Having grown up during the Yugoslav War, Tatjana Milošević as an artist encompasses the schism and dichotomy of her deconstructed country’s collective consciousness of inner conflict. Her art reflects the frayed fiber of post-war Serbian society today. Boldly uncensored and laid bare personal identifications in her imagery, make no attempt to hide a forlorn soul, and mental torment. Sinister overtures, acts of violence and unsettling depictions of the violated feminine are frequent themes in her compositions. The everyday stark confrontation with a dystopic post-war capital city of bombed buildings left-standing as reminders, an unrecovered economy, a devastated and demoralized national identity, have a profound impact on the Serbian psyche. Seeking resolution, in an intimate existential struggle, is the real war for the artist.
- What do you do after a war, and your country is gone?
“My generation was born in Yugoslavia, but now I’m Serbian. I struggled to find my place. I know that I’m Serbian, but only knew Yugoslavia. I grew up Yugoslavian. When you lose your country you become confused. You witness the destruction of everything. We’re trying to find our balance. Maybe we need to accept there is no balance. We’re impulsive. Trying to fit in with the West, trying to fit in with the East.”
- What process do you experience when painting and drawing?
“Maybe I feel sometimes, some kind of pain. I always have something very vulnerable. Going to that place you don’t want to go. When you’re painting something funny, I’m having some kind of sadness. So laughing and crying. I think I’m becoming too emotional about everything. Sometimes I feel abandoned in every sense. And I want to cry. I can’t explain where these feelings come from. I’m looking for this love, and I cannot reach it. It’s universal like searching for the impossible in the ‘everyday’.”
- What are you painting about?
“I have no plan. I just paint. Whatever paint I have, I paint with. I am a bit tired of explaining.”
- What does the imagery of young girls mean?
“Like sometimes, I feel it’s a mixture that represents all my feelings into one drawing. It would be this girl. Trying to resolve the unresolved.”
- What is the dog imagery symbolic of?
“It is like half of my feelings. I don’t plan to draw a dog. It just comes from somewhere.”
- Why do you paint?
“It’s some kind of existence. You don’t analyze why. It’s maybe the only place where I can be loved. In your own art. The moment where I can feel secure. I’m always curious how something can make you secure and insecure at the same time.”
The motifs of shy young girls, with darkened eyes that speak to stolen innocence, at times provocatively explicit, entangled with leering or biting dogs, recalls the imagery of war in Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica.” The dog biting a girl’s bleeding leg, becomes a powerful universal symbol that harkens the horrors of war, and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Portraits of nail-biting, anxious women recall the neurotic bar patrons of a Toulouse-Lautrec. The angst and struggle of the artist to cast out the demons that haunt humanity, allows no privacy, protects no secrets. Perhaps understandably, Tatjana Milošević still questions whether she wants to be an artist in the first place, because in her words:
“I have this feeling that I’m so visible. Like you need to put yourself naked so people can see what you want to say. And sometimes you don’t know what to say.”
And yet, the artist keeps drawing and painting, exemplifying the tenacity to find her place. Beneath the dark shadows of troubled conflicting passions exposed on canvas, paper, and even crumbling walls of abandoned war-torn buildings, lies the unrelenting search for the promise of love and the impossible possibilities both for the individual, and a post-war society’s collective consciousness; in a country with a lost name and lingering sense of loss.
— Cait Larratt-Smith