Ljuba was still a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade when, in 1959, he experienced the shock of surrealism upon seeing the collection of Baron Urvater. The following year, he and several young artists founded the Mediala movement (meaning, "honey and dragon") to express desire and fear, alternately or simultaneously. In the fall of 1963 he arrived in Paris carrying a roll of his five best canvases, which immediately caught the interest of René de Solier, who had just published L'Art Fantastique, and the gallery owner Marcel Zerbib, who mounted an exhibition of Ljuba's work at Galerie Diderot. All of this happened at around the same time as the death of André Breton, whom Ljuba had met once at Galerie lolas on Boulevard Saint-Germain, but had not dared approach, having been so impressed by the old lion. Two other leading surrealists took him into their patronage, and showed with their constant support that he was going in the right direction. Patrick Waldberg first arranged for Ljuba to participate in the 1969 exhibition, Signes d'un renouveau surréaliste, at Galerie Isy Brachot in Brussels, and Résonances surréalistes, in 1970 at Galerie Armand Zerbib (brother of Marcel Zerbib) in Paris. André Pieyre de Mandiargues further intervened on his behalf in the catalog to his exhibition of twenty-five paintings at Galerie de Seine, in May-June 1970, stating, "If Ljuba is related to surrealism, which according to me is unquestionable, it is mainly through Dalí...That being said, as it had to be, I hasten to add that I do not in the least see Ljuba as a sort of Dalí disciple, and that between them the differences are as vivid and manifest as the similarities." In fact, the comparison is not obvious, and Mandiargues supports his claim thus: "The apparition of female busts in the foreground, with flaming hair or manes, 'little boxes,' eggs, and other elements that belong to Dalí." The real similarity is in their science of painting—each of them knew how to com-bine classicism and modernism with virtuosity. Henceforth living in Paris—with the loyal support of Tessa Herold and her gallery—and spending his summer holidays on an island in the Adriatic, Ljuba undertook an intense period, producing fantastic paintings, often large format, in which appeared androids, mutants, monsters and nude women as disturbing as they are desirable, all in an atmosphere that enveloped them in brightly colored particles or concealed them in a glowing explosion. In Ljuba's paintings we behold splendid and threatening architectures, forests haunted by terrible presences barely glimpsed, or whose eyes shine through the leaves: mysterious lakes and inaccessible mountains—their formal quality calling to mind Piranesi, Monsu Desiderio or Böcklin, but with a specificity nonetheless recognizable at first glance as Ljuba's. Demons swarm in this world, inspired by the painter's childhood in Serbia, where his maternal grandfather was famous for his exorcisms. There are also many death's-heads in his canvases—reminiscent of baroque painting—and effects of anamorphosis borrowed from mannerist painting, as Ljuba was an expert in renaissance styles. Ljuba is also a deep spirit, steeped in the pessimistic philosophy of Schopenhauer, while also en-joying science fiction. All of these dispositions insure the originality of his approach. Several books have been written about Ljuba, and several films, including L'Amour monstre by Walerian Borowczyk (1978), and Ljuba by Jean-Marie Drot 0981), but he continued to paint with the asceticism of a monk on Mount Athos. Ljuba's exhibitions are never pedestrian: in May 2005 at Galerie Abel Rambert on the Rue des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he showed only one painting, Le Rêve des Fleurs vénéneuses (8' x 9 '), which covered the entire back wall.
Born 1934 in Tuzla, Yugoslavia.
The Temptations, Afterwards, 1988-89