Travelling paintings | Ljupco Samardziski

As part of his drive to donate a painting to each of the countries holding the title of European Capital for Culture until Valletta’s turn in 2018, the Macedonian, Malta-based artist Ljupco Samardziski will be showcasing some his work at an exhibition in Maribor, Slovenia in the coming month. We speak to the artist ahead of his trip to the city, which is fresh from hosting the Capital for Culture in 2012.

Ljupco Samardziski: “Malta is more than ready to infiltrate the European cultural sphere.”
Ljupco Samardziski: “Malta is more than ready to infiltrate the European cultural sphere.”

What is there for an artist to commemorate, concretely speaking, about European Capital for Culture(s)?

If an artist is based in a country or region that is on its way to becoming a Capital for Culture, they are effectively participants in a far-reaching initiative that can have a significant impact on the cultural landscape that surrounds them. But the thing to keep in mind is that the success of the initiative itself is entirely dependent on the artists: they are the ones who have been given a chance to test their worth on an international plane, as during the year of the Capital for Culture, all eyes from Europe will be on them.

On the other hand, another facet to the European Capital for Culture lies in the hope that the public perception of arts and culture is elevated - which would be a dream come true for all painters in particular, and artists in general. This would be one way through which talent that lies embedded deep within us all can be given a chance to develop. Once this is deemed possible, art will come to be seen as a viable, and enriching path in life for people of all ages and nationalities.

How does Maribor's candidacy compare to Malta's?

I wouldn't compare Malta's candidacy with Maribor's because Maribor 2012 is now over, and it was a success - same as its parallel counterpart, Guimaraes 2012 (Portugal). For Malta, that task still lies ahead. However I'm confident that it has the personnel at hand to make this possibility into a reality. People like Kenneth Zammit Tabona - an artist who was at the helm of the recent Valletta International Baroque Festival, which is already an indication that we can have an event of international standards taking place at our doorstep, and which took advantage of the baroque idiom - a most significant aspect, given Malta's history.

But just as important are the younger, up-and-coming artists who seek out unusual and interesting venues; I trust that they have a keen instinct for what is worth exploring. Malta is more than ready to infiltrate the European cultural sphere at large, and I'm sure it will rise to this challenge.

Valletta is clearly changing for the better, and the V18 initiative is clearly a stepping stone for that. And let's not forget that there's still five more years to go to 2018, so we can only continue to better what's already there.

These efforts can only reap benefits in the long run, and this is what inspired me to donate a painting with the title 'Ode to Joy' to each Capital for Culture in the coming years. It's no coincidence that the piece of music bearing that title also happens to be the hymn of the European Union.

How were you greeted in Maribor?

It was wonderful, and in a way surprising: they immediately 'googled' my name, went through my pictures and proceeded to invite me to the exhibition... in which I will hand over the painting, my donation to commemorate Maribor's stint as European Capital for Culture in 2012...