanje je moja najveća avantura. Dakle, da, živim od slikanja, ali nikada nisam razmišljao o ceni slike, inače nikad ne bih slikao platna od devet metara. Ko bi imao para da to plati? Radim samo ono što mi se radi. Ne razmišljam o parama i o ceni slike. Mogu i da je poklonim. Cene mojih slika su iste za sve ljude bilo da su u Americi, Evropi, Australiji. Moje je da slikam, a svaka slika će već sačekati svog kupca.

Photo credit - Olivera Bjekic

Olivera Bjekić

Martin Bernstein, installation artist: His life in a Sesame cave

~ Milica Puric ~ 

Screenshot_20171107-060353_1 (2)

Artist Martin Bernstein in his Sesame cave studio 

met artist Martin Bernstein one summer evening at crowded Zhou Brothers Art Center in Chicago. It was the third Friday of the month, the time, when artists who have their own studios in the building open their doors to visitors. That night building was full of people who walk from one studio to another and from one floor to another.

Third Fridays at Zhou Brothers Art Center are maybe the most beautiful gatherings in Chicago. They are organized by famous artists Da Huang and Shan Zou Zhou who came to America from China in 1986 and redecorated this old, dirty warehouse on South Side Chicago into the beautiful art center.

Martin Bernstein’s art studio (and his home at the same time) is on the third floor of the building. Visitors can enter the place from the main door and from another gallery room full of unusual, bluish installations (on the photo below). Through this room, they can walk straight to one of the strangest place in Chicago — Martin Bernstein’s art studio.


From the bottom to the top, from one wall to another, from one room to another, this unusual place is filled with the most unusual things whose shapes and colors interweave and melt into one. Hundreds of colored beads, wires, ribbons, flowers, papers, curtains and different materials are hanging from the ceiling and wrapping almost every object in his studio. In the middle of this shiny, weird jungle, artist Martin Bernstein was standing and talking to the visitors, while the calming music of nature, birds, and water was coming from the background. Everything was unusual.

Visitors were walking through the place looking around and curiously exploring objects, shapes, and colors. Others were talking to the Bernstein or waiting in the line for the conversation with him. They had a lot of questions. They asked about the space, his sculptures, paintings, beads, and jewelry. Many of them are surprised by the fact that the artist lives here. This art cave is his home.  Martin Bernstein answered every question friendly and patiently.

“I’ve been collecting things over the years and slowly turning my home into a gallery space. My environment became my canvas.” He turned his home into a permanent art installation. Unlike other artists, whose installations have space and time frames, Martin Bernstein installation is permanent and he truly lives in it. It is a constant exhibition without beginning and the end. 

We sat in his living room, in the middle of the atelier, and started chatting. I was looking around and noticed that he colored almost every piece of his furniture — pillows, heavy dark curtains, chairs, mirrors, lamps, hats. “At the beginning, even before I moved to Chicago, I painted all my luggage because it was crappy luggage. I would buy something in second-hand stores, and when I asked what is wrong with stuff, they would tell me — they are old. I wanted to make them more beautiful and I did.”


He colored almost everything around him and he doesn’t stop. if he doesn’t like something he simply starts coloring and changing. “But there are some pieces, like my mother’s table, that I didn’t paint because of emotional value and memories.”

He came to Chicago from Miami. He came to Florida from Los Angeles to be with his father during his last days. After his father died, he moved to Chicago. His only criterion was to find a good studio, and he found it at the building that Zhou Brothers just bought. “If I didn’t have a dog, probably I wouldn’t be here because the building was dusty and full of trash. The neighborhood was empty. It wasn’t like today.”


He planned to have a space for displaying his paintings and organize little installations, but then he started coloring. “I would look, for example, a cement wall and see a spot for me to work on and I would work. It is a little crazy because I could be making paintings or jewelry, something people can relate to or can buy, instead of tying things to my ceilings, walls and making bizarre things. But, I don’t know when I am doing it. I’ve never thought about the practical side of creation.”

He said that there was a cute coconut tree house in Miami. “That was the environment I would live in, so in a way, I created here that environment with the tree and birds.”


He said that he is a little annoyed with unfamiliar people coming into his studio/home.
“At first, people don’t understand that this is a studio, but also a private place because there is so much around. But, then, they see furniture and realize this is my home. Fortunately, nothing bad happened. I am sure some bad people came here, but I was fortunate so far. I think I have good karma and when you put there it is like an amulet against bad people. Also, I try to declare private space.”

He said that he is happy that people can come to see his work (every third Friday of the month), because back in the days, at the beginning of his career, things were different.

15. Martin Bernstein studio

”Early on, when I was young I was trying to show my work to people. I was knocking on the doors, but didn’t get anywhere. The doors remained closed. And that was hard, because people must know who you are as an artist. And if you are rejected, nobody knows about you. Then I started painting clothes and wear painted clothes. Actually, I made a living selling painted clothes. And that wasn’t just throwing a few dots of paint. These were real paintings and it was good for a while. I was trying to declare myself as an artist and I looked like a sculpture moving through space. People would come to me and ask me about that. Now when I look back it looked a little weird, but I had to do that.”

That’s why the idea about the third Friday is excellent. “People can come to see me and my work. I touch them with my art and that is a wonderful thing. I am an unknown artist, but I am not as an unknown as I used to be: nonexisting. That gives me satisfaction, because I don’t have to prove myself every time when I go out and be my own billboard and sell board.”


Also, in the beginning, he felt uncomfortable standing in the middle of the studio and talking to people, but he got used to it, and now he is pretty comfortable. He talked to visitors about his installation, his paintings, and his beautiful jewelry, which he sells individually and at the biggest art shows in America. Every piece of his jewelry is unique, sophisticated and handmade. “It takes me one week to make just one piece of the necklace!” he said.

Fortunately, it took less time to color the fancy shoes he wore during our interview. “Yesterday I like them, but not today!” he joked. Shoes, lamps, canvases, jewelry, chandeliers, hats — for artist Martin Bernstein, everything is art. Everything can be artistically refined and stylized in one and only Martin Bernstein’s style and in his Sesame cave.


~ Milica Puric ~