Life is indeed a rich treasure. Every day something good happens, but unfortunately, something unpleasant as well and, to spice it up, even something interesting and unusual. The latter could be said of the Paris meeting with my friend Amelie, with whom I occasionally review all events on the French fashion scene, have a look in one of the museums or visit an interesting restaurant. This time, with the help of electronics, she invited me to an exhibition in Piran.
Virtual visit to Slovenia
At the end of January she visited Piran in Slovenia and Gallery Marko Jezernik. Immediately she asked me if I knew this artist: “Slovenia is so small and surely everyone knows each other?” she explained her unusually strange question …. and started her camera with its large plasma screen, which transferred us to the Slovenian coast. Our virtual tour through Piran started and then the camera (Amelie) crossed Tartini Square and turned to the right (most of the French are right-oriented) and soon entered the gallery of Marko Jezernik … meanwhile she enthusiastically told me about the meeting with the artist and his art. I have visited Amelie’s artist again with the help of electronics.
Marko Jezernik, former “Count of Celje”, had one day put his diploma of economics into a box and moved to the Coast. All of his time he devoted to painting everything that surrounded him. Already on the “land” he had discovered his passion for brushes and paint, for glass and wood and today his gallery is a genuine treasure of all he surveys. With his charming smile ,a la francais, he installed himself before the Web camera, drinking a cup of coffee and patiently answering my questions.
Someone somewhere once said, “You are born an artist, you do not become an artist”. But is it nevertheless necessary to examine the craftsmanship which opens the possibility of materializing an idea?
In the family my first idol was my mother’s brother, uncle August Deržek, who was an excellent graphic and water colorist. The Provincial Museum of Celje has some of his graphics and the Museum of Recent History, also in Celje, has part of his artistic legacy in watercolors.
I have expanded my knowledge of craft skills by socializing with the right people, who are not afraid to share their knowledge with others.
I have been really lucky and always “come across” people who were willing to open the door to their knowledge, to monitor my work and to give me the opportunity to learn from them. Among them was the Macedonian painter Goce Kalajdžiski, who acquainted me with painting and graphic techniques, then the glass master Cyril Zobec from Rogaška Slatina, who introduced me to the mysterious world of fused glass, and here is my mentor for guitar playing, upholsterer Fahir Tutnjić – Faki, with whom I’m designing and producing fine art chairs.
How and when did you move from “The City of Counts” to the Coastline? When did you feel the call of the sea?
Long before I really moved to the Coast. In the year 1980 friends invited me to participate in a sailing regatta. I started as a shot man in a Fireball class. We sailed to Červar, Croatia and after that there was no looking back. For the next 15 years I sailed intensively on Fireball class and also on bigger sailing boats. In 1998 I decided to take an independent path into the field of artistic creation. At first I settled in Portorož, then I moved to Sečovelje salt pans and my next move was to Piran. Now I’m here, I have a studio and gallery a stone’s throw away from Tartini Square.
Art critics define you as an exceptional water colorist, is this the first technique that you mastered?
As early as elementary school days I was always sculpturing in wood and metal. During my studies at the Faculty of Economics, I began to draw and paint actively. I committed myself to artistic creation in 1980, when I moved to Šentjur.
From 1980 to 1984 I was a permanent guest in the studio of painter Goce Kaladžijski, where I perfected my knowledge of the various painting, graphic and sculptural techniques under the supervision of my mentor. I was particularly attracted to the technique of watercolor, which I’m still exploring and elaborating further. With the help of my mentor I prepared my first exhibitions.
Your paintings are filled with marine motifs and the environment that surrounds you. You’ve captured a whole pack of dolphins at play. Did you see these dolphins in the bay of Piran or are they drawn from memory?
Oh, the story is complex and goes back to the times of my studies in biology, which I terminated in order to switch to economics.
One day, I had a visitor to my gallery. This visitor was ACCOBAMS executive secretary, Mrs. Marie-Christine Van Klaveren from Monaco. ACCOBAMS is an organization for the protection of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. She proposed that I should design various useful products, decorated with whale and dolphin motifs. So we started collecting materials and drawing. The result was a series of drawings and watercolors of all 21 species of whales and dolphins in these two seas. The resulting motifs were applied to tee-shirts, light shades, fused glass, pillows, greeting cards … I’m still using these motifs today and they are also combined with my erotic human figures.
I can therefore say that I “caught” dolphins in my mind and actualized them here in my studio, on the land. In cooperation with the angling club ORADELA in Piran I’m now creating a series of drawings and watercolors of marine fauna motifs.
First of all you put your economics degree into a frame and now you are framing watercolors and oils on canvases … It looks as though a torrential river of inspirations is carrying you along?
I am a man who accepts new challenges as new opportunities. If you don’t try, you’ll never know what may arise. Moreover, in these days, patience itself is not particularly a value, but without it not much good can come. I have my 24 hours a day available , taking away a couple of hours to sleep. What comes out during this time depends solely on me.
What is the dynamics of your creativity? Do you say to yourself “I’ll make a flower in glass .., the sea is beautiful in watercolor?” What encourages your expression – an idea or your media?
I’m partly guided by long term projects, where the means of expression are already identified by the ideas themselves. But I still leave enough time to listen to my completely free inner voice and to impulses coming from the environment. Sometimes I get inspired by a curious visitor or just the sound of the sea …
When I talk about the projects I have in mind, the book “Piran – a little differently” with the subtitle – A historical trip through Piran, or “El Torró” – Reflections on a bull’s death or the book of recipes entitled “Body Care” – Food & Beverage & Sex“; in all three the “red line” is a combination of text and fine art solutions, each of them in its own way telling a story or stories. Also, “Morphology of thoughts” is one of these projects and I’m working on new issues. All the time, I’m experimenting with ideas, techniques and materials, trying to discover something new, something interesting.
You have stretched your creativity in decorative and applied arts, … you are “fusing” your artistic message in glass. In what technique are your painted chairs?
The idea of combining my artistic expression with functional objects has always been present. I wanted to make unique pieces of furniture combined with reliefs and sculptures in wood. This idea is still relevant today. I started with fused glass for exterior and interior doors, which were manufactured in Inles, Sodražica. From this I developed several projects related to interior design. Among the first was the decoration of the Biona beauty salon in Celje and last was a massage parlor in Ljubljana.
My unique collection of chairs was born from a combination of circumstances, which could only happen in Piran. As in mathematics, you have five items that need to be connected: old chair, upholsterer, laser engraving, computer design and a painter. If I translate it: as a painter I have worked with upholsterer, goldsmiths and computer designer. This is a very interesting area of expression and the response has been encouraging. The choice of upholstery material usually dictates the painting technique. Saddle canvas is painted with textile colors, laser engraving is used for leather, oil paints are used for wooden chairs.
In designing glass you play with light … the light of life, which always finds its way… What is so magical in the glass? Are you an optimist?
Glass is a material that lives and is apparently strong. When I read that the glass on old cathedral windows is thicker at its base due to deposition, I realized that the form obtained from glass when you open the oven and it cools down is just a mid-term “frozen” phase. With the addition of light it changes and becomes alive. Light applied to fused glass produces a very interesting item of interior design, enabling unprecedented lighting effects. Glass attracts and encourages me with its characteristics in both its solid and soft states, offering me, as a painter, unlimited possibilities for expression.
And optimism is part of my personality. Without a positive outlook on life, I would have probably quitted at the very beginning. Thus, I have gained in strength and perseverance, which only counts.
You are also attracted to interior design because your creations are not only part of the decor, but alse have a use?
Interior design has always attracted and been a challenge to me. To create something that will not only decorate, but will be an integral part of peoples’ lives. The final idea is based on many hours of conversation with clients. At first I listen to their needs and desires, then I close myself in my studio. Only then can a successful fusion occur, in which my artistic vision is combined with the needs of the client. If this idea is later implemented without major objections, it means I have listened “well”, otherwise we have to continue talking. However, they say I’m a good listener.
Previously, you mentioned music. You listen to music while you are creating?
Of course, music is a mandatory part of my creation. Music has been my companion from the time I sang in choirs and later when I was at music school in Celje, taking trumpet lessons. Now I have time for guitar playing. My pauses, whilst painting, are always filled with music. I’m preparing video presentations of Slovenian cityscapes, with a musical accompaniment. Some of them can already be seen on You Tube.
You have crossed the borders of Slovenia. My friend shows her acquaintances a lamp from Piran created with your fused glass.
I do remember your friend, an interesting interlocutor, an anthropologist, if I am correct. I’m delighted that my work is in France, as Slovenia in general is not very well known. Personally, I can say that foreigners know me, but I’m glad that my art works and design solutions are in their homes in Piran and in the rest of Slovenia as well as further afield. In Piran a number of dwellings are equipped with my unique art glass works, lamps, chairs, tables, and of course paintings. Inles, Sodražica has been exporting front doors with my fused glass designs mainly to the German, Swiss and Austrian markets.
Your creativity is also reflected in words – your thoughts are in your books, among them being “Morphology of thoughts” …
“Morphology of thoughts” is a result of several years of writing. These are shorter texts, one could say “sayings”, which have their significance. The texts are formed solely on the basis of my personal experiences and analysis thereof. Let’s say that these are my commandments, which are protecting me from delusions and detours in life. The book is a combination of text and drawing, in some way describing and outlining human relationships.
It is written in four language versions: Slovenian, English, French and German.
In your book you have written:
»It is never too late to start from the beginning. However, every beginning becomes more difficult with the burden of the years. The difficulty of the beginning is inversely proportional to the degree of the will of the individual«. Is that your path? After the career of businessman, you have started from the beginning … ?
Yes, and this is my first commandment. I have noticed that it is increasingly monitoring and guiding me, it is increasingly relevant to me and has never let me down. It all depends on each one of us and only on each one of us. The rest appears, happens, or does not. I have started again many times. Even when you are moving studio, this is a new start, somewhere in another location, in some other environment. By the way, this is now my sixth location and probably not the last.
The thoughts in your book are quite philosophical. Where does your inspiration come from? For example. “A genius is one, who combines manipulation and materiality…”They may also be philosophical, but I think that we all have such thoughts, at least at the time when we find ourselves in a situation where we have to put ourselves back on our feet again. I write my thoughts down and over time, when I realize that things are still in force, perhaps even more, I’m starting the next step. My thoughts are illustrated with drawings.
The idea in its entirety reads: “Some manipulate other people, others are being manipulated; Another category manipulates goods. There also exist geniuses who incorporate all of this in one entity!”
One who joins in the manipulation and is at the same time a material manipulator, should be a genius by this definition, but I deliberately omitted the quotation marks.
Now comes the interesting question of love – is it possible for someone to know nothing of this wonderful state of mind and body? And, why can love cause harm?
“Love is a peculiar disease. Some get a fever, others do not suffer at all;
There are also those who ignore the matter,” I wrote at that time.
Each one can, on the basis of his own experience, search for an answer to the above arguments. I know my own. Ignoring is the smallest thing that can happen to you.
Well, why can love be damaging? Maybe because love is an emotion that can delude in the short term, then the real journey begins. A bit of rationality at the beginning of the route is highly recommended. At least this is my experience.
The title “independent artist” means also certain recognition by the community in which you live. Your works have been presented at numerous exhibitions in Slovenia. What is it that an artist needs in order to break through domestic boundaries … How can different ministries, for example the Ministry of Culture, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Economy, or various other Slovenian representatives in the world contribute?
In my experience, it is best, to rely on yourself and your skills. When I had an exhibition in “Le Faux Miroir” Art Gallery, Grand Sablon in Brussels, in 1992 , I went to the office of the Republic of Slovenia, to invite representatives to my exhibition. I was asked how I had managed to get into such an elite gallery quarter? The entire staff of the Greek Embassy was present at the opening of my exhibition and from Slovenia there was one representative and a Slovene journalist, who asked me if he could write something about my exhibition!? In addition to this, nothing else occurred. Such are Slovenes.
They say that fates takes a hand in certain matters , there comes by an Amelie or … and life goes on. We live it fully, if we are as open as the door of Marko Jezernik’s Gallery in Piran .
Interview by Cvetka Dragan, Paris photos: artist’s private archive