A pilgrimage that never stopped

When Stanić received the Thirteenth of July Lifetime Achievement Award a few years ago, a journalist asked him: "Has Montenegro finally paid you back?" "She didn't owe me anything," answered Stanić

3817 views 38 reactions 3 comment(s)
Stanić and Miraš Martinović, November 2016, Photo: Private archive
Stanić and Miraš Martinović, November 2016, Photo: Private archive
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

VOjo Stanić is a recognizable sign of Montenegro...

Many things changed in one century, governments and ideologies, parties and programs, environments and atmospheres, tensions of various kinds... One point remained on Škver in Herceg Novi and one window, always attractive, always open. And one man and the painter Vojo Stanić, whose topicality has not faded. On the contrary, it is always radiant, always current, original. And so for a century. A studio and a painter in it, open to those with intentions, guests of various profiles, the statesman that he was Willy Brant and others of such or a similar profile, to ordinary people, Novy original. To whom Vojo had the same relationship as to those who covered themselves with high functions and titles. He saw a man in each one. He saw some value in each. That's why people loved him and still love him.

Before this man and painter, all differences fell silent. Bridged by admiration and love. By understanding everything and everyone.

For this occasion, I will share some details that I have heard from Voj or those close to him, which may be interesting because of the personalities they refer to and the time in which they happened. Vojo told me that one afternoon or in the early evening, I can't remember the time of day, and I don't know the date or the year... It was at a time when Djilas planned to buy an apartment in Herceg Novi, it could be sixty-somethings. Đilas knocked on Vojo's door, alone, he wanted to see the already famous painter and his paintings, and he saw them, they said, Vojo didn't tell me about what, nor the details of that meeting and conversation.

The next day, Voj was called to the Herceg Novi Security Center. The inspector, who was normally very polite, asked, or rather stated, that Đilas was with him last night, and asked: How is Đilas at your place? Vojo confirmed Đilas' arrival, saying: Whoever knocks at my door, it will be opened to him, he will enter. Further questioning stopped there. The inspector politely escorted him.

Đilas stayed in Herceg Novi for some time. Lalić is the only one who walked with him in public. The apartment was not purchased, so Đilas did not become a resident of Herceg Novi. But that's another story. Enough for this occasion.

He used to come to his studio and his home Andrić, Zuko Dzumhur. The Zogović visited once, probably during his stays with Lalić. He looked carefully at the pictures, didn't comment... And who knows how many more. Certainly Veljko Milatović, politicians, writers, painters. Branko Kukić came from Čačak to see Voj's paintings and wrote a long essay about Voj's painting. And whenever we spoke, he would ask me: how is Vojo? They were coming without me knowing: Luko Paljetak, Aresen Dedić, Momo Kapor, Rade Šerbedžija. Lalić would stop by occasionally, look at the pictures and leave. He was coming Jevrem Brković, came ini. That list of arrivals is long. And that fact speaks of Voj as a painter and a man. The two are somehow inseparable. Simplicity and size in the most beautiful combination. Only such a man could create such a work. And that he has respect and sympathy among all generations. They speak primordially and sincerely in those pictures. Hence such and such a living relationship.

He was coming Predrag Matvejević, I mediated that arrival (do not let this sound pretentious!), on the way back from Budva where he had an evening, he came with Ljubiša Perović, then our ambassador in Rome, where Matvejević was a professor... Well Bora Cosic with his wife, during one stay in Herceg Novi. They drank a liter of Vranac, Voj's favorite drink. It was a warm and interesting conversation between two ordinary but great people and artists, I had the privilege of being present and listening to them.

The column and the number in that column is very long, a pilgrimage that has not been interrupted for more than half a century, and continues today...

And now about an unforgettable event. The month is July, the year 2002, Voj's exhibition in Dubrovnik. Gallery "Trinita" in Palmotićeva, which opens onto Stradun. I went with Branko Bogavac. An unforgettable, somewhat unbelievable picture. Stradun is full. One has the impression that the whole city came to the exhibition. Many did not even manage to get close to the paintings that evening, it was impossible to approach the gallery. Dubrovnik rose to its feet to pay tribute to Stanić for his paintings and letter, to the then Montenegrin leadership, as a reaction to the senseless expedition to that city. That letter is probably kept in one of the archives and it is a witness that great artists cannot make mistakes. That is remembered and that counts! Dubrovnik on its feet and Stanić's exhibition in it. And Dubrovnik does not suit everyone and often!

When a NIN journalist asked him how he felt after that exhibition, Stanić answered: "How did I feel? But I had stage fright as an actor. Luko Paljetak opened the exhibition for me, there were many dear people I hadn't seen for so many years and I was literally their guest for two days. I stayed at the "Lero" hotel and they didn't let me spend a single dinar, let alone a euro."

I remembered that exhibition forever. And one more: in the SANU gallery in Belgrade. It was already open and I was with Branka Bogavac again, when we saw a line of people waiting to enter the gallery and see Voj's paintings.

And one detail: when Stanić received the Thirteenth of July Lifetime Achievement Award a few years ago (and before that he received the annual award), a journalist asked him: Has Montenegro finally paid you back? She didn't owe me anything, replied Stanić. Simple yet magnificent. Only the big ones can do that. Nobody owes them anything. They don't ask, they give, and they don't expect a reward. Their reward is their work.

As long as he could, Vojo cruised the sea with his boat for a month during the summer, organizing life in small bays. Guided by the stars, kindness and friendship, to Cavtat and to Dubrovnik and a friend, a great maestro, painter Đura Politics.

Wherever he arrived, he was greeted with love, which is only possible for a man who has so much love for people. He never said anything bad or ugly about anyone. In 2016, I did an interview with Voja for Radio Herceg Novi, where I was an employee. In my journalistic career, it was the first time I filmed someone secretly. That conversation lasted almost an hour and a half, and after we finished, I turned off the tape recorder, said that it was on during the conversation. He didn't get angry. If it will benefit you... he said. I did this because I knew that there was a blockage in front of his recording devices. Then several photos were taken, one of which I am attaching for this text. And I hope that this interview has been preserved. He said a lot of interesting things then.

How much and where, it doesn't matter, at which point on the globe, a great artist will create what he carries as a gift to people... Wherever Vojo was, he would create a work... In this case, he was on Škver, through the window of his atelier observed the universe, transferred it to pictures, the entire galaxy. A manuscript painted with the face of its time and the other - the face of eternity, side by side.

At this human and artistic coordinate, the incredible happens, all differences become close. The greatest reach of humanity and art!

(February 1, 2024)

Bonus video: