Life, Novels

Touching Heavenly Beauty
We mustn’t back away before the nihilism epoque. ”Where to head from this darkness if not where poetry, painting and women are?” asks Dante. I avoid painting anything that makes the world ugly and morbid, I search for what can make it more bearable and illuminated. On that path of exploring beauty, I am merely a grain of sea sand, but in the eye. Modern art is anachronous. I believe that the drama of our time can only be clarified with classical language. Serbia offers a splendor of spiritual heritage and beauty of incompletely imagined landscapes, which I am trying to turn into painting in my spiritual castle

By: Branislav Matić
Photo: Guest’s Archive

His paintings are saturated. Fed with color and meaning, visions and skill for presenting. Old masters breathe in a new way, through what is timeless in any masterhood. Tradition speaks in an archeo-futurist manner. Scenes of his adventurous childhood in Mačva, with a view of Cer, Majevica, Fruška Gora and renaissance landscapes of Europe from the times before it was abducted by the princes of this world, all this flows into a great synthesis of this art. In order to express it, one had to reach Opus Magnum.
Mikan Aničić (Badovinci, 1950), Parisian man of Mačva, in National Review.

Pumice Rock of Memories. We often come upon thick, intricate ivy in the woods and cannot easily find the root or main branch in its interlacing. We come upon a similar problem when we try to find our family roots.
An oral legend says that my ancestors moved to Mačva in mid-XIX century from Old Herzegovina. The first one who dared set off to such a distant and risky journey, in his painful breakup with his homeland and home, took with him his house doorstep on a cart pulled by oxen, a pumice rock which cannot be found in any of the nearby mountains (Cer or Fruška Gora). The doorstep is still standing in the place my ancestor put it, in front of a newly built house. I inherited the same ancient determinant; anywhere I go I take my pumice stone with me, made of memories and identity. According to a document from the XIV century kept in the Monastery of St. Basil of Ostrog, forty-seven men from my clan went to the Battle of Kosovo and not a single one returned. Genetic memory, carved deeply into the consciousness of my fellow clan members, was probably crucial in directing our sensibility towards the beautiful and sublime, and not towards the destructive and fatal. Some of my clan members are famous graphic artist Petar Aničić, who created the most wonderful portraits of Vuk Karadžić and Branko Radičević, and Aleksa Šantić, whose mother was from the Aničić family.

Homeland in Arcadia. The lucky charm I took with me into the world is my childhood in Mačva. My earliest memory is from the period I was fifteen months old. My mother stopped breastfeeding me and sent me to my grandmother in Ada, six kilometers from our house. My uncle took me there in a wheel-barrow. I still clearly remember the moment I first saw the river Drina through the sparkling of aspen trees. That was the first grand impression in my life, the terrifying greatness of water and glittering of rapids in the shallows. Ada, where I spent my childhood, is my Arcadia, with scented meadows and magical forests full of flocks, full of cottages and mills on the Drina. That is where we spent most part of the year.
The Arcadian childhood was woven with schools of fish in the Drina, nests of wild ducks in trees, wondrous images. It gained its fullness and branching in my boyhood, which, hidden in fields of sunflowers and poppies, using its St. Peter’s Day torches, shed light on a new oneiric and satyr world. Juices of erotic dreams about Bosnian girls coming across the river to Mačva, to color and spin wool, started streaming later.
All those experiences create a phantasmagoric feeling in me, which turns into a new world of fantastic. And fantastic is actually the life we have lived.
Deep inside, everyone carries the need for beauty, which they sometimes realize by putting themselves in a chosen urban environment or by building a tailor-made house. I reach beauty by creatively returning to primordial images. All scenes and experiences accumulated in memories speak in a painting, through which I synthetize all those sparks of the beautiful into general beauty. My last large canvas, Apotheosis of Boyhood in Savkovača, testifies about my boyhood in the most vibrant manner, showing the entire experienced oneiric world entangled into the mythical story of Paris’ judgement. That experienced world of my childhood parades in an Arcadian landscape, tucked into and arched by hills creating a large nest in that landscape, where one feels peace in the magnificent embrace of homeland. The merge of the vastness, the wavy plain, whose horizon ends with bluish mountain background, is often represented in my paintings. It is the outlook I grew up in, bordered by Cer in the south, Majevica in the west and Fruška Gora in the north, my sanctuary and garden where I pick the most beautiful flowers of memory. In a broader sense, Serbia, the most wonderful country of our dreams, offers us lavishing spiritual heritage and the beauty of incompletely imagined landscapes, which I turn into paintings.
The famous Exupéry’s sentence: ”I come from childhood, that is where my homeland is” is obviously repeated in my maturing as an artist.

Under the Sublime Wing. My first experience of a painting as such happened in front of the village church, when my mother took me to my first Christmas early service. In order to enter the church, we had to pass under the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles painting at the entrance. I was small, tiny, but I felt a kind of warmth and gentleness inside of me while passing under the sublime wing. Even today, that initial feeling of warmth and gentleness flows through me when I stand before a masterpiece of a great painter or in an unknown village church before the altar painted with chastity and purity; flocks of angels ascend from the altar, their wings are imbued with the scent of myrrh and incense.
My experience of painting, besides the one from the village church, was originally related to the first illustrations of some of our famous painters, which I had the opportunity to see in Ilustrovana Politika, the only illustrated magazine at the time which published interesting reports on painting.

Through Belgradian Endlessness. My first contact with Belgrade was through Kalemegdan (Ficir Bair, The Contemplation Hill) and the Kalemegdan terrace, from which an endless view stretches across the landscape. The challenge of vastness created a strong feeling in me that I will be able to do anything I wish. The elevated terrace at the edge of the fortress gives birth to a feeling of need and power of ascending into the faraway world. Kalemegdan has always been the ”runway” for all our adventurous expeditions, the place where we conquered world spiritual expanses and wrote ours and theirs historical and cultural pages. Already at the very beginning, I met Vasko Popa, poet. He was enthralled with my early works, considering them his poems in pictures. I gave him as a gift one of my first paintings, where an aura made of honeycomb on St. Sava’s head appeared in Serbian painting for the very first time. In my youthful enthusiasm, I soon abandoned the unique novelty, moving further to discovering new worlds, but another painter from Popa’s vicinity soon took over the element and made a series of paintings with the same motif. The cognitions and experiences gained at the Academy and in socializing with reputable Belgrade painters were not sufficient for what I requested from myself. ”Mediala”, as one of the leading movements in painting in that period, according to my then understanding, perhaps immodest, could not offer a sufficient insight into the creative path whose vision I already had in myself. After leaving this environment, I succeeded in forming that vision and elevating it to the level of personal distinctiveness. I needed to search for painting knowledge which I could not reach in the local painting milieu. My road took me through Italy, Spain and Germany, all the way to Paris.

In the Chest of World Spirituality. There, in Paris, at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, as well as in the Louvre, Orsay and other Parisian museums, I began my artistic development and professional enrichment. My teachers were painters of Italian quattrocento, renaissance and baroque, Spanish and Dutch masters, as well as French classicists and romanticists.
Paris is the world treasury of spiritual values. You can find information from all époques, styles, nations in any quarter, museum, library. Paris is a large chest of planetary spirituality. This is where I reached a kind of painting perfection I could not gain (find) neither at the Academy nor in socializing with contemporary artists.
I am not a prophet, and I don’t see myself in the future. I try to paint the best I can, according to the high criteria of old masters and the reaches of their painting skills.
Paris is a magical city, full of challenges and offers, which can redirect you from the road you have chosen. One must make a reduction and concentrate only on their narrow choice. That is the only way you can remain yourself. Encounters with Dado Đurić, Vlada Veličković, Ljuba Popović, Petar Omčikus, Bata Mihailović, Danilo Kiš, Pol Arsić and others had a friendly character and direct cognitions of others’ experiences in working in the meanders of Parisian studios and galleries. Socializing with artists of different nationalities and preferences had a corrective influence on my turning towards values I considered lighthouses and obelisks on my journey through the world of esthetics and beauty. They served only to see how and what I should not do. I received real advice from the canvases of great masters and from people with more experience and in more mature age. They were, before all, Mme Suzanne de Koninck, curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, friend of Picasso, Braque and great Romanian sculptor Brancusi. She introduced me to the director of the Louvre, Jacques Ponnau, who showed me the museum depots. There I saw everything that makes the Louvre the richest museum in the world.
Paris is a big arena, in which any author can compare themselves with their contemporaries, as well as their predecessors. In big salons, every artist realizes their level and category they belong to, at the same time perceiving how much they contributed to the world mosaic with their work and how much beauty they built into it. In return, Paris is good in indicating new phenomena and values, which it also did for me; I was awarded a medal at the great Salon of French Artists, held in the Grand Palais in Paris in 2006, for my painting Abduction of Europe. People from this profession recognized novelties in my work in Serbia as well and awarded it with Vuk’s Award for my contribution to painting and culture in 2020. The advantage of Paris compared to many other metropolises is the fact that, besides the Louvre and Museum Orsay, it also has Bobur, one of the greatest world museums of contemporary art. There you can see all tendencies of contemporary art and use its large library dedicated to art.

Measured by Old Masters. I go to the Louvre to socialize with great men of the painting brush. They are my best collocutors and mentors; they teach me everything that makes painting one of the most wonderful arts. I sometimes stay in the Louvre the entire day, ”speaking” with mysterious ingenious masters. When I visited the Louvre for the first time in 1972, I envied the guards for having the opportunity to socialize with the greatest painters and their works. Visual hunger is still following me when I visit any of the world museums; it leads me to continuous analyses of paintings and reconsideration of my own experiences. Works of old masters are the only parameters for measuring my own achievements on the scale of artwork valuation, and not only mine. I had the fortune and possibility to visit most of the most important world museums and they always unmistakably deciphered the history of cities they were located in, their tradition, culture and customs. I always came out enriched with memorized ”encyclopedias” from all stated areas and with catalogues of the most valuable paintings exhibited in them. Each museum is a picture and history of the nation it is located in.

Rescuing with Beauty. Traveling to different lands enrich any human being. For artists, it is also a kind of enlightenment and inspiration for new creations. All the richness we carry within interlaces and becomes enriched with new sights, experiences and cognitions. New ideas and new creations are born in such an alchemic merge, similar to the love dance of the queen bee and the male in heights under heavens, as Morris Maeterlinck described. A genuine creator must step into the dark forests of memory, as Actaeon did, to find his goddess of hunting bathed in clear waters of beauty. Any man’s aspiration towards the beautiful and the sublime leads to liberation from destruction, aggression and self-destruction. If we succeed in building beauty within ourselves, we will preserve both ourselves and the world around us from evil and destruction. An artist is not the one who will change the world, they just have the role of Hermes, herald of the gods: to indicate the existence of evil with their works.

Real Answer to the Epochal Question. Hypocrisy and dishonor which dominate the world today led to the disintegration of human consciousness and ethics. Besides the Covid-19 virus pandemic and fear of physical death, it is the deepest drama shaking mankind. Contemporary man is living in a spiritual cloaca and chaos of misunderstanding its own environment. All of us, people of the postmodern age, have a drained mind, washed out awareness, losing the power of reasoning and contemplating about its own existence in the world. Such a state of spirit is also reflected in artistic creativity. Therefore, the XX century and the time we live in are a period of great frustrations. In the field of art, this era has not offered anything except experiments. There are no great creations, no masterpieces, a great space opened for mass amateurism and averageness, for the invasion of kitsch. There is no progress at all, everything in art is moving and repeating in large historical cycles. Picasso reinterpreted and actualized the art of Neolith. ”Modern” art became antihuman and anti-Christian. Anachronism is actually modern art. I believe that the drama of our times can be explained only in classical language. I am doing what Marquez did, who wrote in Shakespearean language in order to be clear and convincing. I believe art can be the seed of awakening and reestablishing disturbed values, to serve as sanctuary from any attacks of disharmony, from mental evil and spiritual poverty, so that an artist can build new, more beautiful worlds in the small ”workshop of the soul”, for new generations, better and nobler than contemporary man.
At the beginning of my painting creativity, in the 1980s, I showed the moral tottering of our civilization at the end of the previous century in my paintings Crucifixions 1 and 2 and Last Supper in the Agony of the XX Century. I asked the question: Will we continue producing evil and suffocating beauty and nobility? This civilization will have to give the right answer to that question if it wishes to preserve itself from general self-destruction.

Possibility of Renewing Idyll. Banking as a system is the symbol of our times. It, as institutionalized financing of human horror, has never existed before. We are all more or less informed witnesses of financing large military projects such as ”Star War”, constructing new types of bombardiers, nuclear tests, whereas there is no reliable information about investing larger amounts of money into humanitarian projects and advancement of humanist sciences. Thus, money became the evil spirit of the planet, which obsesses man. Instead of serving the recovery of the ecosystem, making man as a cosmic being part of a cosmically dignified civilization, money is serving its destruction and deterioration to the level of modern primitivism, capable of provoking a planetary cataclysm. Man should return Earth to its original state, make it a flower garden through which man will move as an ancient demigod, and not a guineapig poisoned by nuclear experiments. Only then, after returning the planet to its beautiful, pure state, at the same time bringing civilization to the highest technological level, man will be worthy of becoming part of the high cosmic civilizations, because he will have his work as his identity card: preserved and wonderful planet Earth.

Fear of Comparing. Confronting great works from the past is neither easy nor painless for certain artists. One day in Brussels, while I was visiting the Royal Museum, I called one of my colleagues, a modernist painter, to join me while visiting the museum the next day. Apparently excited, he sincerely replied: ”Thank you so much for your invitation! Do you want me to have a shock and stop painting after I see those masters I cannot compare with!? I only go to the Museum of Modern Art. There I find those who are much closer and more like me by their capability, by the possibility to paint something like them.” I understood him; it is much easier that way for his weak talent and broken-down soul. It is really very risky and difficult today to dare set off to the path of mysteries of the soul. In the absence of any parameter for valuating a work of art, the doors are wide open for the invasion of averageness and positioning anything on a pedestal of a supreme work of art. Such a relationship encouraged armies of new ”artists” and, on the other side, forced supreme masters to retreat and find sanctuaries in their spiritual castles. The ultimate result of such a designed plan is a complete repression of anything called painting from the artistic stage. It is replaced with installations, performances, multimedia events and who knows what kind of concepts (tricks). People go to meaninglessness in the name of ”new creations”, to exiting their own skin. Just imagine saying that the Sun, which has been warming us for billions of years, is old-fashioned and that it should be replaced with something ”more suitable for modern age”.

Liberating Tradition. We find the epicenter of the planetary spiritual tsunami in world power centers. By putting art to the service of their (ideological) programs, they make painting their pamphlet servant. There is too much compliance and tributary crawling in Serbia, so such a form of expression is still wholeheartedly supported and favored. In countries which are art leaders, such an approach is recognized and rejected by many art theoreticians as well as artists, who pave their path on steady foundations of classicism. Some of the famous apologists of returning to classical values in painting are, for example, Christine Sourgins, art critic, Jean Claire, longtime director of the Picasso Museum, Aude de Kerros, art theoretician, Kosta Mavrakis, art theoretician, Jean-Louis Harouel… Opposite to the majority of those following ”modern art”, it is a nucleus from which new flowers of liberated authors will blossom. They will take over the torch of regenerated art, new yet old, into their hands. It is already visible in the most significant salons in Paris: artists with their starting point, their motto and support in tradition are growingly present. The stronghold for ”modern art” was the produced sensibility of present man, over-aroused by the esthetics of the ugly, resulting in rejecting any kind of artificial esthetics and suppressing the values created through centuries and representing the greatest cultural and civilizational heritage.

Exit. ”Where to head from this darkness if not where poetry, painting and women are?” (Dante Alighieri)
I will use a story of my late professor Miloš Bajić, who was prisoner in the ”Mauthausen” Concentration Camp: ”When it seemed that life had come to its end, in the most difficult moments, I imagined myself closed in a metal ball without a way out. Then I eased despair with reason and told myself: If a man finds himself in that ball, he will exit it through the same opening he entered it. That entrance-exit exists, it just needs to be discovered.
I save myself from this planetary downfall by cherishing love and beauty through painting. I find light and calmness in painting interesting people, in searching for the fine, invisible veils that encrust souls and the soft moss which creates warm smiles on faces of dear people. One of them is the portrait of my wife Seka. I avoid painting what makes the world ugly and morbid, I search for what can make it durable and illuminated. I put it all into paintings in my spiritual castle. That is my garden and my studio in it, which is why I consider myself privileged among Parisian painters.
I try to touch the beauty of the heavenly with my painting hand. On that road of exploring of beauty, I am just a grain of sea sand, but in the eye. I try to weave a thread of sparkling gold into the overdress of wonderful spiritual beauty of the Serbian nation and ornament the robe every nation is mantled with before the face of the world.


Mikan Aničić (Badovinci, Mačva, 1950). He graduated from the Academy of Arts in Belgrade in 1975, where he defended his master thesis (1980) in the class of Mladen Srbinović. He attended École des Beaux-Arts from 1982 to 1984, in the class of Pierre Caron, as scholar of the French government. He has been exhibiting independently since 1974 (”The Last Mill on the Drina”, Badovinci). He exhibited in Vrnjačka Banja, Belgrade, Paris, Zagreb, Metz, New York, Nantes, Konyak, Toulouse, Pirmasens, Biarritz, Herceg-Novi, Versailles, Gornji Milanovac, Igalo, Montreal, Kruševac, Varna, Valjevo… His works are kept in museums and collections around the world, from the USA to New Zealand, from Spain to Japan. He is winner of several awards and medals for art. He lives and works in Paris.


Consistent in Timeless Values
”...Mikan is a painter with a wide and varied opus, master of large format compositions, an artist who rejected (post)modern nomadism and sudden changes in style, emphasizing consistency, continuity and internal logic in creation. (…) After passing through various phases, from rural and visionary fantastic art to magic realism and mythological figuration, directed before all towards European modern-age museum heritage, he became a unique phenomenon on the European stage… He opposed nihilism as the dominant spirit of time, by beginning a great spiritual adventure of renewing value criteria. He made a Copernican turn in Serbian and French painting. He is one of our most significant authors in Paris, great master of European Ars Phantastica, and his contribution to the history of spirituality deviates from the ideas of Mediala.” (Dejan Đorić)


Superiorly Painting Ideas
”... Enchanted with the idea about an integral, synthetic painting, capable of accepting and understanding the voice of memory and tradition with the awareness about the unity of time… Direct analogies with great masters of the past, reminiscence of the renaissance and Spaniards, are only a starting point for the new idea of a painting lacking any sentimentality towards the ’beauty’ of form or nobility of material – color… One thing is certain: in the realm of knowledge and skill, Aničić reached such a degree of perfection in defining form, such virtuousness in arranging details into a fantastic composition, that we see it as ultimate painting skill.” (Sreto Bošnjak)


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