Rikardo Druškić is a self-taught visual artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who decided to create his own path, different from the dominant elements of the postmodern era. As stated on his website, through his art, Rikardo searches for the meaning of life and the truth that drives him along this path. He creates intuitively, often without any preconceived plan. Basic drives of his creative process are love, fear, spirituality, and empathy. His work is always the result of his introspection, which takes place on both conscious and subconscious levels.
As for the first question, could you tell us a bit about your choice to express yourself through visual arts. How did it all start?
Everything started with my birth, even before that actually, the moment my parents met. Genetics formed me as much as the experiences I had, which make me a man I am today. In connection with that, my beginnings were actually in my senior high. Then, as a boy afraid of the world, art gave me sanctuary from the reality in which I wasn’t accepted. Because of that, in the beginning it was hard for me to understand what I was doing. As time passed, my perception and understanding of reality started to change. Now I’m a man who knows enough about himself, his purpose, internal and external, and that’s how I behave. Art is a medium which I use to communicate, first with myself and then with my environment. This gives me the opportunity to enter other, non-material realms. There I find my truth, feed my soul and have my visions which I clearly materialize through my creation. They let me feel the wholeness with my inner being.
“Awakening Consciousness” is a series of paintings which were exhibited in 2020 in History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Do they represent a breaking point in your career? How did these paintings affect your growth?
“Awakening Consciousness” is a series of paintings which were produced in 2018. Their first exhibition was in the City Hall in Sarajevo, and after that in The Center for Fine Arts BOZAR in Belgium. These are two of my most important exhibitions. City Hall is a symbol of the city where I grew up, and BOZAR hosted exhibitions of Picasso and Matisse. This created a big responsibility. The paintings are autobiographical because they were in the synchronicity with my own “rebirth” which happened when I was 27 years old. Impulses which were always too intense for me were ruling my being, and I was harming many people around me. I was my own biggest enemy. As Friedrich Nietzsche said “The tree that would grow to Heaven must send its roots to hell.”, and that’s exactly what happened to me when I hit my mental rock bottom in 2017 when I started to “awaken”.
“Surviving”, “Awakening Consciousness”
Sarajevo City Hall
Everything happened very quickly, and I remember that period very well, because my life got a drastic turn. Eastern religions helped me the most in my rebirth. Through them I, among other things, learned the magic of nature. After that, I get acquainted with the thought of Karl Gustav Jung, who became one of the foundations of my thoughts and view of the world. I managed to turn my demons into my angels. The intensity of my thoughts and emotions, which used to be my biggest enemies, now become my biggest standfast. Buddhist doctrine helped me to get acquainted with the concept of “awakening”, and thus this series of paintings arose.
“Awakening of Consciousness” was a diary of my change, my awakening that I painted in eleven paintings, and which I thought other people should know about as well. I think that every modern man should get acquainted with Eastern culture. It offers a different view of the world than the one we are calibrated to here in the West. For a part of the audience, these paintings still represent my best works. I was always bothered by the material-focused perceptions of a Western man. Terms like reputation, power, fame, for me were concepts I never gave importance to. My value system has always been intangible. Buddhism clearly pointed to contemporary problems and was very practical in solving them. Although my thinking went further in my desire to know the truth, many of the ideas that I first came to know, I implement today in everyday life. Over time, this cycle of paintings has become a mini platform for doing higher good. Pragmatically, I wondered how can I help people in my country? In more than a year, through three projects in which I first exhibited my work, together with three other authors, we collected more than 11K BAM, which later went to the non-profit humanitarian organization Pomozi.ba. It is important to mention that the “Awakening Consciousness” project is supported by the European Union in BiH, but also by its High Representative Johann Satller and the Swedish Ambassador Stromquist Johanna. It was during that period that the exhibition at the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina that you mentioned at the beginning of the question took place. It was a physical manifestation of the online project “Awakening Consciousness”.
High Representative Johann Satller, responded to the project “Awakening Consciousness”
With Swedish Ambassador Stromquist Johanne
A lot of your works are presented in Berlin, Vienna, New York… Does growing up in a differently energized surrounding such as Sarajevo make a difference when presenting your work to western cultures?
When I ask myself which are the traits that I value the most, then I see that I was most influenced by my father and my mother, meaning genetics. The myth that man is born as a “blank slate” and later shaped by society has long been established by modern science as inaccurate. Man, just like all other animals, works with programmed code. One of those codes is our instinct for survival. In Sarajevo, I always felt like an outsider. I do not blame the city for that. Sarajevo is a big part of my material identity and I love my city a lot. Also, large part of my audience lives in Sarajevo. Art speaks in universal language, but even that has not helped me to reduce that feeling of rejection. I am a highly individualized person. Group dynamics never suited me, and I always opposed it. Over time, first with the help of psychology, and later through other sciences, I learned to articulate my emotions through thoughts. Now I know that the price of being a member of a group is the impossibility of personal opinion. I felt all of this empirically, on my own skin. Each of my attempts to be part of a collective or group resulted in me feeling my inner voice being suffocated, which I never allowed. I am a lone wolf and I walk my own path, building my own system of values and interests. That path was crucial in the process of individuation. One of my hardest fights and biggest victories was to feel the love for this, for myself just the way I am. That is why the great minds of our past helped me the most, whose thoughts guided me but also showed me that my view of the world is not wrong.
“The Magical Call of the Shamanic Flute”
I call myself a seeker of truth. Truth is my deep, fundamental mover, which, along with God and art, is the foundation of my everyday life. A person who is part of a group cannot be a seeker of truth. The truth, whatever it may be, good or evil, is always at the extreme, at the end of the cliff, and there the person is alone. People are afraid of the end of the cliff, because when you are there, you can see the abyss. And in the abyss are all the repressed demonic beings of our subconscious and darkness. Only when a person is isolated, then the thoughts can become pure, and the light can show the way. In this regard, I do not think that Sarajevo had a great influence on my art or its presentation. My understanding of art is the opposite of what contemporary postmodernist thought says. I believe in the love, truth, magic and dimension of the invisible. It drives me and gives me purpose. When I create – I create what my inner beings find. I have no autonomy over that. I don’t find my works, they find me, so my art is mythopoetic. This is why my approach is completely different from the vast majority of my colleagues who call themselves postmodernists.
“Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die”
Postmodernism rejects metaphysics, abstract, and relativizes the importance of the beautiful. It strongly opposes the medieval transcendental ideals under which I live: the truth, the good, the beautiful. One of the postmodernist axioms is that every art must be politically and socially engaged in order to have value, and the ones which don’t are only decorative. I oppose that! First, at its maximum potential, this statement on political and social engagement can only be a part of the truth. Second, as someone who already has experience, I have a sense of duty to tell my younger colleagues that the most important thing is to listen to your inner voice. He will best tell us anything that interests us. Every man, every artist, should look for answers within himself, never outside. Art has always been in charge, in addition to religion, of the spiritual development of man.
The truth is that there is a lot of poor quality content today. We can “blame” democracy and liberal capitalism for this, which have made art much more accessible than before, when only a handful of the chosen could deal with it. Just because it has a lot of bad content doesn’t mean that there aren’t artists who talk to God and whose art is magic. It is this magic through art, among other things, that gives color, warmth and meaning to human lives and souls. One of the things this pandemic has shown is that during the greatest crises, man turns to the spiritual, the beautiful, the divine. He turns to art. It is a metaphysical potential that will be in us forever. That potential is repressed, and just as it is with all repressed content, it always finds a way to surface. What was once filled by God is now filled by political ideologies. They have, to my great regret, found their way into art, but also into other academic communities and even sports. In my quest for knowledge I do a lot of research and reading. Over time, it has helped me to learn to give respect to people who are completely different from me. We cannot all think the same. Not everyone is set up to search for magic and other dimensions, just as not everyone is set up to be a social justice warrior. Until we learn this, the gap created by polarization will become larger, and the social context more and more complicated to solve, with the evolutionary threat that comes with artificial intelligence. We must, as a human beings, prepare.
“Mundus Novus 1.01 : Robot Who’s Afraid of The Butterfly”
“Mundus Novus 1.01: Robot Who’s Afraid of The Butterfly” is your latest work, focused on AI. You presented artificial intelligence as a potentially good way for humans to cooperate. Am I correct; would you elaborate?
The Buddha talks about the middle way and Aristotle mentions the golden mean. They both talk about the same thing – proper life is life between two extremes. The man gets carried away and loses touch with reality. Science is my counter-tendency to the irrational. Art gives me wings and science prevents me from getting too close to the Sun. I like to research psychology the most. Psychology is my first love. If I weren’t into art, my first choice would be the science they once called the science of the soul. Psychology has helped me get to know myself better and will have my attention forever. After that, lately, I’ve been researching three topics the most; neuroscience, quantum physics and artificial intelligence. Neuroscience deals with the nervous system, its structure and development. Neuroscientists focus on the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions. What I especially like about this science is its practicality in everyday life. It corresponds to my goal of constant progress. New research results are constantly coming out, the implementation of which improves human life at various levels. Quantum physics is very complicated. In essence, it says, among other things, that the nature of reality at the level of the smallest particles is not what we are used to within the 3 dimensions in which we live. The quantum coupling suggests that two atoms, although distant materially, can be connected, by changing one atom the other one changes. Artificial intelligence is a topic that everyone should think about. From time immemorial, man has strived to create a mechanical being that resembles God.
Machine learning relies on memorizing patterns to simulate human actions or thoughts. The more data there is, the better and more successfully machine can predict. The process of automation has largely begun, and it is predicted that in twenty years, almost 80 percent of the work now done by man – will start doing machines. The question is what will happen to all those people who lost their jobs. There are a number of people who are optimistic about this problem. They think the world will be a better place then. There will be many more artists. It is a utopia that will not manifest in the real world. Man is a complex being. Work gives him a structure through which he has stability. It is not the only purpose of work – material gain. What happens to man, when his existence is based on chaos – chaos ensues. We are already inferior beings in many ways and it is very possible that the algorithm will treat us as a danger at some point. What will be his reaction? From the very beginning, fantasy has been an integral part of the development of artificial intelligence. Mundus Novus is my work that contributes to this topic. I didn’t do it with forethought, but the flow and arrival of the idea seemed natural to me.
The work, through the interactions of the characters, presents the different outcomes of the problem we face. Homo Sapiens is only one micro-moment in relation to the history of the planet Earth. As a part of the painting, I set up a situation in which a man hands a torch to a robot, in peace, wondering: is it natural in evolution for a new and better species to come? The Robot offers a different view of machine tools; they have the same emotions as us – love, fear, empathy. What happens to the first robot who gains consciousness, emotions, the first time he sees a creature like a butterfly? We as humans are used to the butterfly is innocent and gentle, because we are programmed like that, but will the algorithm be the same? This relationship between two characters, a butterfly and a robot. talks about this topic in a somewhat absurd way. In addition to the great threat, the benefits of artificial intelligence are enormous and they are already ubiquitous. There are already significant implementations in finance, national security, health, criminal justice, transport. These developments create significant economic and social benefits. It is important to say that after this work I got an idea for a project, which will actually be a whole cycle of paintings that will deal with this problem.
Continuation of the project Mundus Novus, “Adam and Eve”
You are joining residency in Greece, as a part of Siilk Gallery program. What are your plans there?
My life is routine to the point that I know in advance what I will do for a few weeks. After painting, I like to spend time alone in nature. Nature is one of my greatest truths. I feel great respect and admiration for her. With Buddhism, I learned the magic of nature, with which I began to change myself. I discovered another type of life dynamic. I discovered people who live by other laws of energy. These were the laws that suited me better than the city laws that brought unrest to my certainly restless being. Nature also helped me by giving me the courage to get closer to God, which ultimately started my awakening. Now I enjoy the peace which going in nature provides me. When I’m not in nature, then I like to enjoy art the most. I like listening to music, watching movies, series and animations the most. This kind of routine life gives me security in relation to which I can be the most fruitful. The plan provides a structure through which life gains stability, but it has its drawbacks. The Taoist symbol yin-yang symbolically speaks of two dualistic territories, which are seemingly opposite, but are actually connected and interdependent. The two territories are known and unknown, order and disorder. Proper life is living with one foot in order and with the other one in a mess. Order gives peace, security, stability, but in disorder, in unknown territory, man has the opportunity to progress the most. Too much order leads to tyranny, and too much disorder leads to instability and decay of structures. For me, my departure to Greece is a way out of the routine comfort zone in which I live in Sarajevo. Apart from being the birthplace of democracy, Athens is the cradle of Western civilization. Athens was the heart of ancient philosophy. Each of my travels has enriched me and made me a better person. In addition to wanting to get to know the culture, traditions and people, I plan to work diligently in Athens so that the Greek audience can see the best version of my works. After a month of painting, I will have the opportunity to exhibit my work at the Siilk Gallery. The exhibition will last a month.
Work process on the rooftop in Sarajevo
Do you have an advice for artists at the beginning of their career? Is there a trick how to approach art, or even ourselves, while forming?
As I said, a man is born programmed. Much of this code is deterministic and cannot be changed. Every person is born with his own limits within which he can act. One of the basic tasks of every young person should be to learn to listen to their body, to read his code, as well as to reprogram himself from imposed social norms that do not allow a man to think for himself. It would be natural for young people to have the help of more experienced ones in this process, they are the bearers of wisdom. Unfortunately, a young man can only rely on himself. This is best seen in our education system. It is not normal for the system that emerged in the early 20th century to be the same today. Whether this was the initial intention – I do not know, but it proved to be an excellent tool for unconsciously enslaving people. Instead of learning how to think for themselves, young people are taught how to become servants of the system, how to obey the commands of those from above. That is a big reason behind collective apathy. I further think that young people choose their vocation too early. No 18-year-old is independent enough to choose their life vocation, as they are already confused young people often influenced by parents who, although they want the best, have a vision for their child, which does not have to correspond to what that child really is. It’s also one of the reasons why young people are unhappy, because they do jobs they don’t like. The process of self-realization. Jung calls it individuation. Such a person is a psychologically mature person. Today we witness that there are very few such people. For the most part, people are torn between their desires, fears, and opportunities. So I say, it is crucial to learn to listen to your body.
I think every young person should ask themselves what they want out of life. After asking this question and getting an answer that may not come right away, two questions need to be asked: are the wishes in line with its capabilities and how much effort are they willing to put into making it come true? People mostly see the surface. They don’t care more deeply. In my case they see material achievements; new paintings, murals, international exhibitions. What they don’t see are my sacrifices. My work day starts at half past five in the morning. Often, especially at the beginning of the week, it can end around five PM. I almost don’t have a social life. But these are conscious decisions, because I’ve understood the answers to the questions of what I want and how much I am ready to give. I want to create mondial works, and I am ready to give everything. I’m not even close to my goal yet – I see huge opportunities for progress, and I’m on the right track. I want to reach my full potential. Potential is a term that speaks of the future. With potential, man first discovered that he can control time. By postponing current profits, taking sacrifices in the present, we have the opportunity to change our future. This is called delayed gratification. My whole life has been focused on artistic progress. From so much focus on art, when I’m not painting, art started coming to my dreams. It is one of the most beautiful gifts God has sent me. In my dreams I paint, I often talk to the characters, sometimes I get ideas for new works.
I respect all people. Everyone’s pain is something that has my attention, especially if it is from my immediate environment. What I will say may not be popular, but my heart and intention are pure, so I think I have the right to comment. A lot of artists who complain about how hard it is for them, how much the state does nothing for them, are actually big non-workers. I never liked the role of a victim! When they don’t create, and they almost never create, they waste their time not getting deeper into themselves. Where does this egocentric idea that they deserve more come from? It comes from the fear of failure and from the idea that it is always better to blame others for your personal failures. This is not how heroes are created, and heroes change the world. The truth is that we live in a very small, poor country, where having the title of an artist is not a privilege. I say this now only as a witness from the city in which I live, a large number of young people who have exceptional talent have begun their careers in art, painting, acting, comics, film. All these people are separated from their colleagues by one thing: work ethic.
We are very undisciplined people. In general, the frequency here is very low for people. This can be seen in the topics that young people talk about. Most often, these are gossips about diminishing success and projecting personal demons onto others. Also, there is very little quality art content in Sarajevo. While it’s sad, it’s good news for all artists who want to make something big out of their lives. In Sarajevo, unlike other cities in the region, where there is much more content, it is much easier to shine. Why does someone who has no work ethic, no work habits, think that going to Berlin, Paris or London will make some success? Well, there every third person is considered an artist. A lot of people talk bad about social networks. This is because they always focus on the bad in everything. For me, social networks are an ingenious invention. You need to know how to use them. On Instagram, I got the opportunity to meet fascinating painters, which I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. You know what they all have in common? The amount of work and effort they put into their creative work on a daily basis. I would go back to the previous question. My advice to all young people is to divide life and its phenomena into two parts: those they can influence and those they can’t. In this regard, no young artist can change the system or the country in which they live. That is simply impossible. The state is changing systematically, and it takes generations to change the consciousness of the electorate to make the situation better. What can change, clearly and concretely, is one’s worldview. So really big changes start from the inside out, not the other way around.
“While Meditating, the Buddha Sailed the Cosmos and Imagined a World Where People Love Each Other”
“It Was Once Upon A Time”
We are witnessing demotivation in our environment, in our immediate reality. Is there a way out of passivity?
This is the most difficult question so far. It is difficult to talk about motivation, about getting out of passivity when the problems that many people face in our country are existential. I want to take this answer in another direction. John Varvaeke, a psychology professor at Caden University, came to my mind. He says that in modern society we have a ‘meaning crisis’. Religion has always been a pillar of man. Nietzsche declared the death of the god in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, but also warned of the consequences. Modern man has conspiracy ideologies or theories instead of higher purposes, but they cannot replace God. A man who has no higher purpose turns to nihilism, and there are all the elements of the modern age: a lack of ethics, morals, courage and honor. All of these are topics that make a lot more sense in the context of Western countries. We in Bosnia have much bigger problems.
Ethno-national enthusiasm makes a dominant part of atmosphere in our society. We are one turbo folk country, as is the most of the Eastern Europe. Similarly, there is a percent of people which doesn’t support this. But to give the Devil its due, ten voices of radicals are always heard more than thousand voices of normal people. Basic instincts suit people here the best. We are witnessing the horrors of the war that was behind us. One cannot help but wonder what kind of man can take a knife in his hand and take someone’s life. I am aware of the demonic capacity of every human being, but I guess there should be a boundary between humans and animals. Such a level of awareness is best suited to politicians who are at the top of such parties. They do not aim for a better and more progressive Bosnia and Herzegovina! Why would they, if that meant they would lose their position of power. From a psychological point of view, power is more valuable than money. Because of power, one can very easily lose touch with reality, and that is how our politicians often look. Fear is a tool used to manage people. Other people are always demonized and create a context of the story within which it is necessary to protect their vital national interest. People are hungry, thirsty and barefoot, driven by hatred, and party leaders, who dine on the account of citizens’ taxes. Nationalism which is actually a continuation of tribalism is the lowest level of consciousness. We here often behaved like prehistoric tribes. I’ve heard it somewhere, and I agree with that one hundred percent; politicians are a reflection of the people who live in it. Democracy has its major flaws, but in principle it is very simple: power of majority governs. What does that say about Bosnia? It says the average person in Bosnia is not educated enough. He hates another because of their religion.
Do you, as an artist who creates pieces focusing on more general picture of the world, have a piece of advice for leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
I am lucky to live in Sarajevo. Cosmopolitan values are more or less retained here, but in contact with people from other cities I hear horrible things. The war continued in people’s minds and it is only a question of when it will manifest again. I cannot give a concrete answer, which will have credibility and value. It takes a generational change of consciousness, so that in fifty or hundred years, for example, we have a healthy Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is not impossible. We have the example of the Nordic countries, which were the poorest in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. These are now the most progressive societies, the ones with which each other is compared. They made their change through education. Instead of theory, they taught their children through practice how to live. In our country, the largest number of young people who have the potential go to other countries in search of a better future. Who can blame them? Many of my closest friends have left or are planning to leave the country. These are people whose potential is huge. Sometimes I imagine myself, in thirty years, I will remain the only one of my immediate environment to live here. My thoughts are with my compatriots, but how can they essentially help in this seemingly hopeless situation? That is why I launched the “Awakening Consciousness” platform – with one goal – to help the most vulnerable.
“Folie a Deux”
In the end, I would say that this interview is my picture of the world. I do not impose my thoughts as the ultimate reality, I am aware of the fact that we are not all adults in the same environment. If we look at the world only as material, to me things were made easier in relation to the environment. I have never had existential problems. Yet I cannot look at the world through other people’s eyes. I always talk about everything from experience. I know that most artists are not happy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I sympathize. Nevertheless, it is not my reality and it would be unfair of me to take on someone else’s narrative. My everyday life makes sense now, but it wasn’t always like that, on the contrary. My life for the most part was very dark, and I was very self-destructive. I think it is important to know that life can be fulfilling and beautiful, even in gray Bosnia and Herzegovina. Everyone has their own, personal path, but I think there are collective behavioral facts: the ones which are definitely good for the person and the ones which definitely are not.