Having being surrounded by tall grey buildings, violence and economic uncertainties for most of her life, 32-year-old digital artist Jana Jelovac perhaps epitomizes the embodiment of a struggling artist. But it is in the work of the Serbian that serves as a reminder that creativity prevails no matter the environment. Born in Belgrade, amidst crisis and turmoil, ActuallyMag speaks to the outspoken artist about her principles, ideas, and beliefs that resonates in her artistic expression.
Your artworks are often created out of spontaneity. How has that shape your creativity other than through planning and structure?
I don’t like to disturb my creativity with the exact plan. Of course you must have some guidelines in order not to lose the main idea that you want to present in the first place. The main issue is how clear your vision is, how thoroughly you’ve thought it through, and to rethink all your options. Solutions and ideas will come spontaneously into place if you know what you are doing.
You are born and raised in the suburbs of Belgrade, Serbia. For some of us who have never been there, share with us how life is.
When I was younger I never saw my hood as a suburbia, but as time went by I progressively started to realize that my peers from the center had a totally different experience while they were growing up.
In the eighties, my block was mainly inhabited with families whose husbands, brothers and fathers were working for the militarily. To my misfortune my father was one of them. We were usually raised with a firm fist and trained to carry out commands. You can just imagine what kind of atmosphere prevailed there. For a free spirited person like me, that all seemed very unfair and I hated it.
You once said that where you live is not a good place to raise children or even a dog. Why is that?
In the time when I was answering that interview we had a horrible case where some hardly disturbed fellow citizen, or inhuman imbecile who deserves only and only euthanasia in my modest opinion, cut off four paws of an innocent street dog and just left her bleeding to death.
It was pure luck that she was saved. They tried to fix that terrible situation somehow, state made her prosthetic so she can move in some way, even our useless President showed some compassion for her, but that was all bullshit my friend.
First you made a sick society which has the ability to do such a heinous act, and then you try to clean their bloody patches. Something so horrible is not even supposed to happen, if you understand what I mean.
In the land where hate speech is considered patriotism, corruption -a great business success, brutality –heroism, and where daily moral prostitution is established as a good lifestyle, we can just keep our eyes firmly closed and pretend that this is all happening to someone else.
Do you think artist are restricted to their environment, or are they restricted to their perception of their environment?
Well, it mostly depends on the environment. I don’t want to bring up any names, but when some designer guy living in a Russian village at the end of the world says that we should only make positive and enthusiastic art that will entertain the audience, I can only blame him. But I would gladly see what would happen if he was living in Moscow or some other major city where reality smacks you right in the face. His song then will be very different, believe me.
I cannot perceive my environment with happy-happy-joy bunnies and teddy bears while our morning news reports decapitated body in the near city forest and that ten randomly chosen people was stabbed last night at the city festival. I really can’t.
Embellishment of reality is a very dangerous action, it is a double-edged sword because people are highly manipulative and dumb these days and then they don’t realize how sick this society is and that it needs help more than ever in our history of civilization.
How has life in the suburbs affected/inspired your art?
All that grey concrete and curses made it raw, brutally honest and true. No ribbons and no hearts. Not cute at all.
You work on illustration, digital art and photo manipulation, and often create your pieces in the genre of street art, branching to surrealism. How do you describe your work in your own words?
I never pay attention to the particular style I’m using at the moment…illustration, manipulation, street… it doesn’t matter to me.The main purpose of my art is to transmit a message. I try to remind people that we are first of all Humans with a capital H, and not some replaceable machines of the unscrupulous capitalism we are living in. That we are subtle like the gentle butterflies but through the system, we are treated as indestructible cockroaches. And we are not that.
We have dreams, hopes and sorrows and we deserve some other better world for ourselves. This one was built on out sweat and blood anyway and it should stay ours and not in the possession of the ruling rich minority in the West.
The time has come to let the people rule, but they still do not understand that they have the control of their lives and that only they could make that so highly needed change.
The message behind your art.
I have already explained it. The sooner we face our reality as it really is and admit that we are doing very poor work as a society to change it, it will be better for us. The thing is so damn simple, we just need an awakening that’s all, but people today are globally brainwashed with all kinds of media, so they live in a commercial for washing powder or all-brand-new-supersonic-yet-unseen home degreaser.
The saddest thing is that they don’t realize that the limbo they are living in every single day is created by their own two hands. Concept of freedom is totally misjudged and distorted. We really don’t need a million kinds of sneakers or mobile phones. That is not freedom; that is mere consumerism, and they wait every day for someone else to tell him what he wants. Need is turning into greed, and it won’t take us anywhere that’s for sure.
Just look around you. Do you like what you see?
The opportunity to change what you see is prevailent in your reworking of covers from iconic book titles like “Catcher in the Rye”, and “A Clockwork Orange” in the series Got Cells to Burn. What are some of your more recent series, and tell us how and why you came up with those series.
My most recent series is called TKO or Technical Knockout. I was furious and sad at the same time to see how my county and all her heritage are going down the drain. Our reality is now based on double moral standards, unskilled people destroying the talented one in the name of justice and prosperity, all in all, the end justifies the means.
I will never agree with this, never, no matter how much they all pretend that this is just the lone voice of the individual. I don’t have to remind them of the body count, wars, poverty and despair in which we have lived and are still living on a daily basis, because they already know all that.
The shame is that they have stayed completely silent. You understand now why I have to leave this hypnotized country which is unfortunately trapped in her history forever.
Leaving for Barcelona.
Well, it’s far from a fairytale. First of all it’s a recession. A big obstacle. Secondly, as you probably know, people from the third world countries are not so popular out of their borders. We are very often interpreted as a savages and misfits and I really can’t blame anybody for this. Because of the minority which has been behaving like that, the rest of us must suffer the consequences and take the hardest road possible. I will arrive there in October, and all I can say is that I hope it will be good. Keeping my fingers crossed.
What is your mantra as an artist?
As an artist I think that art should never exist just because of it. It should always carry a clear message no matter where you live, what you eat or what God you worship to. Otherwise it will only be just one more colorful image, installation or sculpture that does not mean anything at all. That is the point where so called “artist” are separated from the real deal. You cannot cheat people the whole time. Sooner or later they will be thinking, “WTF is this crap?” and you’re gone.
Jana to young artists.
I don’t know about the inspiration, but what I can say to them is to stay strong in these hard times, to truly believe in what they do and to always remind themselves that we didn’t do it for the money and fame in the first place. Remember that and you will never be lost.
C’est l’histoire d’un homme qui tombe d’un immeuble de 50 étages. Le mec, au fur et à mesure de sa chute, il se répète sans cesse pour se rassurer : “Jusqu’ici tout va bien… Jusqu’ici tout va bien… Jusqu’ici tout va bien.” Mais l’important, c’est pas la chute. C’est l’atterrissage.
Translation: This is a story of a man falling from a 50 storey building. As he falls, he constantly reassures himself: “So far, so good…so far, so good…so far, so good.” But the important thing is not the fall. It’s the landing.
- Zul Andra