One might never know an artist truly but by knowing their work we learn who they really are. From a tenuous childhood to a volatile youth with world-changing events as the backdrop to them his art reflects these themes and much more.
Incorporating past artistic styles from classic to post-modern, his art embodies them into something distinctive and extraordinary.Read more...
... In 1948 communist Yugoslavia had broken away from Stalinist Soviet Union and severed all relations with the USSR. My father was appointed Ambassador to Moscow in 1956 to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. In 1956 Stalin was dead and Nikita Hruschov was the new leader of the USSR. So when I was 16 days old I was flown from sunny Belgrade to cloudy Moscow, where I was breastfed by a giant breasted 120 kilo Russian women from Siberia. She had a bunch of her own kids and did this as work, for a salary. What impressions the Russian mother's milk and cold and snowy Russia had on me in those first three years was stored in my subconscious.
After three years of Moscow it was back to Yugoslavia, Belgrade. Everything in my surroundings, as far back as I can remember was of a high esthetic value. My father had an enormous library and throughout my formative years I had many books about art, reproductions of history's greatest painters at my disposal. Everything around me was beautiful, the architecture, the furniture, Persian carpets and the huge garden with trees and flowers and a pre WWII swimming pool done in mosaic by master craftsmen of the Byzantine tradition. In our home there were African masks, Mongolian bow and arrows, figures carved out of ivory a trophy tiger on the floor with a beautiful head, big teeth, claws and the unbelievably creative design of the stripes and coloring of tigers. The superior esthetics of Nature. All these things influenced my developing sense of esthetics.
- My father left for Africa, India and Asia (the forming of the Non-Allied block of nations, a big deal in international politics and the United Nations at the time). I stayed in Belgrade. He was gone 6 months. Forever, for a five year old boy.
The letter from Africa with Bird drawing influenced me greatly. I felt my father's presence while looking at the drawing of an unusual, quirky bird standing on a little fountain some place in Africa. It introduced me to the communicating power of visual art. The magic of communicating visually on an emotional level. It was love at first sight. I was hooked. I was five years old.
I was hypnotized by them, playing and studying them all of the time. The lead animals were visually special because they were not manufactured in some corporation toy production company but by people who had been living with these animals for eons. People who have a greater familiarity, deeper understanding of the object they were recreating in lead. They were done with precise details, everything absolutely correct and in character of the different animals. And painted. The craftsmanship spilling over into art. My favorite was the Rhinoceros. The Rhinoceros design is special. The primordial shape of the head, stylized by endless time and space. The whole look is special. The Prehistoric power of the Rhino, the muscle mass, the skin (like armor), the temperament (volcanic). And the mystical Horn. Placed centrally on the head . Pointing from the front most part of the Rhinos body, pointing to the Heavens. A weapon but also mystical phallic symbol ready to inseminate or pierce the Universe. The Rhino, straight and true. Living, breathing symbol of the male principle. And in the way children can spontaneously do it, I metaphysically identified with the Rhinoceros. Native Americans would say that I had met my Totem animal spirit.
One morning in early Spring of 1962. I woke up to find our house looking empty. There were giant wooden crates, containers in the rooms. They were made of strong thick pale yellow wood, bolted and sealed shut. I was playing with the Rhino, walking him along the wooden edge of the huge container, when I heard my mother’s voice calling me very loudly from the garden, to come quick.
I left my Rhino standing on the edge of the container, and ran outside to the gate where my mother was. She grabbed my hand and we hurriedly walked through the dark green painted gate. She said "Hurry up, we are going to be late!" I stopped and said "Wait! I forgot my Rhinoceros, I must get it!" She just pulled me into the chauffeur driven black Mercedes saying "we will buy a new one in America!"
That was the moment I found out I was going to America. The car whisked me off to the military airport and we flew to Italy and a limousine drove us to the Port of Genoa and the good ship Leonardo Da Vinci. I sailed the Atlantic Ocean to New York harbor. I was 6 years old.
That September I started John Eaton Elementary school in beautiful George Town, Washington D.C. The first thing I did in Art class was to make my lost Rhino out of clay. I made him bigger than the original. Painted him a grey pinkish hue, the colors of the Magnolia tree, which was, esthetically, my favorite tree. If you mixed the color of the flower with the color of the gray, slightly shiny bark of the Magnolia tree you get the color of my Rhino. I made my Rhino with all the proportions, shape and details correct. Done with love, focus and concentration. Trying to heal my broken heart.
The teacher was amazed when she saw it and called in other teachers to take a look. My class mates stared at the commotion. The Rhino was immediately put in a glass showcase in the school collection.
We were now living in the most beautiful house, with 25 rooms and 20 fireplaces (urban legend has it that Alfred Hitchcock had stayed in the house). The salon was so enormous I rode the bicycle I got for Christmas in it because it was snowing outside. The ceilings were very high, classic Greek columns on each side of the large white fireplace. The walls were made out of Baroque French tapestries, not hanging on the walls, but “built” into the walls as one surface. Fantastic Persian carpets, a grand concert piano in one corner, Louie the 16th furniture. It was in this space I first met Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. They were waiting to meet me but I was late coming downstairs, because I was watching ‘The Monkeys” (60's pop band) TV show. My mother came up twice to get me saying in disbelief “What are you doing!? Bobby Kennedy is waiting to meet you!” I stayed to hear the song during the closing credits to the end.
In the photograph that was taken as Bobby Kennedy and me were shaking hands ,you can see Ethel Kennedy's surprised and amused expression, as I was apologizing to Bobby for keeping them waiting because I was watching “The Monkeys” show. He assured me that he understood.
On one occasion my father and I visited Bobby and his family at their beautiful estate. Bobby and my father went to the huge salon at the ground level with beautiful double doors that opened directly to the vast green lawn of the enormous grounds around the house. They took off their suit jackets unloosened their ties and collar buttons and poured themselves a whisky. They positioned themselves at the fireplace, standing and resting their elbows on the mantel of the fireplace as you would on a bar. I was running around playing with the Kennedy kids. They had two giant black Newfoundland dogs that were casually strolling in and out of the house. At one point, one of the big dogs “relieved” himself on the Persian carpet of the salon. Bobby and my father were at the far end of the room at the fireplace, whisky glasses in hand, when they saw this. I was expecting some immediate reaction, as there was to be a dinner party and some of the most important and influential people in America were expected to arrive at any moment. To my surprise Bobby and my dad started chuckling and smiling, like two school boys, and decided to leave the dogs dirty deed where it was and watched who of the most powerful men in America, would step in it first.
On that day I was at the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington D.C. watching JFK's visit to Dallas on TV. I watched live, as they shot President Kennedy. I ran three blocks to our residence, ran up the stairs to my father's study. As I burst through the door he looked up from what he was writing at his desk at me. I told him in a serious and excited voice "They shot President Kennedy!" He didn't say a word. The grim, dark expression of his face told me that things would never be the same again.
"Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying"
Revolution in society, art, sex
American esthetics and design
American painting - Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Reinhardt, Newman, Conceptual
Martin Luther King Jr. assassination
Bobby Kennedy assassination
It was 1968 and my reality of watching the 60s' revolution in America from front row seats, was about to change dramatically. We were returning to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Again leaving everything behind. An important emotional motif of mine, continued and reinforced throughout my life by the constant traveling, moving, changing continents, countries, cities, friends, schools, loves, realities. Always leaving everything behind and starting anew. Pre-internet life on Earth. It was becoming a way of life for me.
Only one and a half years in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and then to Moscow, USSR again.In 1968 the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia because of “pro western tendencies”. The Soviets threatened Yugoslavia as well and our troops were positioned on red alert status. My father was appointed ambassador to Moscow for the second time .At this time Nikita Hruschov was in house arrest in his country house outside of Moscow. My father had a secret correspondence with him via a cleaning lady.
Needless to say, Moscow in 1970s' was like another planet, compared to the 60s' in America. The prevailing visual images were of Socialistic Realism in art. The Socialistic visual images clashed with the images of glorious Russian churches and the Kremlin in Moscow, which told of a different time, at least visually, esthetically. I found a few similarities between the United States and the Soviet Union. One was in the pre WWII Soviet movies. The design had a classy, old world atmosphere that reminded me of the big black and white Hollywood productions. The other similarity was that both countries were ruled by similar groups of individuals. In America - by capitalist oligarchs, in the Soviet Union - by communist oligarchs.
Two and a half years of melancholy. Two and a half years of fantastic classical Russian literature. Two and a half years of many shades of gray.
I started doing drawings from live models when I was 15 years old. I was accepted on the Academy of Fine Arts in 1975 as the youngest in my generation, graduated in 1980.
The art academy gave a classical education but it was not restrictive. It confirmed, more or less, what I had already learned by myself. During the 5 years on the academy I did a massive amount of portraits, nude studies, still life’s and landscapes. In oil, tempera, aquarelle, pastel etc..Drawings in pencil, charcoal, black ink etc. Graphic prints in lithography, copper and silver etching, woodcuts etc. Sculpting in clay. At the Academy of Fine Art in Belgrade I basically did a whole run through again of everything I had already learned about classical art by myself.
I went back to Belgrade, Yugoslavia because I saw that war was going to start. I had a need to be in my country as the Armageddon of Yugoslavia was approaching. The bloody civil war of the 1990s' and the Nato bombing and butchering of Yugoslavia and Serbia.
Continued traveling. Since then till now artist in residence in Vienna-Austria, London-UK, Klagenfurt-Austria, Montenegro-Adriatic Sea, Belgrade-Serbia and the Hague, Netherlands.
Mladen Micunovic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1956. Because of his father's diplomatic career he started traveling and changing countries and continents at a very early age. He was only 16 days old when he went to live in Moscow, USSR. He was 6 years old when he sailed the Atlantic Ocean from Genoa, Italy to New York harbor. He lived in Washington D.C. since 1962 to 1968. He graduated from the Belgrade Art Academy in 1980. Since then he has been artist in residence in Belgrade-Yugoslavia (now Republic of Serbia), New York-US, Vienna, Klagenfurt-Austria, London-UK, Budva-Montenegro. Since 2015 he is artist in residence in the Hague, Netherlands.
"I was on the road since I was 16 days old till I was 15 years old, changing countries, cities and continents because of my father's diplomatic career. After that I continued traveling the road on my own."
I started seriously painting when I was 5 years old. This Rembrandt self portrait was done when I turned 19 years old, before entering The Art Academy in Belgrade.
During the last year on the Academy, 1980, three of my friends and colleges and me formed an Art group called "Arcade", and had an Exhibition sponsored by the Museum of Belgrade.
Using both approaches from past traditions of painting in creating image, as “window” and as “surface”. Painting from in front of and above the canvas. Plexiglas painting from behind (counter intuitive) making the paint, medium, untouchable. The few millimeters of distance, of the thickness of the Plexiglas, changes the reality of the work,
“The Signs” - Appeared in the beginning of the 80’s. At first not defined completely. The black lines and flesh, ivory painted surfaces appeared clear and defined. The colors of the Signs were there from the start. The outlines and shapes of the colors were basically there, but fuzzy and hazy with the definitive shapes still forming. Three signs, the birth of 3 Symbols. The Y Chromosome, the Unit and the symbol of Myself. They appeared on canvas.
Uniting two different, opposed, styles of painting into new visual value. Macro and Micro cosmic view at the same time. Using Y Chromosome symbol.
I was always interested in having a broader perspective and exposing myself to very different influences and world views in order to see and paint the “big picture” of life and the human condition in an abstract, symbolic manner guided primarily by the elements of visual stimuli. As in life, in my painting, I exposed myself freely to the influences of different art. Not limiting myself to any particular art philosophy, school of thought, art movement, art-isams or contemporary trend. I consider the scope of Visual Art enormous, as large as Life. Sometimes, when successful, appearing ”larger than life”. I was always more preoccupied with visual stimulus and the implications it has for us, consciously and subconsciously, and in that way telling a "story" that is beyond words and spoken, descriptive language. The visual impact on me and my visual feedback to the world. In the postmodern period of conceptual art, video, performance art, non-skilled art etc., I did not change my medium of painting and drawing.
Being exposed to the Art, culture, history, science, propaganda, design, social, economical and ideological systems of diverse nations and historical periods and accentuated world view differences.
Painting on the surface of canvas, contact of medium, paint is possible for the viewer. Paintings on canvas on the “outside”, artist and viewer occupy, communicate from the same space in relation to created image.
The actual image, paint, medium is packaged inside of plexiglass, painted from behind (counter intuitive). The viewed surface of paint untouchable. Impossible to use the sense of touch. You cannot get in contact with the actual color, paint of the TV or computer image, only the screen. The computer image is coming from someplace else. Communicating in Symbols. Interaction of symbols with one another tell a multi-level visual narrative.
My visual heritage is classical European tradition, American painting, formalism, modernism, abstract expressionism, color field painting, post modernism (in comment and message), contemporary art (post postmodernism)with my personal esthetics. The visual attractiveness of the computer electronic image and, at the same time, the alienation of it being created and coming from some other space, untouchable.
Plexiglas painting is counter intuitive -painting backwards, painted from behind the first brush stroke on my plexiglas painting would be the last brush stroke on a canvas painting. It has a distant, hermetic, self-contained existence, introvert communication.
My plexiglass paintings - the visual effect of television and computer screen images and preoccupation to bring that kind of visual communication into my contemporary art developed before the internet and mass exposure of people to computer images. From about 1980 I painted a large series of plexiglas paintings before the mass computer era.
My first painting on glass - "Transformation", oil on glass, 1980. There is no documentation for it. In Montenegro, the Art Legacy of Chano Koprivica was robbed, among which was this painting. After the theft it was last seen on a transatlantic flight to New York being sold on auction.
In 1992 the war in Yugoslavia started. I did no painting during the war. First painting was at the end in 1999 during the Nato bombing of Belgrade - painting "Belgrade Knocking on Heavens door" - acrylic on wooden board.
The coming together of materials, uniting of Canvas and Plexiglas. The merging of intuitive and counter-intuitive painting. Organic and Synthetic. Instinctive and cerebral. Individual physiological, biological and emotional relationship within the new emerging reality. The consequences on our internal reality, emotional and cognitive and the resulting New Value. A marker of our time. Visually communicating on multiple levels. Multiple storyline. Creating and communicating through objects that do not exist in our physical reality. Bringing them into the World. Symbols becoming Organic - Synthetic Objects, Entities of visual communication.
The Visual images are expressing complex human states of emotion and mind through the Organic -Synthetic Symbols, as they start living a life of their own. The viewer is observing the Symbols’ development, as they go through these human states of being, and the visual solutions Painting gives, to our unanswered questions, describing the emerging new Reality We are creating.