“My main mode of expression, and the most present element of my visual vocabulary, is the line. It’s a flow of uninterrupted force that travels from me to the paper.” Tatjana Jovancevic works on paper to build complex concepts into forms. The mode of her line work interacts with her overarching theme of being uprooted early in her life. While focusing on the experience of being torn away, the forced loss of innocence, Jovancevic also finds continuity and new life.
In 1991, Jovancevic was an exchange student Yugoslavia when she came to the United States. A war broke out in her home country, and she stayed in the U.S. to complete her education. Every facet of this deeply painful experience is present in her artwork.
“The war in my home country stripped me of my sense of who I am. I lost my home, community, and personal items that were extension of who I was,” says Jovancevic. Going beyond the surface layer of the trauma, she gained a spiritual perspective on the reality of loss. “Looking back, and ahead as well, I feel I was being watched over and guided. In losing material things, I became aware of how we attach ourselves to the impermanent and fleeting. It led me to seek something that cannot vanish at the will of men, or weather or war. In losing, I gained a new identity and my faith.”
It took years for Jovancevic to invest more time in her creative gifts. Art became a way for her to express both the unique and universal aspects of being torn away from her home. Some of her work depicts abstract representations of landscapes from her upbringing. “Dublje” and “Duboko” are hearty, earthy forms, with the latter floating on something like fire.
The feeling of “False Starts” is envisioned as a leaf with many red stitches, each one ended with its own knot. Each new beginning is a thread, meant to be continuous, but painfully chocked to a close instead. It is the experience of searching but never finding.
“Risen” depicts a black coldness out of which fire and light rise to the surface. Jovancevic uses color and the intentional direction of each line to convey the feeling of moving through pain and back into light, emerging restored.
“In my work I attempt to process our impermanence, and also the heaviness of human existence. The tension between good and evil, light and darkness,” the artist states. “At the same time I want to capture the concept of grace and love, to visually embody something that’s abstract and yet concrete at the same time.” Faith also has an influence on some of her work, and is at times a part of the creative process itself. “Some of my works are based on the verses which sometimes come up for me before the drawing. On other occasions, I will create and the verse will come up after the fact. It’s a constant dialogue and a form of an ongoing prayer.”
Jovancevic also creates installation works, which she calls ‘interventions.’ Her installations often use outdoor settings. “I always wanted for my drawings to come alive, and taking it outside the studio seemed like a natural progression.” Jovancevic has worked on natural waterways, as well as in the snow. “There are intangible things that draw me to work on a site. Interventions that I created outdoors were influenced by the materials I saw around me, but also the ‘feel’ of the place. It just felt right to become the canvas to draw on.” One site-specific work, “Generations” and a series of works titled “Goodbye” were created in her grandmother’s house in Serbia. There, she says, “the connection was more emotional. It was my attempt to say good bye to the old house, the past and part of family history.”
In 2015 Jovancevic took part in the Colorado Art Ranch Residency program. While there, she utilized natural materials to create sculpture works, and to ‘draw’ on the earth, in a sense. Instead of building lines on a page, Jovancevic created lines with the placement of sun bleached sticks, and built forms with stones in contrasting dark and light hues. The effect harkened to her works on paper, but had a new energy. “Being in the new environment and the vast expanse of space made an impact. Prior to being there, my site-specific interventions were smaller in scale and tied to my surroundings. Being in a new landscape and having a gift of time to explore elevated my work to a new level.”
Jovancevic currently resides in Chicago, Illinois where she continues to explore the weight and depth of the human experience.
images courtesy of the artist