Interview for "Tanjug" News Agency
Vladimir Labat Rovnjev is an extraordinary artist whose unique artistic expression has attracted attention of both domestic and world cultural public in the past forty years.
Awaiting an all-senses experience at a concert scheduled for April 21, at the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad, Vladimir Labat introduces us to the unusual world of Acoustic Sculptures Labat (ASL), tells a story about creative art as life energy, reveals the secret of perceiving actual reality and defines his own vision of meaningful existence.
1. We could say that you are the exemplar of a Renaissance artist. What you do is sculpture, painting, poetry, music, heraldry... How would you introduce yourself?
What I like to say about myself is that I am an artisan. Artistry is a magnificent skill, so knowing any craft has become a privilege in the time of technological perfection, and manual work a priceless experience. I take pride in the fact that there are sixteen crafts in my studio through which I can materialize my dreams, and what makes me even happier is that this game has occupied new young people, who realize their artistic being with great passion and inspiration. A view of a creation that comes to life through the use of a variety of materials and ways of manipulation, which once had only been an idea, imagination and desire, brings about the kind of peace that acknowledges humanity. But, at the same time, it brings unrest that is the driving force in eternal quest for perfect shapes, sounds, colors...
2. When you find yourself in front of unique Acoustic Sculptures Labat (ASL), you are perplexed about whether you are standing in front of a sculptural piece or a musical instrument. Playing music on sculptures! It sounds fascinating, and therefore magnetically attractive.
Perhaps, knowing what’s in front of you may not be important and trying to define a piece of art that breaks the boundaries between different arts and unites them into a brand new creation that captures all the senses. What’s important is to be completely open, curious and ready to endlessly watch and listen, because the essence of these sculptures is to unite space and sound, and they don’t define it by some measuring units. I am always wondering if the shape, material of the sculpture and the procedure of its production are the ones that determine the sound, its color and tonality, or it is completely vice versa. As you play music on such sculptures, more often than not you have the impression that before you they are changing and shaping according to the sounds that flow out of them. Acoustic Sculptures Labat have emerged as a strong inner urge to activate my complex artistic being by examining the boundaries of various disciplines and trying to initiate some new developments. For the past 40 years I have been overwhelmed and inspired by the work on perfecting these sculptures that are unique in the whole world. I’m even more inspired when I see how they affect everyone who comes across them.
3. Please tell us something about Svaromfal. What is it?
Svaromfal (The Inner Light) is an eclectic musical band oriented towards ARS integral improvisation with elements of spiritual and jazz music, and with all its members allured by art and forever captivated by light, music and sound. Beside my wife, my younger son and two great young guys, at the concert in Novi Sad we will be joined by the world-renowned jazz musicians Hamid Drake and William Parker. Once again, we will try to capture, understand and convey every personal tone, chord, harmony and beauty of music, as well as all other sensual experiences. We will attempt to feel and experience it together with the audience and keep that newly discovered light in the heart of our being. No music performance can be the same as any previous one, nor can a concert be repeated. It’s all a matter of moment, inspiration, being in harmony with yourself, with the instrument, with other musicians, but also with the audience. If this balance is achieved, the experience of moving or even erasing space and time is priceless.
4. What is going to happen at the concert on April 21st?
I am sure that the concert will be an unforgettable event, both for me and for all attendees in the hall of the Serbian National Theatre. From experience, I know how people react to sounds that they may be hearing and experiencing for the first time. I don’t like to say that what is happening during the multimedia spectacle is some kind of magic or wonder, because, the truth is that the potential of each individual is being awakened during the performance. When these individual beatitudes come together and connect with what we give on the scene, then the entire space starts vibrating with the energy of love, of goodness, and we feel these vibrations for a long time after the concert and take them to the outside world. We are all sensitive beings and each one of us carries within a divine spark more efficiently inspired and triggered by reviving, creative, healing notes.
5. You live and work in Popovica, a quiet green place on the mount of Fruška Gora. In what extent it affects your creativity?
Fruška gora is a treasure house of natural and historical cultural values stored in the physical and spiritual body of this mountain that I like to call the Holy Mountain. At this place it’s impossible not to feel layers of Christian spirituality since the Byzantine times. I am grateful that, by the will of God, this nature has been given to us to preserve it, but also constantly upgrade it by creative, imaginative approach in order to achieve a better and more meaningful coexistence. I believe that those invisible traces for ordinary sensory perception and the wonderful aura emanating from Fruška Gora have greatly contributed to my better communication with myself and the space around me. Perhaps this place exactly is responsible for my personal spiritual and artistic work, for which I contend is the hardest, but also the most valuable form of work as it is being realized with a lot of love, renunciation and faith. My duty as a human is to pass on such experiences and acquired knowledge for the benefit of others.
6. How much courage is needed to deal with an unconventional artistic expression in our time?
Art is truth and beauty, and they will always depend on those who see them and how they experience them. My aim is to get as many people as possible to go through the identical emotional experience as myself in the process of creation, and become aware of their better, more beautiful and creative side, through that experience. My Slavic origin and growing up on fairy tales that glorify courage, determination, love for your people and tradition, have marked and defined me as a man not afraid of seeking answers to questions about the meaning of life and constantly questioning if he has done something properly and enough. Have I managed to get closer to the necessary spiritual-material balance, touch someone’s heart and help them illuminate their own path? These are not questions of courage, but of recognizing and living with honest and harmonious spiritual, mental and physical impulses.