Marko Gavrilovic is an inventive artist who lives in Serbia. He draws, he paints, he sculpts, he creates installations … he pretty much does it all. When I saw his website http://markogavrilovic.com/, I knew I had to chat with him. What inspires him? Read on and find out …
“… Often in my art, I feel like an architect who is building a tower without a blueprint. The main secret is that you gotta have proper skills, but having no idea where this process is going to lead you is the second part ...”
MICHAEL: Hello Marko, You are quite a prolific artist and your work is all over the map. Looking at your paintings, drawings and sculptures, I see common threads ... bold, primary colors, a strong, graphic approach and works that are very contemporary and stylish. How do you see your body of work thus far?
MARKO: Hi, Michael, The base of my creativity comes from drawing. Drawing is a life itself. Everything starts from there … then … paintings, sculptures and lighting. It’s a manifestation of power, which if carefully used, could send a deep message.
The whole world is one big drawing that someone drew a long time ago. Every person through life draws a line of its motion, leaving an invisible trace of existence by making a personal drawing. I am just leaving my mark.
MICHAEL: I can certainly see that!
MARKO: My previous works are constant art exploration, interests and ideas that have evolved over time and resulted in a certain art style and language. Abstract, Street Art, Graphic, Expressionism, Minimalism, Figurative ... they all have a role in my art, but these are just parts of a complete image.
That is why the term, Contemporary Art works best for me. The cities of the future and present I find very intriguing, human development in general. I have been working on this idea for some time, but mostly to represent my vision of urban society and progress and their impact on nature, earth, and its other inhabitants.
MICHAEL: You're intrigued by cities of the future and urban society progress? So am I. Is there a relationship between urban progress and all of the colors in your work? You use a lot of primary colors.
MARKO: Colors in my paintings probably have nothing to do with the progress of modern society. Generally, I do not see that the prosperity of humanity is so colorful although it’s full of potential and accomplishment when we look at the material side of the story.
Primary colors have everything to do with the way I see things and that is in a "raw" mode.
Often in my art, I feel like an architect who is building a tower without a blueprint. The main secret is that you gotta have proper skills, but having no idea where this process is going to lead you is the second part. I think the key point is in exploring and having the surprising outcome.
The fact that everything already exists is not an option. With primary colors, you can easily get into dimensions and that is very important for me.
MICHAEL: Your paintings and your sculptures are so large and graphic and there's so much detail in all of your work. I look at it and I get a sense of heroism. It seems like you're portraying something heroic. Are you creating something heroic? Is there any heroism in your work?
MARKO: Yes, Michael, I'm glad you mentioned it.
The themes that I explore have some epic and ancient core, but it wasn't my intention to make paintings that look heroic.
On the other side, considering my drawing process and color palette, I probably couldn't be discrete either. The idea that everybody in this world is in a personal silent fight comes first.
The heroic side of my pieces probably originates from the fact that the main characters are in a dominant position, mostly alone, and everything else goes to the second plan. Next, is a dose of mystery and the riddle about the artwork that you have to figure out.
And, in the end, the sense of movement, attack and flying objects with intense lines that go around the figure, talks about the battle and often that's the case.
MICHAEL: There is so much pain and suffering in the world. How can people soar and feel heroic? Can art help people do this?
MARKO: This is really a tough question. Okay, we could make an artwork that will have a powerful impact, but we have to be aware that we live in a world of personal legends and that people are losing interest in things and events that don't involve them or if they are not personally moved by the process.
Vanity, envy, and greed prevail. The whole system is based on that. The prosperity of our civilization should not be ruthless, as the price for the modern and technocratic society is often unbelievably high.
There are too many priceless places, areas, species to be taken for granted. While it sounds too optimistic, to make a global change, it's not. We have countless examples of that.
As for the artwork, I think that it has to be tragic in some way, as well as expressive and large in scale. That doesn't mean that we should not make beautiful artworks with great messages, of course not.
But why tragic? Sometimes I think that people should be scared to react as often they are in a state of sleep. Why big and expressive? Because it should be something that can't be ignored, it should have movement and energy.
When a piece of art is simply beautiful, glorifies good and sends positive vibes, that put us in a state of conformity where everything is bright and shiny, but we know it's not. Historically, a society that glorified beauty was, very excluded to everything else. We know now, that the virtue is not always on the surface.
MICHAEL: Do you approach painting and sculpture the same way? Is sculpture more challenging? What causes you to wake up in the morning and work on sculpture as opposed to painting?
MARKO: I think that painting is more challenging. A sculpture is three-dimensional and rational, but for me, it's more abstract. A painting is a flow of lines and colors, an organized idea with a touch of the subconscious.
A sculpture is open and develops me physically, while painting is an introspective mental discipline on canvas, for which bearing in mind that I love what I do, but at the end of the day, I ask myself why was it so exhausting?
MARKO: For a sculpture, I can guess how long it will take me to finish it. For a large painting, I never know. I have a dreamer and rational side and there is a balance between those two. I find that when working with sculpture, I feel closer to the concrete, the real world, so it’s easier to start with sculpture in the morning.
MICHAEL: Shark sculptures with lights inside of them? Who thinks of this? Where did you get the idea for these works? What do they mean?
MARKO: It all started as a continuation of my work with light installations, and well, after all, this research moved me to a more and more progressive direction.
The shark as a theme was also a logical choice taking into consideration the way I find characters for my sculptures and paintings. In some cases, they act as symbols and in others they represent themselves. These are individuals with a unique way of thinking and they follow a different path and unbreakable will in this game.
Do we all want to be independent? I chose these particular species because they are the symbols of power, freedom, movement and of course fear. There are a lot of parallels between sharks and humans; probably this could be the main reason for the conflict between us?
I'm fascinated with nature and from an early age, I continued to admire its powers through my art, while also exploring the possibilities in which nature and built environments coexist into the future.
The shark sculptures are a part of a light sculpture series that I've been working on. The reason they have a light inside? Why we have two sides of the same coin, I don't know, but it's always like that. For me, light is life.
Just as the dual nature of things is forever present, light sculptures work by the same principle. By getting to know each other, at first we see only a bit at a time and when we become more open with someone, they can see our light. Light sculptures are pretty much different with or without light.
MICHAEL: Yes, they're very cool. Do you have a team of artists? As you know Marko, some artists are critical of other artists who have teams of artists who work with them. They say this means the main artist isn't really doing the work. What do you think about this?
MARKO: Yes, lots of artists are not favorable toward someone having a team of artists to work for him or her, and to be honest, I'm thinking the same.
There was a similar praxis in the Renaissance but the main idea behind that was to learn the skills, to be an apprentice and after that to move on. Today, we have a different situation where artists are part of the team, are often far more skilled than the leader artist, and that is the reason why many dislike this idea now.
Some of the most influential artists, well-positioned and followed by many, operate like that. It is okay to get help while working on a big commission, as we are not created to have five pairs of hands, but not to use ideas and skills of others as our own.
As for our lighting design, we work as a family and every team member is equally credited for pieces that we create together. On the other hand, the works that you find on my website, lighting sculptures and paintings are all done by me, but nevertheless, you can see my team members (under the team section) as my way of saying “thanks” for their help during the years.
MICHAEL: I understand. Are you in Serbia? Do Serbians buy contemporary art? What is the art scene like there? When many Americans hear about Serbia, they think about political and military trouble. Is there time for contemporary art in Serbia?
MARKO: There is no short answer for this. People always, rather jump to conclusions before investing time to get any solid facts with deeper knowledge of history needed for a wider picture. As for the contemporary art scene, it is very vibrant, crowded with young art talents, especially in Belgrade. You should visit it sometimes while touring through Europe.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the contemporary art world and art market and how they operate? Do you relate to all of it? There are so many struggling artists who are alive while dead, famous artists continue to sell out museums shows.
MARKO: There is so much of everything today. The civilized world lives in abundance. Somebody invents something new and suddenly here comes a desperate need for that product. Simplicity is gone, because everybody wants to be famous.
With a variety of artists of any kind of backgrounds and style that are in quest for recognition, I could understand gallerists who are not so easily approachable. Contemporary art today is highly-sophisticated and unbelievably well-crafted, but on the other hand, you also could be bored even after the whole book of explanations.
Curators, gallerists, the market … who decides what is great, new and worthy of publicity?
The fact that more and more contemporary art seems distant and incomprehensible through the eyes of an average observer will lead eventually to saturation and the new beginning, and someone will say that the king is naked.
MICHAEL: Ha Ha!
MARKO: My view is that great contemporary art is having an influence on the public through emotion and the deeper messages allowing them to experience a personal identification with the artwork.
As for the art market, it has operated in the same way for decades and I don't think that this is going to change. There will always be dead, famous artists who continue to have very high prices and this is not only because of rich collectors who sell between each other, it's because they left value and captured a moment of art in time.
As for the struggling artist myth, millions of people don't like their daily jobs, want to change their lives and finally have the satisfaction of following their dreams. Artists, on the other hand, have to learn just one thing, and that’s how to get out there, promote their work and make some money.
MICHAEL: Finally Marko, When you're gone and your work is still here in the world, what do you want people to say about it? Do you want to be a famous artist?
MARKO: I always thought that famous artists didn't just love and enjoy the process of making art. They wanted to be immortal as well. For me, even a thought of leaving work behind that will be able to communicate with the viewer in the future, is exciting enough.
To be recognized as an artist who made a difference over the course of time, from the perspective of the current, very competitive moment, would exceed my expectations.
It's late at night. I'm alone in my studio with drawings scattered on the floor. A splash of color leaks down the canvas.
Lines in the movement are scratching the surface and then, silence. An inspiration left me, just to be found again.
Do you, as artists, think that you are solely creators of your art? I don't. From time to time somebody puts an invisible hand on my shoulder helping me to solve this mystery called art.
MICHAEL: Thanks Marko. Great chat!
MARKO: Michael, Thank you. It was nice talking to you. Keep in touch.
Check out Marko at http://markogavrilovic.com/.