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Ljubisa Žikic Sculptures

Published 22 / 04 / 2021

EN - Ljubiša's creations are delicate and complex. Spotted on Instagram, his small sculptures composed of singular shapes question us about the imagination and the know-how of its creator. From Belgrade, between two scissors, he answers our questions.

What is your background to woodcarving?

I graduated in Mechanical Engineering in 1982 and that's what I've done most of my life. The first time I had some free time, I started working with wood in a very experimental way. I then fell in love with wood carving and this feeling still remains with me today. Every free moment I have I spend in the way that is most enjoyable for me, creating something new. I don't have a workshop or a lot of tools, just a few scissors, files, small saws, and sandpaper.

What is your creative process? 

Having a meaningful and successful life without feeling like you're actually working is achievable by doing something you really love. I try to live by this rule. So far, I have made around 150 sculptures. When I take a piece of wood in my hands, I usually know what I'm going to do with it and that feeling stays with me until the carving is complete. However, sometimes it happens that my initial idea changes along the way, so that the end result is completely different from what I had imagined at the beginning. Working with hand tools requires patience, endurance and perseverance and it is very good training for me.

Your pieces appear complex, both visually and technically. Is this something you are looking for when creating a room?

I don't have a good answer to this question. In Arthur Rimbaud's wise words, if we try to define something, we take away about three-quarters of its true meaning. I'm probably looking for beauty first and foremost. And on top of that, I have to admit, there is also this need, at least on the surface, to shut down and forget about all the bad things that are going on in the world today. Believe me, it helps.

Each piece is accompanied by a wooden base. Do you see it as part of the sculpture?

Most of my sculptures have indeed a base and those without, await it. My pieces are very delicate and tenuous and they could not exist or stand on their own without a foundation. I try to make the base part of the sculpture, support it and carry it, but as seamless as possible.

What species do you like to work with? 

I work with different types of wood - beech, oak, walnut, cherry, pear, plum, elm, maple, hornbeam, mahogany, olive wood… Each species is different, and also requires a different approach. They have a touch, a hardness, a particular grain, each of which requires a certain sculpting technique. A piece of wood, even old and dry, has incredible heat, you just have to touch it, hold it in your hands. You have to work with wood to be able to feel this sensation.

What inspires you?

I am simply inspired by the warmth and texture of wood. I am interested in movement and I find it very interesting as an artistic content. Through him I search for beauty in simplicity. I am also inspired by youth, its strength and energy, playful.

How is woodworking recognized in Belgrade, and craftsmanship in general?

In Belgrade, as in most European cities, part of the population cares about beauty and wants it in their daily life. The modest purchasing power of my country does not exclude the wealth of the spirit, on the contrary. Hope you can one day come here and find out for yourself.

What are your plans for the future?

I have no plans! I have about twenty sketches in my head that I play with and that I constantly change while working on something else. Maybe it sounds strange, but when I work I long to see the finished sculpture, as if it was someone else's work and I had no idea what was being sculpted. Often times the wood just drags me around and in the end I carve something completely different from my original thought. My next sculptures will be made in pieces of teak and Siberian larch, they are very beautiful, very inspiring woods! Beyond my creations, I will also invest in better quality tools in order to be able to work faster and more easily.

EN - How did you came to woodworking?  

I graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in 1982 and that is what I did most of my life. The first time I had a little bit of free time which I wanted to use in a constructive way, by experimenting I made something out of wood and really enjoyed the process. I fell in love with wood carving and that beautiful feeling is still with me today. So, every free moment I have I spend in the most enjoyable way for me - by creating something new. I don't have a workshop or many tools, just a couple of chisels, files, small saws and some sand paper.

What is your creation process?

To have a meaningful and successful life without feeling you are actually working, for me that is achievable by doing something you really like. I try to live by this rule. Up till now I have made around one hundred and fifty sculptures and I am just finishing around ten more. When I take a piece of wood in my hands, I usually know what I will make out of it and the feeling stays with me until the sculpture is finished. However, sometimes it does happen that my initial idea changes during the process, so that the end result is something completely different from what I came up with at the beginning of the process. Work with hand tools requires patience, stamina and persistence and that is a good test for me. It is a very good training.

Your pieces seems very complex: visually and technically. Is it something you looking for when you create a piece? 

I don't have a good answer to this question. As per the wise words of Arthur Rimbaud, if we try to define something, we are taking away about three quarters of its real meaning. I am probably searching for beauty. Besides, of course, I have to admit, there is this need too, at least seemingly, to switch off and forget about all the bad things happening in the world today. Trust me, it helps.

Each piece is composed by a wooden base. Do you consider it as a part of the sculpture?

Most of my sculptures have a stand and the ones without are waiting for it. It is simply because, at the time they were made, I didn't know how to make them one. They are all very delicate and tenuous and they would not be able to exist or stand on their own without a foundation. I really try to make a suitable stand for each sculpture on top of which it appears and rises. I attempt to make the base a part of the sculpture, to support and carry it, but seamlessly as much as possible.

Which wood do you like to work? 

I worked with different types of wood  - beech, oak, nut wood, cherry wood, pear wood, plum wood, elm, maple, hornbeam, mahogany, olive wood… Each type of wood is different, just like people, it also requires a different approach. They have a different surface, hardness, firmness, each species requires different carving techniques. A piece of wood, even when old and dry, has incredible warmth, you simply want to touch it, hold it in your hands. You have to work with wood to be able to experience this feeling.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the wood's warmth, tactility and texture. I am interested in movement and find it very interesting as an art content. I seek beauty in simplicity. I am also inspired by youth, its strength and beautiful, playful energy.

How is recognized woodworking in Belgrade, and crafts in general?

In Belgrade, like in most of European cities, there are people who care about beauty and want it in their lives. Modest purchasing power in my country doesn't exclude wealth of spirit, on the contrary. I wish you could come here soon and see it for yourself.

What are your plans and projects for the future? 

I have no plans! Just joking. Actually, in my mind I have about twenty sketches that I play with and continuously change while working on something else. I wish I could realize them all and simply can't wait to see them. Maybe it sounds strange, but while I work, I eagerly long to see the finished sculpture, as if it were someone else's work and I had no idea what was being sculpted. Often, while working, the wood simply drag me and in the end I make something completely different from my original thought. Recently, I got a piece of teakwood and Siberian larch and I will try to make something beautiful out of it, it is very inspiring. Also, my plan is to invest in some better quality tools so that I can work faster and easier.