In memoriam-Ljuba Popovic

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear family members,

On behalf of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA), the member of which he was, albeit it could not have been any other way, I am not standing here to bury Mr Ljuba Popovic, to ineptly quote Shakespeare, but to praise him. I did not have the privilege of meeting him in person: why would he even have cared for such acquaintance, anyway? However, I cannot but reflect on the shadow that had been ominously cast in the past few years over the relationship between the deceased and the SASA. If I were a rascal, I could wash my hands of this matter by stating that their misunderstandings were the problem of some other people in some other times unknown to me, but I won't and I have no right to do so. There is a thought of another, unfortunately also late academician, which is whirling in my mind especially today: that people with talent are those of the rarest kind, and those whose talent is realized through everyday toiling labor and behind whom their creations and work will remain forever, such as Mr Ljuba Popovic, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And that is why such people should be cherished! For that reason I stand here and now, full of respect, and without any shame and hesitation, on behalf of this institution that I represent by chance, and wish to sincerely and, unfortunately, posthumously, utter these unusual Serbian words: “Ljuba Popovic, we are sorry and please forgive us!“ for all the mistakes and insults, if there were any and however the deceased might have understood them, for the misunderstandings that others tended to abuse and they will continue to abuse them. The meeting that our mutual friends were arranging for us and at which I could have told him all this in person while he was alive was, alas, preceded by his death.

Reflecting on the work of this great artist and your fellow citizen, a story comes to my mind about an archetypal relation between a student and a teacher which, if my fading memory serves me right, was actually told by Mr Ljuba Popovic. Namely, I will try to improvise: a student, let's say Ljuba Popovic himself, during the exercises at the Academy was working on his painting, and a discrete professor, let's say Milunovic, was standing behind him and at one moment he scrupulously and carefully suggested to the student: “Colleague, if you would put a little bit of blue on this spot, the painting would be brilliant.“ The student threw his brush almost in a barbarogenius manner, refused aesthetic intervention and in his creative exclusivity he protested: „If I put blue color here, then this wouldn't be my work, but yours“, saying the name of the teacher. Decades have passed since then, the painting was never finished and it still stands in the corner of the studio. In the autumn of his own life, the former student and now great painter who surpassed his teacher, was lying in his studio looking at this painting and thinking: “What a brilliant painting it would have been if I had put a little bit of blue there.“

On the collective painting of our yearnings and often neglected contemplativeness and beauty (if this is the right word to define his painting, which I much doubt), Mr Ljuba Popovic finally and unquestioningly, and above all, timely, put his share of blue, his share of blueness in which we, quite undeservingly, also appear better. On behalf of the SASA I want to say this as a farewell: “Travel in peace, hegumen, and do not feel sorry for the monastery, because you painted your share in our church down to the last detail.“

Let there be praise and glory to Ljuba Popovic