"We lived in Belgrade, Serbia as refugees for several years before I alone migrated to Australia in 1999. This set of events and experience of living in a country going through a dramatic geopolitical and cultural change had a great impact on my life and my art practice."
Interview by writer Keanu Arcadio
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I was born in Split, Croatia. My family left Split during the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia. We lived in Belgrade, Serbia as refugees for several years before I alone migrated to Australia in 1999. This set of events and experience of living in a country going through a dramatic geopolitical and cultural change had a great impact on my life and my art practice.
Once in Australia, I was able to study and have completed Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School, Sydney. I have gained my Honours (Ist class) and Masters of Visual Arts from the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.
It is mentioned that there are traces of Van Dyck and Rembrandt in your paintings, which contests marginally by form in your Roland’s Mother project. Could you go into depth into how you link your paintings to the Dutch masters?
I would not argue that I seek to establish this link explicitly or with any awareness in my work. However, this is also not entirely correct: my more recent work Constipation (2015), is partly made of a copy I painted after Van Dyck’s Portrait of a Sixty-year-old Man (1618). This work emerged from a sense of exasperation by the thought of the impossibility to make, see, or experience anything as nearly as good as Van Dyck’s paintings.
In contrast, I am finding it difficult to identify where this link, or my Van Dyck mania, is most apparent in my earlier work (including the Roland’s mother series). Perhaps this inability to recognise certain influences in my work comes as a result of the impact a large number of artists had on my work; from Dutch masters to contemporary artists (Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Sarah Lucas, Angela de la Cruz, Luc Tuymans, Oleg Kulik, Marlene Dumas, Victor Man and Mladen Stilinović just to name a few). I guess that this is what makes art-making interesting: this sense of forming impossible visual dialogues within one’s work.
The State Art series posits a critique of how we view portrayed world leaders. In the painting, Leader 2013, you depict the first president of Yugoslavia – Josip Broz Tito in a more recognizable Rembrandt format with an orbit of spot paintings that create a visual disturbance. Was the application of these spots intended to detract attention to negate the importance of Tito or is there more a historical reference to reading behind the spots?
Yes - Leader (2013) was, like many of my paintings from the State Art series, initially imagined as a genuine, official and conservative state portrait. After I have completed it, I had a strong desire to deface the portrait – hence the spots. However, the spots do not represent my critique of Tito, or capture any desire to render him as a negative figure in the history of my birth country.
Defacing of the leader’s face resulted from feeling unsated with this painting as a nostalgic act, and nostalgia for the pre-war years in general. One could say that I was disappointed about not being able to wallow in the YU/ utopian nostalgia.
In the Starseed de Pasolini project you depart with the constraints of painting and move more into a sculptural-theatrical dimension. Would you say this project served as a new direction and would you also say that this project was a homage to Pasolini’s oeuvre or even to his themes such as the critique of Catholicism, sadistic nature as evident in Gimp 2016 and Signora E 2016?
Yes, I Starseed di Pasolini (2016) was a continuation of my previous attempts to extend painting to sculpture. Preceding Pasolini series by less than a year were the Opening night (painter, sitter, muse, 2016) works I have developed and exhibited in Sydney, and which were already marking the move in this direction. However, it was all still new and looking back at the installation shots of Signora E and Gimp, I can still recall the excitement mixed with the most horrific doubt.
Pasolini and Roy Andersson are two filmmakers who influenced my work on par with the above-mentioned artists. In this sense, I Starseed di Pasolini indeed was a homage to Pasolini and his film Theorem (1968). I am familiar with the view that Pasolini communicated his Marxist, anti-bourgeoisie critique with this film, yet what has attracted me here the most were not the symbolic representations, or the society critique, but rather a narrative of the obsession that is at the same time hilarious and tragic, and the characters like Signora E being both heroes and the sad, obsessed fools.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
Sydney artists Sarah Goffman and Nick Strike’s works currently on view in 55 Sydenham rd ARI in Sydney extrapolate and capture brilliantly the current mood in Australia and what it means to work as an artist here and now.
In this sense, Strike’s film (FOOT PICTURE: THE END OF THE REEL, 2018) showing the repetition of a trampoline practice where the figure of the main actor is burnt out from each frame, and Goffman’s installation (I am not Gina Rinehart, 2018) dominated by the large men business suits dividing the space in half, resonate perhaps too well with my local art community. Both exhibitions also mark the end of the 55 Sydenham rd, one of the most successful Artist Run Initiatives in Sydney. http://www.55sydenhamrd.com/
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I am not too concerned with establishing and following a certain routine in my studio. Although working consistently, not one day in the studio is the same. There are days when I feel that it is crucial to withdraw, to focus on researching, seeing exhibitions, or thinking about what next. This is normally followed by the binge-working in the studio. As an outcome, my studio is either empty and neat, or very messy, dirty and difficult to move around. Each cycle ends with cleaning up and starting from the beginning.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I have been recently selected to participate in The John Fries Award (JFA), an annual prize for early career artists from Australia and New Zealand. Selected artists’ work will be exhibited in the JFA Finalist Exhibition in late September 2018.
In October 2018 I am having a solo exhibition at the True Estate gallery in Melbourne.
All images courtesy of the artist
Publish date: 30/5/18