My father was a taxi driver and instead of buying property he planted grapes. He wanted to drink his own rakija. As he was such a great worker he didn’t dig but used dynamite to make the holes to plant the grapes, started Tiho Vujovic, a controversial Montenegrin painter. He wasn’t difficult to find because of the trademark sign on his front door. A man all smeared in reddish black opened the door. It was him. He was in the middle of making rakija. That was the reason he insisted on being interviewed at home. The first thing he said was that I was welcome on the basis of my positive energy. A little bit strange…Even though Tiho Vujo-vic is the only local painter, since the 19th century, whose work has been shown in the Louvre Museum, an unofficial Gunnies record holder by the number of visitors at his exhi-bitions, a multimedia artist, a film director, a writer and a TV show host, he thinks of himself as an ordinary man from Cetinje. In the warm cozy atmosphere, in a room crowded with his friends, near the cauldron, where rakija was being prepared, we talked about art, women and globalization. Although he doesn’t drink, he was proud to offer me the still warm rakija. I took a sip and started the interview.
Painting is your main means of expression. ”Not everything can be touched by the finger”, is the multimedia project that you are currently working on, that, besides painting, consists of sculpture, video art, and recently even a TV show. Where do you find the energy for all of that?
The motif for all that I do will be sort of surprising for the readers. That is Cetinje. In what sense? Cetinje is my driving force. If I hadn’t been born in Cetinje, I would’ve been a good craftsman, nothing more than that. The people that changed the world were born in such energy creating plac-es as Cetinje. Remember Tesla for instance? I think about it frequently. I have always wondered, since the day I was born, why I always feel that I have to give something back to Cetinje. I went to the Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 27, only because it was finally opened in Cetinje. I couldn’t go anywhere else because I was so drawn to my hometown. Before I started my studies I had my own thea-tre troop, then four bands, and I even started up Radio Ceti-nje, which I managed. That was all just preparation for what was coming. When people ask me how much time I need to finish a painting, I tell them 46 years, as old as me. It means that every moment of my life is interwoven in my paintings.
How did you find out that you have a talent for painting?
All the illnesses I had in my childhood were obviously not a coincidence. I had bronchial asthma until I was 15. It made me feel less worthy. While my peers were playing in the streets and going through puberty, I was lying in my bed gasping for air. I imagined that I was playing, saving the world, that I was doing all the things that were out of my reach. My only way out was to live in the world of ideas, so that I could easily renounce many things. That is why my art is what it is today. It is well known that people from Cetinje are special. How? We are all sick in our attempt to be the best at something. It is probably a consequence of the place we live in. In an attempt to be the best, not physi-cally the strongest, I ended up as a painter and I think that I have made my name.
How do you get from a blank canvas to a painting?
Every painting I did, I did according to my own taste, as if it is going to stay on my own walls forever. I would first stare at the blank canvas for days, listening to music and con-templating, as I did when I was ill. I would daydream that I was the best lover, or soldier, and I would get visions. Be-fore I actually start to paint I already have a finalized ver-sion in my head, in full detail. I see it, as you see it when it’s finished. Painting a blank canvas is then just physical labor, nothing more. I used the same creative process when I was writing the screen play for my movie, “Naked in Soul”. This movie will be produced in Hollywood soon.
Your painting technique is if anything rare, if not unique. How did you achieve that?
As I mentioned before, I went to the Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 27 and I graduated as a top class student. I also mentioned that all people from Cetinje are sick, be-cause we want to be the best in what we do. However, the Academy didn’t teach me how to paint. It just gave me an overall perspective of the craft and general information on art history. I mastered my technique in Italy. My technique is unique in the sense that no artist can say that he or she can do it as I can. I lived in Italy for six years, in the places with their most prominent museums. I spent most of my time in Florence, in the Uffizi Museum, one of the top five museums in the world. Closely observing Filippino Lippi’s, Botticelli’s, and Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings, I mastered their technique. I also found out what they were mistaken about in their own techniques. I found that there were two problems in Renaissance painting .The paintings blaze, have a mirror effect and crack and decay rapidly. Since it bothered me, I tried to find a solution. So, with little paint but lots of work, I managed to achieve the effect I wanted. My technique is to make many strokes with a paint brush over one spot. It sometimes happens that I may make 2-3 million stokes to make the painting seem as realistic as possible. We know that no painter can be better than a camera. However, that is not my intention. My intention is to convey messages by means of my painting technique. Without this technique of mine, my story couldn’t have been told.
How did you come up with the idea of painting your ver-sion of the Mona Lisa? The Mona Lisa in Timelessness?
Thanks to my version of the Mona Lisa, my work has been acclaimed and is followed by the Louvre. When I planned to go to Paris I thought it would be nice to bring something as a present. I brought my version of the Mona Lisa. I did one more painting The Lady with Ermine, to keep company with the Mona Lisa. My version of that famous painting turned out to be the key to Paris city doors. Bearing in mind all that happened to me in my life, I believe that nothing is circumstantial and that everything is foreseen.
You had the chance to experience the life of an artist abroad and you came back to your hometown. Can you draw a parallel between the two?
The parallels you are talking about always provoked me. The parallel between my hometown, Cetinje, and the cities I stayed in, above all Paris and New York, is the energy. As we all know, there is a map of energetic places of the world. Cetinje is one of the strongest energetic places on that map, together with Paris and New York. So, when I was in Paris, it felt like home. New York is a bit different. It is too far from Cetinje, although it felt like home but in a different way. My dream is to live in Cetinje. I only travel for the purpose of improvement and to enrich my knowledge. New York is important to me, above all, because, broadly speaking, my money and my work are tied to New York. What is most important is that New York is where my man-ager will be. I still haven’t found him but I hope I will, when I go back to New York. I need him so that I can have time and space for art. If I could catch the goldfish and if it would grant me one wish I would wish to find the right manager.
Being a painter and manager at the same time, do you find it difficult to organize everything by yourself? How do you establish the price of the paintings?
There is only one criterion in art. Do you like it or not? This criterion is therefore how much you are ready to pay for what you like or dislike. If you are, for instance influenced by a critic telling you that you have to pay one million dol-lars for a blank canvas and you do it, it is fine. But this is past now. Everything is set. While you are observing some painting you are trying to see if there is an artist who could do the same. On the other hand, there are professionals in this line of business. Their job is to estimate the value of works of art. It is a serious business abroad, which is not the case in Montenegro. Parisian banks estimated my paintings to be worth one million dollars each and arranged my credit through finding a manager in New York. That is why I went to New York. All in all, a painting is worth what you pay for it.
Would you say that art has become a great market? Who is who in art today?
Today when we say artist, it implies whomever. In the core of things the division is between the genuine artists and the charlatans, the socalled artists. There are only a very few artists in the world and it has always been so. Genuine artists are the ones who bring something new, a story about the future. Wishing to belong to that circle, many call themselves artists. Today everything is considered art Beg-ging your pardon, you can place a piece of shit on a blank piece of paper and exhibit it in a gallery and say this is art. However, this is not art and it cannot ever be. At some point in the past, after WWII, everything was art. It was on this topic that I was invited to lecture at “Paris 8”, a most prestigious Academy for art critics and history.
As a multi-talented personality you engaged in the process of writing a novel. What triggered you to take that step forward in your career as an artist?
A woman found my paintings on the internet and wrote to me. I didn’t reply, so she wrote again. Finally, I replied be-cause of one sentence I recognized as a code. That was: “… Marlene from rainy and cold Vienna… I hope that it’s sunny and warm in Montenegro”. I felt something in her words. So, I replied. After our second e-mail I had a strong feeling that we were writing something that could
be a message to other people. My book is a psychological novel on male and female relationships.
As you said that Marlene was your triggering experience, I cannot avoid noticing that whatever medium of expression you use women are still the core of your artistic world.
The curves of a woman, above all the breasts, are a magic sign for us. I even think that breasts are the symbol of our planet because of their spherical shape which is the most perfect shape of all, with the lowest pressure on the largest surface. Everything in space is this shape: the Sun, the Earth, everything.
It seems that the figure of a woman is used more than as a means of artistic expression. Do you find women stripped off in every sense of the word? Are they discriminated against?
I can freely say that women are the driving force of civiliza-tion. How? According to the Golden Ratio, women are the most beautiful beings in nature. Their curves are coded for our sub-consciousness. I say ours, both male and female at the same time. Let’s say that 70 percent of the paintings in art encyclopedias portray a naked woman. It cannot be a coincidence. Advertising is based on nude women. Bearing in mind that business is about the industry of selling, people in the business are forced to use the codes of women in order to sell their products. So, it is not surprising that we can see a woman advertising motor oils and cars as well as women’s underwear. If you’re asking me if women are dis-criminated against, then my answer is no, because every woman likes mirrors, and I’ll tell you why. Benjamin Maslow, one of the leading psychologists in the world es-tablished the main postulates in the male-female relation-ships. One of the questions is what a woman has to have to attract a man. First of all, a woman attracts a man by her physical appearance.
Today, women have one problem and that is that they do not understand one thing. They do not understand that men like 80% of women. Thus, there is a woman for every man. When a woman has problems with her nose or breasts, she is in fact troubling herself with no reason. At first sight we like 80% of women but the next step is de-pendent on the energy they have. Even if she is the ugliest
woman in the world, if she has positive energy, I would think of her as beautiful.
Raising women on the pedestal of civilization could under-mine the position of men. What is your opinion on their role with respect to women?
Firstly, they have to have a story, be leaders and able to make women feel safe and protected, physically and emo-tionally. All these conditions have to be met so that she can reproduce. Nothing happens by chance. It is all arranged so that civilization may continue evolving. Men have two infe-riority complexes which are their driving force for inventing things. Practically, all scientists that achieved something are men. Why? It is because they want to take the best position in soc iety, so that the best women would select them to procreate with. This way, their offspring would be of the best kind, which is, after all, the goal of our civiliza-tion. What are these two inferiority complexes? The first one is not being able to bear children.
This also implies women’s physical appearance. The second one is that a female’s sexual climax is 80% stronger than a male’s. We are just facilitators in this process. On the other hand, women are a way to improve and reinforce our posi-tion in the males social stratification scale. Men are valued for the women they have. The purpose of having so many women is to get an overview of the whole situation and to pick out the best one. All my paintings are celebrating women. Woman is the central figure on the planet. That is the conclusion to all I have said.
Is there anything else, besides your family and paintings, which you enjoy in such a way that it could compensate for the energy thrown into your paintings?
As you probably know, I work at a TV station and I have my own show. On one hand, it is just a hobby for me. On the other, it is also a part of my multimedia project. In order to make three paintings The Trinity I have to paint for about 15 hours a day, for a year. I don't leave my house while I am in the process of painting. Therefore, I am almost al-ways alone. When I do the show, I am surrounded by peo-ple. I haven't been painting for the last two years now, alt-hough I would like to paint every day if I could, because I enjoy it.
Since you work on TV can you share with our readers your thoughts on the mass media generating a global village?
You cannot let a child pilot an airplane. You have to wait for the child to grow, mature, learn and be trained. Civilization is like a human being, it evolves. Slavery and the feudal system are evidence of the developmental process of hu-man society. Everything in its time. Globalization is not gen-erally negative, although there will definitely be negative byproducts, it will be a step forward not backwards. Let's not forget that the technological revolution is flourishing so fast that we will soon travel to other planets, meet other civilizations. Therefore it is to be expected that the whole planet will be, in some way, one country. I do not think that anything drastic is happening. This is a predictable step in the evolution of civilization. People find it hard to embrace new things. It is our nature to fight the new and the un known. No one would be against globalization if they were among those who lead it. Therefore it depends on your point of view and which side you are on.
Tiho Vujovic - A glimpse of the artist’s word
THE MONTENEGRO TIMES interview, NOVEMBER 2007