Final Trophy: Ian Woo interviews Milenko Prvacki

Well, I was trying to get my head as to where I was going to start. There are like a thousand and one questions (or in Milenko Prvacki’s words ‘375’ questions) one could ask about making art and art itself, so it was great to have dropped by at his studio to speak a little and to have a look at the work. At least by doing that I would hope to relief myself the issue of options…I am terrible at that! I threw some questions at him and had in my dairy a layout of responses that I heard him use. The responses were like pictures or little diagrams that seem to map out, in order to suggest to me a place he wanted to take me to. One of the key points that interested me was when Milenko mentioned that each time he was involved with making a painting, he often entered into a state where decisions take on rather surprising routes, a kind of fluctuating relationship that he treasured and held dear to. It was with this in mind that the following conversation began.


Ian Woo: Could you talk a bit about this relationship or rather ‘coordination’ of the pragmatic and the intuitive in your process of realising paintings?

Milenko Prvacki: Process in creating artwork is as much important as artwork itself. Fortunately there is not only one prescription or guidance for the artist to carry out a creative process. I have profiled my own methodology and it is based mostly on the pragmatic level of my personality.

Preparation process (analysis, research, storage of ideas), conceptualisation (logical frame for the idea), critical evaluation (elimination, reduction), the synthesis of all these elements need a pragmatic and rational approach. It is an intellectual, mental action based on knowledge, history and experience.

There is also a non-dominated intuitive side of my personality going hand in hand with pragmatism and that surprising element makes me happy most of the time (if it is supervised by a rational approach) or it could also drive me crazy (if it is out of control).

Intuition is a complimentary element of every creative thought, bringing unexpected solutions in critical decisions that have to be made in every moment of the creative process. Now and then I will allow coincidence to develop but never to take over.

It is one of reasons that I do not trust talent and inspiration (what if they do not come on time?)


IW: You have mentioned that you were more biased towards discreet tonal shifts with a strong preference for greys rather than creating more dramatic shifts in colors and hues. You also have a very direct subjective approach with the use representation as a base for paint to ‘come into being’. Like the painter Morandi, you seem to be interested in using the ordinary subject matters ‘to set us up’, in order that we ‘suddenly’ become aware of the’ paint’ that forms and gives shape to each of your subjects. Except that your subject matter seems to take on magical roles, they threaten to extend out of themselves! While if you look at a Morandi, its just a still life, and then its not. Would you like to elaborate on the lines that form what we recognise and that of the spatial qualities that allow us to experience beyond your tables, benches and beams?

MP: I do run long distance; I am not interested in superficial attractions. Shock is one of the ways to disturb audience. But I prefer “erective” subversion. I subordinate scream to whisper.

Apparently it looks like I am analyzing and questioning “mundane life” using ordinary subjects. But the truth is that I am generalizing very subjective, intimate and memory-based subject-images only as metaphors and support to build up a painting. Creating a net of colors as a support for the very subjective world to nest in. My personal issues are my creative starters but colors, structure and painting are my asylum.

Therefore there is apparent absence of clear image, subject matter. Therefore, there is something like Morandi . Mysterious, metaphysical presence of greys, colors in between. Grey color is mental construction, it is not given opportunity.

Pragmatic – intuitive and objective – subjective relationship.


IW: Your description of processes in its pragmatic conditions almost seem like you are wrestling in order to come to terms with the almost mystical preoccupations that have shrouded the way art is seen and believed to be through the ages. Yet, as you have mentioned, there is always the embracement in ‘relative terms’ to the miraculous nature of  ’getting there, yet again’ when you resolve or find a ‘inspired’ resolution’ to your paintings.

One’s talent and inspiration are always coming as a surprise because of their renewed abilities to set itself free again and again from our understanding. These are often qualities about them that are slippery and therefore intimidating.

In reference to your relative distrust of the nature of talent and inspiration as an antidote. Do you agree that the more an artist begins to understand his/ her processes, habits and coincidences, the more the artist begins to demystify the work, allowing its status to succumb to a state that is no more intimidating?

MP: Maybe that is what it looks like. Demystification of artwork and accommodation to the populism has been a practice in contemporary art. If Art is more and more science and less and less feelings then we have to educate ourselves to be able to read it. Everyone should do art, but not everyone is an Artist. I believe that Art is still something special, with capital A. Art should constantly be in a risk and on the top of the knife. It means that there is no room for pleasure but only for agitation. The relationship with viewer should always be reciprocal, never unilateral. Artists shouldn’t modify artwork to please the audience. I do not trust cheap shoes or easy Art.

My point is that artwork should seem simple, even light, however the process should never be.


IW: What you say reminds of Robert Ryman’s comment that in his art work, it should look like it was very easy to make, in a sense, he was allowing the value of conception and process to take precedence rather than that of an artists virtuosity. His work lasted a lifetime, using a network of complex decisions based on the arbitrary and intuitive, yet they all had a singular goal, that of making white paintings.

Could you tell us about your relationship to the word “Trophy” and how it has evolved through the years?

MP: The word “Trophy” has a long history in my works. It started in 1979-81 as a reaction to Tito’s collection of “trophies”, animals hunted by him in various “friendly” communist and African countries and exhibited in his “Dacha”. It has been extended in “Trophy Landscape” series of paintings from 1987-91 as a transformation of landscape to the status of a “Trophy”. Current “Trophy paintings” are a celebration of painting itself. It is collection of issues I have been dealing with in the last 30 years of my practice. These issues are re-addressed again, prepared to be rethought, reconstituted and re-made. The subject matter is just the pretext (subjective) to develop the painting process (objective). Trophy is more about collection (of extraordinary things) then it is an award (for extraordinary things).


IW: What are you celebrating in painting that you find so engaging to return to again and again?

MP: The unfinished, endless job! The paining process is never finished.

To be engaged again and again is a perpetumobile. Every evening when I leave my studio I am a genius. Next day, in the morning time when I step in my studio I fill dissatisfied and unhappy with what I did. All my life I am attempting to touch a truth. And when I am almost there it will move away again and again. It is an exciting exercise.

It is a journey without destination.


IW: Could you elaborate on your thought processes in the mist of painting?

MP: There is an intensive and complex thinking process before I start any of my paintings. I do not spare myself the effort to predict most of elements I have to resolve before I start.  Unfortunately, there are always leftover details that cannot be rationalized in advanced.

When I start doing a painting there is no classical thinking. It is an integration of thinking and painting. A parallel develops, at the same time it merges and this thinking/acting process becomes fluid, enabling me to make decisions and resolve ad hock problems faster. Time to time, I will step back and look at the work carefully. It could be hours or weeks before I take the next step.


IW: You had an exhibition of paintings and sculptures entitled  “Construction” 2 years ago, what has developed in these current paintings since “Construction”?

MP: “Construction site” has given to me the solid ground for my new paintings to be made. I have been building up structure and background (playground) for the new mental actions. To avoid copying my previous works as appropriate “references” I need to be extremely focused and honest. It is such a close gap between originality and the “already seen”. It is important to keep references as information not as a model. That trip from reference to the final artwork is going through our being. If our being is original, explorative and different and we are capable to digest every piece of information before delivery, we will have it. I hope I am responding that way. That is the reason why each one of these trips is long and never really finished.


IW: I would like to end my set of questions by referring to the earlier remark you made that you are committed to ‘run long distance’, any advice for those who are working up their distance for art?

MP: I do have the passion and the target, rigor and discipline. I am my own greatest critic.

Artist’s job is a lonely business. There is no one around us to push, motivate, help, neither to pay you (ha, ha). Only you, a painting, some colors and God. And God is always extremely busy. So, I do not have recipes for success. It is a compilation of many different factors.

Just do not look for easy solutions, it will take longer but will stay for good.