Interviews | July 12, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

Interview: Pedja Djaković
Luca Curci talks with Pedja Djaković, during HYBRID IDENTITIES, first appointment of BORDERS INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2023, held in Venice at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.

“Being born in the neighbouring Balkans, my art has always been deeply rooted in my own history and tradition, but I have also searched for inspiration beyond any political, physical, and cultural borders from the very beginning of my artistic vocation. Fortunately, I had vast access to foreign movies, music, and culture in general, and I could not help but be impressed and deeply influenced by the traditions so different from those I was born in. Italy has always held a special place in my scale of values, and I have always felt Fellini, Pasolini and Manara, to name just a few of my most important inspirations, as artistic soul mates who have helped me create a multifaceted identity. Grafting Italian lighthearted sensual heritage on my Serbian-Czech traditional upbringing and classical education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, eventually produced a unique artistic opus that blossomed in the most unexpected times, the infamous “lockdown” period of 2020/2021. Love and Eros cycle turned out to be the wings that took me across the invisible borders in strange times when our freedom was limited, and human beings seemed tragically out of reach. I was honoured to participate in the event Hybrid Identities with five canvases painted in acrylic, all part of Martin Šetina Collection in Prague, Czech Republic.”

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

Luca Curci – What is the trigger that leads you to paint?
Pedja Djaković –
I like to paint what I experience or feel myself. I also try to sketch every day whenever possible as practicing with pen and paper is known to improve visual and motor skills. Such daily practice is crucial in gaining inspiration. You never really see something until you try to draw it. Putting in the hours of studying is the only way to improve as an artist and by working in the studio every day you’ll find that you don’t have to worry about the inspiration at all. It will come by itself. However, when something catches your attention, try to isolate what it is (and it may be more than one thing); you are well on your way to re-creating an amazing moment in time. These everyday stimuli are where your new powerful ideas can come from as your emotions are being transformed into an image.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

LC – Which artists have somehow had an influence on your work?
PD –
In the beginning, it was Giotto, Michelangelo, Titian, and Veronese, followed by El Greco and David. At a certain point, I was totally in love with Cézanne and Picasso’s early works. My taste has been changing through education and various influences I have been exposed to, but these were the key figures I looked up to in my youth. I have also come to admire and personally meet some of the great contemporary artists, like Bazelitz, Kiefer and Kapoor. I was fascinated by the intrinsic freedom of ideas and the implementation of different materials and techniques of Anselm Kiefer in his recent exhibition at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, where his monumental creations were brilliantly juxtaposed with old masters.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
PD –
I passed through a whole variety of training classes at the academy, but my greatest love and challenge has always been fresco. It is one of the most difficult techniques and requires a tremendous amount of skill. The other technique that I loved when I was a student was oil on canvas, especially the way Rembrandt used the colours. I have frequently used uncommon techniques and materials, such as cardboard mixed with wires or old newspapers to create a sort of architectural form. I have also painted on pallets, especially when I worked on the Holocaust theme where the intermittent wooden surface reminded me of the train tracks leading to Auschwitz. In the last couple of decades, I have mainly used acrylic on canvas, but have resorted to drawings and watercolour in Love and Eros cycle, or installations in Prayer for Mercy. Changing the media and the material used was a direct consequence of the different themes that inspired me in various phases of my life as an artist.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

LC – Which art themes do you pursue?
PD –
I do not refrain from making series of paintings on crucial political themes of the past such as the Holocaust, the disaster of communism or the Balkan wars, a recent tragedy that touched me deeply on a personal level. I have also had various cycles dedicated to jazz, the city of Prague, love, eros, and the most recent is dedicated to Mercy.

LC – What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
PD –
We are all going through a metamorphosis, choosing different directions because of our own “contemplatio”, which is how I named one of my past cycles of paintings. I believe change is an inevitable and desirable process. Doing the same thing all over again may make you a good artisan, but it’s not art. The artist must explore and live on the edge of his own ever-changing feelings and passions, and therefore my preferred subjects are in eternal motion. However, I am eternally fascinated and have always returned to the theme of the human tragedy that repeats itself throughout the centuries with wars, famine, and misery. This world is full of refugees and tragedy due to the part of human nature that must go to war, conquer, and destroy. My most recent cycle is called “Prayer for Mercy”, and I see it as a reminder of the atrocities on a global level and a message that we must not lose our humanity.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
PD –
Very often I have already made hundreds of drawings before I take that first step on a big canvas. I believe in synergy between my body, my soul, and the colours. It’s almost as if a whole religious ritual was performed before I make that first move. Once it is completed, I feel as if I have poured a part of myself into it. I never work with the intention to sell; my creative process is never pre-planned, and I find it difficult to separate myself from my creations.

LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition?
PD –
I liked the idea that transpires from the name of your association, and your statement about liquid being a state of matter with no definite shape and in the eternal flow. As quoted on your site, the liquid takes the shape of its container, which can be seen as art in ever-changing contexts and situations we live in. The exhibition Hybrid Identities took that concept even further, dwelling on the idea of the borders between the soul and the body and how differences create new possibilities.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

LC – How did it inspire you?
PD –
I saw the points in common where breaking the limits equalled finding a new way of life, like a parallel with the power of love in my Love and Eros cycle, a force that overcomes all the obstacles and is crowned with eternal bliss on the Olympus.

LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event?
PD –
I was happy to have found a platform that shared the same ideals, messages, and projections I had in mind when creating my works. Going beyond the given parameters of existence, creating connections, and overcoming borders have joined forces in an event in the magical city of Venice and one of its most acclaimed venues, the historic Palazzo Albrizzi.

LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
PD –
ITSLIQUID offers unique opportunities for the artist to be promoted through the platform that acts as the press office and manages relations with the media. Its historic connections with the Goethe Institute and its 250.000 qualified subscribers made of architects, designers, curators, and art dealers guarantee a worldwide distribution of information, much-appreciated advertising services and support for an artist that you collaborate with.

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Image courtesy of Pedja Djaković

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