Mr. Pino Trostmann welcomes me to his atelier in Flora, Lapad bay and greets me warmly. He smiles a lot and asks many questions. Curious by nature, his mind wonders from topic to topic while we talk… Artists are usually not so charismatic and modest at the same time, but Mr. Trostann proves that there are exceptions. One of the biggest Dubrovnik artists, yet he seems so unaware of that fact, simple and honest, but very opinionated when it comes to certain topics. His work space actually feels like a cosy home. One can wander around this space for hours taking photos of the of objects, art works, papers, books, paints that are scattered in an ‘organized mess’ so pleasing to the eye.
Pino Trostmann has had about one hundred reperesentative solo exhibitions in Croatia and abroad and he also participated in numerous prestigious collective exhibitions. His works can be seen in numerous museums, galleries and collections all around the world. He is the winner of many highly regarded awards and recognitions, but more than anything he is the greatest living Dubrovnik artist.
What is Dubrovnik for you?
I was born and raised in Dubrovnik. For me, Dubrovnik is simply brilliant. I am thrilled that it’s such a Mediterranean city. At this point of my life I came to realise that Mediterranean is probably the most attractive place for life; the weather is perfect, it’s not too hot, or too cold, the season changes are beautiful. I love the vegetation here. For me, the vegetation itself is maybe even more interesting than people. There are no people in my paintings; just nature. I love Dubrovnik’s architecture; the one that that dates back to the City’s formation to one from about 100 years ago. That’s what I paint; small parts of architecture combined with Mediterranean vegetation. For me, Dubrovnik is paradise, the most beautiful thing in the world.
What’s your creative process like?
I mature very slowly. I am slow, I need a lot of time to understand something, I need the time to grow ! I am 77 years old, and I feel like I’m just at the begging of my painting career. Everything so far was just a preparation for this.
But you made so much already! Countless beautiful paintings…
Well, last summer, I visited Paris for the first time in my life. I’m not a type of person that likes to move around a lot. I went to see the large Pierre Bonnard exhibition, because I was fascinated with his work and I studied it for a long time. I find him very close to my personal painting style… Funny thing is that, one time, Bonnard even got arrested because the museum guard caught him fixing up one of his own paintings that was hanging at the museum wall. He was never quite satisfied with his work. Well, I can definitely relate to that. Even though my paintings may look like they were made in a single brush stroke, they actually take a lot of time, even a few years to finish. But I don’t make sketches, I paint directly to canvas. If I’m not happy with the result, I scrape the paint off and paint over it. Again, again and over again. The way to the simplicity is the hardest one, you need to grow to get there. It’s sometimes hard to be like a child and paint in a honest way, to paint from the heart. And that’s what this type of painting style is all about. After all, it’s expressionism.
What was the most touching moment for you as an artist?
It was extremely hot summer, 1960s, of course there was no air-condition… My wife was making spaghetti, the whole kitchen was full of steam from cooking. The entire family was there, talking loudly. Dripping with sweat and bothered with their conversation, I was trying to find the perfect shade of green for the sea I was painting. It took me hours, and I finally finished the painting. I turned around for a quick second, and my son, who was maybe 4 at the time, fascinated with the colour of the freshly painted sea yells “WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SEEEEEA!!!!” and slowly brushes his hand all over the freshly painted canvas. The color was all over it, I was crying on the inside, even though it was such a bitter-sweet moment. The child’s eyes full of honesty and his excitement about my painting… But that was the moment when I realised that I need my own art space, an atelier where I can concentrate and have some peace and quiet.
You don’t change your art form, the explosion of color is always constant…
As a young child I went to Ivo Dulcic’s evening school of portraiture, where he gathered the young art talents from Dubrovnik. It was my first professional training and I was only ten years old. I was enthralled by the artistic environment. I discovered Dubrovnik’s colorists like Masle, Pulitika etc. I fell in love with the colorist painting; bright, summer colors of Mediterranean. Later on, Antun Masle , a great teacher and even greater artist recognised my talent. In high-school I met Kosta Stranjić, who helped me a lot, intelectually and artistically.
You were a teacher for a long time. What advice would you usually give to your students?
WORK HARD! The results come from hard work and nothing else.
What is, in your opinion, necessary for the ballanced and prosperious life of every man?
Religion is something that can help the men go trough life. I don’t acknowledge religions, but I deeply respect them all! The core of every religion is the same. There is always a set of rules that teaches humans how to be good and how to respect one another. It’s the same in every holly book! Just like the law. That true essence of religion was always my guide, and that’s something what I practice. People need to be civilised in order to survive and prosper.