When one enters the world of Nebojša Veselinović Đura’s art, magic happens. His small studio on Belgrade’s Obilićev venac is full of scrapers, augers, choppers…We enjoy looking at his artworks. Some of them have strange titles, such as “The knife that opens slowely in a box” (the so-called calming knife). There is also a jewellery box made of padauk and ash.As he explains, he recently made a locomotive of about a metre in length that was bought by the Russian Railways company, whose representative told him that they had all sorts of scrap and never looked at it, but that this artwork made of waste will be keept on the desk of the company’s managing director.
Veselinović graduated from the Belgrade Faculty of Applied Arts, Department of Ceramics, in the class of professor Mirjana Isaković. After completing his studies, he began making unique ceramics pieces, then, at the end of the 1980s, he started producing practical and decorative objects from brass and granite. In the 1990s he devoted himself to making various artistic objects – lamps, single items of furniture, “toys for adults” and fashion accessories, all of which were recognisable by their style, iconography, and the use of characteristic materials (brass, noble kinds of wood, ivory, bone etc). He had four solo exhibitions, as well as a retrospective exhibition in the Salon of the Museum of Applied Arts in 2004.
Đura’s works are now in private collections in Serbia and abroad. “After graduation, I went to the Statistical Office to inquire about the number of highly educated people in the country. They are my audience. A true intellectual shoud have things nobody else has,” says Veselinović, who has a wide circle of admirerers of his work, which is why he has worked exclusively on demand for many years. “I create art pieces that have many levels. The more layered the work, the greater the chance that people will understand it”. And this art is a combination of visual elements, narration, gag, absurd, anti-design…
His art is so recognisable that it doesn’t have to be signed. On the other hand, as art historian Dragana Palavestra wrote in a cataloque for one of his retrospective exhibitions, Nebojša Veselinović Đura is a mysterious phenomenon. “The kind of man he is, that is the kind of work he makes: indefinable, mystical, beyond grasp”. Particularly, as Palavestra noted, you are never sure how these odd things, objects, lamps, items of furniture, whatevers, really function. Are they pieces of applied art, or some hybrid appartitions? Do the drawers of the small cupboards really open, or do they have some other, surreal part to play? Đura is undoubtedly a master of his craft, a visionary and an esthete. Each one of his objects is balanced, secretive and extravagant.
“The whole life I have made absurd, needless things. My art is absurd in the sense of Dali and Dadaism. I have never allowed myself to stoop below the line of good taste. For example, I have never made a pinkish lamp or something with a floral print,” Veselinović told us, adding that this is a time of bad taste.
Veselinović is an urban artist who also likes to spend time in nature. His colors are blue, brown, green and black – the colours of the planet. He spends three months each year in his house at Montenegro’s Ada Bojana and is a keen fisherman. However, he is also a man who knows everybody in Belgrade and spends his free time sitting in cafés…The fact that he has contacts has helped him in selling his art. “Actor Dragan Zarić, who passed away and had an antique shop in the centre of Belgrade, was my manager for twenty years. He introduced me to buyers both in the country and abroad. Zarić always exhibited some of my pieces in his antique shop.”
Our interlocutor could easily make any object. He works fast and believes that everything can be art if one has talent. Not only is his style unique, but so is his attitude towards those who like his works. “I can instantly guess what kind of art someone needs. My works are personalised to the extent that they could visualy represent a specific personality.”
It is well known that Veselinović creates atypical items using world-class materials. That is what has made him famous. His art is expensive for Serbian galleries, but galleries aren’t the only places where exceptional art can be sold.
He has made fifty objects for world-renowned companies: paintings, jewellery, furniture, drawings, oils on canvas…One of his original boxes belongs to company Gazprom.
“What kind of present could you give to the Emperor of Japan? I could make a present for him! For instance, it could be a snow leopard that stands on the edge of the table, but is stable.”
Veselinović shared his opinion about art with us, explaning “it is the skill of hands and head”. “The artist has to be educated”, he believes. Talking about role models, various people have influenced his work. He admired the young Koča Popović, a former Yugoslav politician, artist, poet, philosopher and general. On the other side, he respects famous Spanish painter Velázquez and Lucas Cranach, a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. One Vladimir Veličković painting from the 1960s inspired him to study, but it is Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel who is closest to his art. For CorD’s interlocutor, Bruegel’s painting The Tower of Babel is the most representative work of art. “This painting is a monument for fairy tales, madness and planet Earth,” explains Đura.