SAD: Since I cannot get an affirmative answer from you about the closer artistic link between Martinoski and yourself, allow me to conclude that you subconsciously admired him, transferring this to the canvas. And you liked Ličenoski more as a teacher. But let us go back to your education. At the time talented students were sent, with recommendations and according to a definite plan, to Yugoslav art schools. Why exactly did you go to Belgrade and what were your experiences in that period?
PM: Belgrade Academy was the centre of painting, Zagreb of sculpture, and Ljubljana of graphics. I found myself at the right one. At first my teacher was Professor Ljubica Sokić – Cuca, and later, since I could choose, Professor Nedeljko Gvozdenović, as well, who was “in fashion” at the time. The last two years I was in Professor Zora Petrović’s class, with whom I made excellent contact. It was from her that I learnt the freedom of drawing, the most important asset in my approach to painting.
SAD: What happened when the young academic painter came into the environment of Skopje of that time (1953)?
PM: After my return from Belgrade, I started exhibiting together with my former teachers, Ličenoski and Martinoski. At the time the reviews of the exhibitions were written by incompetent critics; there were no professionals. Then the painter Mića Popović came to Skopje in order to write about the DLUM (Association of Artists of Macedonia) exhibition in Belgrade press. I knew he was objective and impatiently waited for his review. When I opened the periodical NIN (which published the long awaited review) I could hardly believe that the text began with an analysis of my works. This was extremely encouraging for me and his judgement meant a great deal to me. Then, in a relatively short time, I sold several paintings. And I realized: even in such a difficult financial situation as prevailed at the time painting could be worthwhile.
SAD: Where did you paint?
PM: Since I did not have a studio, I went to the monasteries of Western Macedonia. I confronted myself with the silence of St. Jovan (John) Bigorski. I would take my canvas and colours with me and I’d paint for months entirely alone. If there was a time when I was alone with painting, it was that time in St. Jovan Bigorski – between 1953 and 1954. I still have some paintings from that period, although Ire-painted many of them later. As a matter of fact, I painted everywhere where I could find a little space . When I started working for the Puppet Theatre, my colleague Gute (Dragutin Avramovski) and I painted in an adapted studio. These were good times. Everything was accepted with enthusiasm and vigour. Our former teachers exhibited together with us and were happy at our success. We began forming groups. The Mugri (Dawn) group, which I joined, was formed spontaneously. I believe we did not think then of associating ourselves according to the closeness of aesthetic standpoints. I have the impression that we even had entirely different ideas about painting.
SAD: But, when we look at it from a considerable time distance, the Mugri group justified its name. It meant a different, a new point of view regarding artistic problems. After all, as a member of this group, you painted your first abstract paintings in 1961 – Red City, Golden Island. How did you move all at once, with a long jump, from metaphysical painting to informel?
PM: I have always had a need to change my expression. I started with expressionism, continued with a kind of metaphysical painting and in the early sixties I chose abstract painting.
SAD: What was decisive in your paintings from 1959 (metaphysical painting with ingredients of constructivism, magical realism and surrealism)? Obviously, it was the language of the time, the style of Srbinović, Prica, Pregelj, Vozarević, Kondovski, Kunovski, Velkov… almost a code of the generation.
How much sincerity was there and possibility of a personal expression in this art trend? After all, the ‘mentality’ of that language was incompatible with your person.
PM: In these years it was perfectly normal to be under the influence of the expression of the time. You simply could not avoid some movements. As far as I am concerned, that expression did not suit me. But I think that, if the artist is a real individual and if he is brave, he can return to himself.