Guide to SKOPJE

So close, but so far

Interview with Sergej Andreevski, painter

Sergej Andreevski, a Macedonian painter from the middle generation, is rarely seen in his native Skopje. As a true globetrotter, he mostly exhibits around the world. Although he claims to be a “Balkanoman” his works are seldom seen in the Balkan countries!

You are an artist who has exhibited virtually everywhere in the world: from Japan to the United States. What about the Balkans? Are you active in this region?

– I was the first graduate student from the Academy of Fine Arts in Skopje that had exhibitions in Belgrade, then in Sarajevo, Jesenice in Slovenia. Certainly, it was easier back than, because we lived in the united state of Yugoslavia. But recently, after the Republics got independent and after what have happened with the wars in the region, I felt like the contacts with my fellow artist had disappeared. Everybody got secluded in their closed spaces, so nowadays I more often meet my colleagues and friends from ex-YU somewhere around the world. In USA I met a lot of painters from Belgrade. In Istanbul, where there was a art colony called “Balkan art” with one artist from each Balkan country, I encountered a friend of mine from Croatia. In Italy I came across a lot of artist from Montenegro and in Greece many friends artist from Albania and Bulgaria. I would like to point out that artist that are geographically close are very distant. And that is sad. Actually is very disappointing that we don’t know each other. The art should not have anything in common with the politics, but still it’s the state policy that creates the conditions for the existence of the the art.

Have you recently exhibited in the neighboring countries like Albania, Greece, Serbia…

– Not in Albania! Now there’s an idea to exhibit together with one Albanian artist Resat Ameti, who I met at a colony in Slovenia. When Ameti was briefly exhibiting in Skopje, I was introduced to the Albanian ambassador in Macedonia, who promised us to organize a joint exhibition in Albania. I think that idea is already in development and it will be realized very soon.
Recently I was in Ivanjica, Serbia, together with the group “Ljubojna”. It is simply an amazing feeling – to be so close and not to know each other. It was not so long after the separation of Yugoslavia, but we don’t have any idea what is going in the art sector in the neighborhood. For example, I see a lot of ex-YU artists who have emigrated to the U.S. and the Western countries and I know more about their work than the exhibitions of the artists in Belgrade. And look how close Belgrade is. But, those are well known Balkan stories.

Do you think that in a certain way there is an intention to act like we don’t know each other for some strange purpose? In the end, people have lived here alongside with each other for centuries, but never together…

– I have felt  this so many times-  When I go somewhere in the world, for some colony, either a manifestation or exhibititions, I feel they underestimate me when they hear that I come from Macedonia. People simply do not know, nor have heard about us… However, when they see my pieces that sense of underestimation simply disappears… The story becomes quite different.

The painting is practically a universal language…

– Yes, yes … Art in general … music, sculpture, literature … When you read a good book, the feeling is powerful. And then the usual limits are not only lost, but you get more interested in the author and country where he comes from.

However, the literature includes mediation, or translation, and the art and the music are quite universal.

– Oh yes, but I’ll tell you something. Lately, there is a great interest for the rights to publish the books of my father (Petre M. Andreevski, famous Macedonian writer). There are two translations in Slovenia, and its also translated in London, Germany… So if something  has quality, it will rise up to the surface. And then it becomes irrelevant where the author comes from.

But, still the globalization, besides the proclaimed regional policy of the European Union, can be hardly overcomed. Simply, the Anglo-Saxon culture is pretty aggressive. For example, do you know any artist from Azerbaijan?

– I don’t know anybody. In fact, I know someone who I accidentally met at a colony, but not a name that I heard about through the usual communication channels. But still, I’m familiar with thousands from Great Britain. That is because I know at any moment what happens, for example, in the “Tate Modern” gallery. But that’s how it goes. Young people are marginalized.

When Tose Proeski died, one Greek medium wrote a rather cynical remark towards the Greek public. Namely, our colleagues asked how was it  possible that the whole Balkan was  mourning over the singer’s death, but only the Greeks remained indifferent and didn’t heard his music. Do you think that the art needs some visa authorization when it passes the limits? Is there an institutional barrier that stops the flow of ideas?

– The first reason is the wrong choice. All the Balkan strategies, at least in this field, for some reason, are wrong. At the end, the wrong and the bad art representations are sent abroad. But, I will repeat, what is good – remains. Danilo Kish was no Yugoslav official “representative”, but his works endure…

Yes, but Milan Kundera once said in an interview, that if he had not ran away to Paris and begun to write in French, he probably would have never gained the fame he has.

– Oh sure, just because he wasn’t part of the “public art team.” A while ago, I mentioned my father. He is being revealed now – five years after his death!

Do you think we need a regional cultural network that will allow the exchange and the flow of ideas?

– Oh, I don’t know.  I do not believe in this type of institutionalization of the art. The problem is that there are still prejudices, and I do not know why. I have different examples from my experience. I was invited to Athens in the time of the Olympics. I participated in an exhibition called “We and the neighbors.” I must say that I had no problem, given the political conflicts between the two countries. On the contrary, I was very well received.  I was even joking about that the organizers will have problems after my exhibition. I also     had a very good media coverage. So, art can rise above prejudice and daily political constellations. Of course, if the real values are on first place.

On the other hand, you are giving your own contribution to the institutional introduction of the arts. You are founder of the colony “Art Gumno” in Sloeshtica – the birth village of your father?

– Yes. As a family, we are proud of what we have done so far.  The colony started literally from scratch, but we always know which artists will come in the next three years. And there are more artists that would like to participate, than capacity and means to receive them. The colony has existed for eight years and it is certain a chamber colony. The guests are few, but very good artists, who stay longer and have the opportunity to explore Macedonia more closely. This year we made a small exception, so we had a group of students from North Carolina, together with their teacher Pamela Shower, which was here many times before. They were literally studying about Macedonia- music, folk instruments, gastronomy, history, art… We certainly believe that that we are performing a serious mission through the colony. But still, it is all based on private relations. The state institutions have no consistent policy and can not complete the work successfully.