More intuitive than conceptual, Dunja Jankovic’s work is created to be felt rather than understood

The artist talks us through her stylistic obsessions and the experimental process behind the colourful works.

28 August 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

For the artist Danja Jankovic, there is almost something “fetish-like” in the almighty medium which is the book. It’s not just because of the feeling of flicking through sleek pages, nor the feel of the paper or the smell of the ink and the way the eye darts around the page. As Dunja tells us “I like the idea of going back and forth, and the fact that after going through the book, you can go back to the beginning and everything will feel a bit different.” She adds, “The book is always lying around, you touch it, leave it, pick it up again.”

Born in Yugoslavia, Dunja went to school in Croatia before studying illustration in New York. There, she created a number of comics while teaching experimental practices on the side in Portland. Following this, she returned back to Croatia where she ran an arts festival and started a screen printing studio in the shipyards of her native island. Then, it was over to Barcelona where she took the screen printing studio. For Dunja these flowing changes are not just an aspect of her life, but also her art.

Her practice has flitted between comics, zines, and art books over the years while her style has evolved with an interest in different aesthetics, most recently, abstraction. On her style, Dunja says, “From comics, I inherited the interest in juxtaposition and the rhythm of laying down the images.” She learned how the layout of a document works, not to mention which pages end up facing each other, and how the narrative flow of a story progresses throughout the publication. Having nailed these elements, for us viewers, it’s hard to predict what’s going to be on the other side of the page when it comes to Dunja’s work.

“There’s so many elements to play around with,” she goes on; hinting back to her interest in books. And with this in mind, Dunja’s books feel different. Though she likes to work with repetition and modulation, every illustration and art work has its own unique qualities as she goes from taking a simple shape, then multiplying it or exhausting it into a variety of compositions. “Another obsession of mine,” she goes on to say, “is connected with repetitiveness and working with patterns. I have been making them as single art pieces but also to be applied on different stuff.”

GalleryDunja Jankovic (things that block the view published by Look Back And Laugh © Dunja Jankovic, 2020)

Dunja also often incorporates visual glitches into her work. Where some call it op art or optical art, for the artist her interest doesn’t lie in tricking the eye. Instead, she likes to play with visual noise, drawing out how it can be perceived in different forms or compositions. Organic matter also makes an appearance every now and again. Tubes and round bodies seem abstract “but can also be highly associative.” Above all, she likes her artworks to be sensual yet potent at the same time, “bursting with life and energy” through the striking forms which could be a great many number of things, depending on who is looking.

It’s a visual treat explored in her recent compilation of works, more namely, things that block the view published by Look Back and Laugh. Starting out with a certain idea she wants to explore (whether that’s a particular composition or colour) Dunja takes this one image and experiments from there. One work leads to another until suddenly, “there’s hundreds of images named something like 22aooooooooooeeefg1.psd separated in a few folders,” she jokes. From there, it’s a case of curating and editing this mass hoard of imagery into something a little more refined. The result is a beautifully printed compilation of Dunja’s obsessions. Each page is a visual feast with a different story, accentuated by the use of Risograph printing which just adds another layer of experimentation into the mix.

With Risograph printing, surprises are aplenty, offering an exciting discovery for Dunja as she witnesses something on screen come to life through a print. “The process is similar to that of screen printing,” she adds, “but the very fine grains give a vague feeling of something nostalgic, a washed out memory.” With this in mind, Dunja’s work is more intuitive than conceptual. She sees “the book as poetry” and lets the work rush out of her in a creative explosion which is meant to be felt and experienced, rather than understood. “Or rather,” she finally goes on to say, “the understanding should come out of an intuitive feeling instead of rational thought.”

GalleryDunja Jankovic (things that block the view published by Look Back And Laugh © Dunja Jankovic, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.

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