I remained enchanted by Mexican culture and art for all times. My entire artistic endeavour and creative work has been driven by the need to simultaneously promote Mexican culture in Serbia and our culture in Mexico.
Ms. Leposava Sibinović Milošević, a painter and sculptor from Belgrade, has recently been awarded the highest Mexican acknowledgment for foreigners, the Medal of the Aztec Eagle, for her contribution to connection between and promotion of the culture and art of the two countries. At the official ceremony held at the Ambassador’s residence, Ms. Milosevic was assigned the Medal by the Ambassador of Mexico to Serbia, H.E. Mr. Marco Antonio Garcia Blanco. This was the reason for our visit to Ms. Milosevic. We spoke with the artist in her apartment in the settlement of Rakovica, on the edge of Belgrade. The spacious living room, which looks over the Strazevica hill, notorious for the ceaseless NATO bombardment of 1999, is full of sculptures, paintings, books, handicrafts and other artisanal objects. Most are devoted to Mexico.
You and Mexico, how did this connection come about?
Just three years after my graduation, back in 1977, I received a modest scholarship from our government for a one-year Master program. Naturally, my parents helped me financially and I also sold several sculptures. Without that, I would not have lasted even three months. I started to learn Spanish immediately, and at the same time I started to attend the National Academy “San Carlos”. I was left to myself. I worked tirelessly, sculpting and painting and I began to have exhibitions. I obtained my Master’s degree from the sculpture department. The doors of many galleries opened for me, and what I shaped and painted found its buyers very quickly. With new pieces of work and newly acquired knowledge, feeding on the Hispanic culture and style, I made new friends, went to numerous cities, held lectures, visited the most important cultural events, took part in them and became more and more enthralled by Mexico, its people and culture.
What were the dominant motives at the beginning of your work in Mexico?
There were no preconceived topics. I found inspiration in the nature which had surrounded me there – cactus, agave, palm trees… Although those are often used motives, I have made my breakthrough exactly with them. The secret was that I treated them in a new manner, conveyed them differently and observed the nature with a different ’’pair of eyes’’. That has carried me forward and enabled me to advance quickly.
When did you return and why?
I have returned after five and a half years, more precisely- in 1982. It was in one moment that I realised I had achieved everything I had wanted on the artistic plane. At the same time, I felt the need to create a home, to have a family. Soon I got married and got kids. Nonetheless, I continued to socialize with Mexican artists. I remained enchanted by Mexican culture and art for all times.
How did this linkage and promotion of cultures unfold?
Up to now, I have organised more than fifty cultural projects which have included joint performances of our and Mexican artists, foremost paintors and sculptors… Not only in one or the other country, but also in the third countries. There were also numerous joint workshops, painting colonies, promotions of books and films, and similar. Each project has a different theme or is related to a particular painting technique, or sculptural expression. When our author’s exhibition arrives in Mexico, then I make sure that it goes around as many cities as possible, to the extent that the funds allow. And when I organise an exhibition of Mexican artistic work in Serbia, then paintings and sculptures are also presented in Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This year we will have such an appearance in Budapest and next year in Sofia, which will be the European Capital of Culture 2019. At the same time, we will have an exhibition “Toys and Robots in the Books of Artists” at the Museum of Old Toys (the only one of its kind in the world) in Mexico City, where works of 80 authors from all over the world will be presented. That forms part of a unique and large project of artistic expression on parchment.
Parchment is a type of material derived from specially treated natural lamb skin, which began to be used in the Old Ages, when Egypt placed a ban on the export of paper. Because of its fullness and durability (even though water and high temperatures can do it harm), parchment served for ceremonial recording and recording of that which was worth remembering. The Miroslav’s Gospel, the most significant Cyrillic monument of Serbian-Slovene literacy from the 12th century, was written on parchment. Somewhere as early as 2000, we launched many international painting project on parchment under the general name the “Parchment Serbia”. So far, we have organized around 60 exhibitions with parchment works, this book-accordion, with six sheets, usually 20 x 20 centimeters in size.
The culture of the two countries is very different. Is there a similarity?
Both nations and their artists have an affinity toward color and natural forms. Hence, in both of the folk and artistic traditions, strong and various colors are dominant. In addition to this, Serbia has cultivated a painting tradition connected to monasteries in the past, while the culture of Mexico is characterized by a mixture of Indian past, colonial conquest and later post-colonial development.
What is specific about the creation of Mexican artists?
Mexico is a vast land, with territory covering various zones – tropical, coastal, vulcanic, mountainous, etc., and it is one of the oldest civilizations, the history of which contains deposits of numerous influences. In that diversity, which brings about a variety of habits and traits, artistic expression, too, has many specificities. Nonetheless, two traits of creators in the field of art seem equally widespread. One is ease, and the other inventiveness. First of all, I think of ease in terms of shaping ordinary objects, which serve for daily use, but may also serve for spiritual or religious purposes. The ease also includes the ability to cope with demanding materials with scarce resources and to create sophisticated forms, admired by the modern man, who has all the available technologies at his disposal.
Will any of the young artists from Serbia follow in your footsteps?
Several talented young men and girls have already gone to Mexico. Not with a scholarship, but in search of their lucky star. Two have already reached a professor’s title at various art faculties. One is a painter and one a sculptor. Their works are already well-known and have entered many galleries. I hope that they will, with their fresh emotions, contribute to further artistic cooperation and interweaving of the cultures of the two countries.
And your family, is it also leaning toward Mexico?
My daughter Maria has a lead there. She graduated from Graphic Arts at the Faculty of Applied Arts, and now she is preparing her PhD in Multimedia Arts at the University of Arts in Belgrade. She has already participated in exhibitions in Mexico and Serbia with a number of works. My son Milos, who graduated from the same faculty as his sister, after having obtained his specialisation in Paris, dedicated himself to graphic design, but has also exhibited several times within the Mexican-Serbian project. My husband Miroslav is a lawyer and does not engage in art. However, for years now, he has been hosting artists from Mexico together with me.
Text: Dušan Vasić