-By Petar Meseldzija
|Giant Velles Protecting the Ancient Oak Tree, 71X56 cm, oil on panel, 2014.
There is a sad story that goes with this painting. I don’t mean to say that the story of creation of this painting was a sad one. On the contrary, that story knows a happy ending- the artist and the client were happy (ever after) with the result.
I refer to the story that is told by the painting itself. As you might expect, I am not allowed to tell you that story now because it is meant to be published, together with this painting, in my upcoming book of giants early next year.
However, what I can, and should tell you is that the painting’s title is somewhat deceiving. Yes, the giant is trying to protect the mighty tree and save it from whatever this bunch of Viking-lumberjacks plan to do with it, but he is not a sentimental treehugger, nor is he concerned about the greenhouse effect and all the related consequences. His reasons for protecting this big tree are more of a serious emotional nature; this tree just happened to be in the center of the giant’s personal drama, not more and not less. It is rather distressing, and I would not be surprised if more sensitive and emotionally labile readers would shed a tear, or two, after reading about it.
Well, after saying so much, and yet revealing almost nothing, I believe I cannot leave you without some kind of tale that, in one or another way, can be connected to the main theme of my painting, which is (surprisingly) not the tree, but the nature of the giant’s attachment to it. Here is a short piece by J.R.R. Tolkien from his ‘Introductory Note’ to the original edition of Tree and Leaf.
“…The story* was not published until 1947 (Dublin Review). It has not been changed since it reached manuscript form, very swiftly, one day when I awoke with it already in mind. One of its sources was a great-limbed poplar tree that I could see even lying in bed. It was suddenly lopped and mutilated by its owner, I do not know why. It is cut down now, a less barbarous punishment for any crimes it may have been accused of, such as being large and alive. I do not think it had any friends, or any mourners except myself and a pair of owls.”
*Leaf by Niggle
Petar Meseldžija was born in Novi Sad, Serbia, in 1965. He began his career in 1981, publishing the comic strip "Krampi" in the Stripoteka, one of the best known comic magazines in the country. This was followed by a series of short comics and his work on the licensed comic book Tarzan. He graduated from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, in the Painting Department. During his studies he continued to work on comics, but also more often working on illustrations. In 1991 he illustrated his first book Peter Enkorak, published by Mladinska knjiga from Slovenia.
At the end of 1991 he moved to the Netherlands. Soon after, he stopped working on comics and dedicated himself to illustration and painting.
During the 1990s he painted about 120 posters and greeting cards, mostly for Verkerke Reproduktie from Holland. For Grimm Press, a publisher from Taiwan, he did 33 illustrations for the book King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He held his first solo exhibition of illustrations and paintings in 1998 in the Tjalf Sparnaay Gallery in Amsterdam.
He has participated in many group exhibitions in Yugoslavia, the Netherlands and the USA.
His work has been published in a variety of periodicals and books all over the world.
Among many awards which he received for his work are:
“Plaque The International Golden pen of Belgrade, 1994”, Yugoslavia;
The “Art Show Judges Choice Award” – 59th World Science Fiction Convention, Philadelphia, 2001, US.;
Two Silver Awards from “Spectrum 4 and Spectrum 10 – The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art”, U.S.;
Gold Award “Spectrum 16 – The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art”, U.S.
From the beginning of 2000 he has dedicated himself to gallery art. Of the exhibitions where he has participated, the most worthy of mention is the Exhibition of Independent Realists. This exhibition, organized annually at the Mohlmann Museum from the Netherlands, offers clear insight into the creative achievements of contemporary Dutch artists in the domain of realist and figurative art. In addition to painting, he continues to do illustrations.
Two other significant projects should be mentioned. He painted 10 book covers for books of children's fantasy literature for the American publisher Scholastic Inc. Likewise, he illustrated the Serbian folk take “Prava se muka ne da sakriti”(“Real Trouble Cannot Be Hidden") for Bazar Tales, a publisher from Norway. In his work on the book, The Legend of Steel Bashaw, he has invested enormous time and effort. This project, for him of the greatest importance, was started in 1993. Including shorter and longer breaks, the longest of which lasted 7 years, he has been working on the book for 15 years, finally finishing it in August of 2008.
His original work is to be found in the private collections in Serbia, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S.
You're teasing us Petar. I'm looking forward to this.
Yes, Bill, this is a little teaser. 🙂 Nowadays, I paint, draw and try to write sad stories; apart from that, I am afraid I have nothing interesting to say any more. The well of wisdom in me has dried up. Thus, I tease and joke.
I hope all is well with you!
It always makes me sad to see a large and beautiful tree die merely for the crime of 'being in the way'. There was a splendid magnolia in the neighbor's yard that had been there for decades. Until the old woman died and her son sold the place to a fly by night 'contractor' who added a crappy enlargement and killed the tree to do it. There are loathsome trees, of course. The oversized pest weed the city planted next to the curb in front of my house drops fertile seeds by the bucket and large, painful caltrop seed cases. It's also slowly strangling a lovely crepe myrtle in the front yard and working hard to destroy my sewage line. There is nothing to love in that weed.
Elena, I like the connection between your surname (Jardin-iz) and your comment. Quite appropriate. 🙂
Your words say the well is dry but the work says something different.
I belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism – born in the 1960's from a small group's desire to have a “medieval event” (and the authorities wanted a Responsible Party for this event) it has grown to become a world wide organization that focuses on an enthusiasm for “the Middle Ages” we chose a persona, time and place, and with varying degrees of intensity research that person and pretend to be them – so a 5th century Viking may well be seen chatting with a 14th century Mongol and a 16th century Slav. I chose Jardi, the Catalan form of gardener, but it's not documented so I accepted the Spanish Jardiniz. Stupid pushy Spanish, just because THEIR records still exist (grin)
I also think it is a touching painting and story, although I have to admit I initially thought he was protecting the tree for “sentimental tree-hugging” reasons. I am curious to find out what his personal connection to the tree might be, maybe there is a little bit of a tree hugger in him too, for this specific tree at least, that caused the connection, I don't know but I look forward to finding out in the book 🙂
It's a wonderful painting, and I agree with bill, it carries its own wisdom, mingled with tragedy, yes, but it seems wisdom often is.
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know – I believe you know this, at the same time, disturbing and liberating truth, Bill. 🙂
Thank you anyway, friend!
I am sorry, Staffan, no sentimental tree-hugging this time… 🙂 Thanks!