Nathan: Your images “read” as stories unto themselves. Do you have specific stories in mind when you create these images? In other words, I would like to know more about how you go about deciding which elements you combine and what you seek to express when you do so.
Ivana: Throughout my whole working experience and life in general, I have realized that my artwork speaks its own language. If I try to analyze the process, I have trouble trying to define it, and end up putting it into some kind of mold or form that limits it. When I visually create a story, that particular story already exists in my deepest Being and it’s almost impossible to verbalize that unique experience. I wonder: is it even necessary to verbalize it?
There is one more higher cause which I wish to conceive. It is that eternal need for reaching beauty. This pure aesthetic cause makes me passionate about my work. I think that every woman or man who is interested in some kind of abstract work has that ultimate goal, subconsciously. So, in that matter, every one of my photos is a “constant present time” of me discovering my unconsciousness. It’s simple as that. Everything else is just a combination of imagination and skill. The whole point is to reach authenticity – bravely and honestly.
Nathan: Because your images have such a strong element of storytelling, I often wonder why you choose not to title your visual stories?
Ivana: While listening to music, some people just let themselves go with a song’s flow; they feel the melody and that’s enough for them while others prefer to listen to the words. You may say that the most important thing in music is the melody and that the words just follow the notes. In some way, words limits the music; when I put my work in the air, it becomes everyone else’s experience so that they can enjoy and discover something that is just theirs. I feel if I title the photos, they will be just mine, and the truth is that my work is done every time I finish the visualization, when I say – that’s it!
Even though I’m well aware of the power of words, I make an exception in this context. In my mind I make very clear distinction between the art of literature and the “art of the visual” I don’t have the need to explain my artwork cause I believe that everything is said through the story I make in every photo, in every single element of it.
Remember when Raskolnikov killed the granny? I had so much to think about it, so much to discuss and had strong feelings about that particular action of a character who inspired me to not only think of myself but to think about the whole society that I live in, to reevaluate every single dilemma that I forgot about. That was a hundred years ago, but it’s still the same concept – art does not seek the explanation; it’s the eternal question. I have to admit that it is much easier to digitally paint the questions in order to find a grain of truth than to proclaim it.
Nathan: What is your process for gathering together the various elements of your images?
Ivana: Everything I’ve created has come from, what I call, arranged chaos. I collect elements from everyday life; I take photos of everything I see as interesting and inspiring. And when I sit in the chair, I start to arrange that chaos in my way; I start to build a story from simple and small things in life and try to make them big and important. Because they are important. When I see a pot with flowers in the corner of the street, made by people who wanted to decorate their small restaurant by the river, I give it a new context; I see it in another meaning, another environment as a symbol of hope, or beauty, or people who have a great spirit for leaving.
Sometimes I have an entire story in my mind, but often just a detail can inspire me to make a whole new world around it. It is a fluent and ’with no rules’ process which follows the timing of my intuition. I do not do many things on purpose when it comes to my artwork except the part of realization. When I start to visually build the story, that is a fully controlled process. Everything that you see, every detail on my photo is there for a reason. If I don’t have some elements that I need, then I just draw them in order to complete the full picture I’ve imagined.
Nathan: Do you see your work as purely photographic? Some critics might argue that because the montage process requires digital manipulation that you your work should be labeled as digital art and not photography. Do you think such a distinction is necessary? Personally, I do not. I think that digital tools merely allow us to further explore the possibilities of creation in different ways– and worrying about what we call the process or outcome seems utterly unnecessary because what truly matters is the final piece … and not the process by which you arrived there.
Ivana: Certainly, my work is not just photographic. I never thought it was. I personally think that digital manipulation is some kind of modern painting. Even that is not a good label because digital manipulation is just a consequence of the new era of a modern technology and it can’t be compared or measured by the already known criteria. I know that many people do not acknowledge this way of expressing yourself just because you do it on your computer, but in the end, it exists and can be good when you’re honest in doing that.
Distinctions are common because of our human nature; we feel safe when we belong somewhere, but I would put it like this – is it good or not? That is only thing that matters.
Manipulating is a word that often refers to something negative. In case of digital manipulating – it’s even worse. But if we put it in other manner, it can be constructive. If you manipulate in a wrong way, it is manipulation; however, if you do it in an honest way, it’s your own artwork.
Nathan: What first drew you to create your surrealist stories? Did you start out taking more traditional images and, if yes, do you still do so?
Ivana: I was never just a photographer. I was always close to everything that is a bit awkward, or strange, or different, or divergent. In everyday life, everything leads you to – the common, but life itself is not just a straight way of securities and habits. After playing with my camera for some time, I realized that pure photography wan’t enough for my untold stories. When you take a photo, the main subject of your observation is – that subject (portraits, nature, architecture etc.). But when you make the whole scenery with the parts chosen only by you, then the subject is just you and your new and unique creation. Objects are only in service of your artistic concept.
I make traditional images only to find those objects.
Nathan: Why do you prefer black and white for your creations?
Ivana: Well, it began when I wanted to create the whole new dimension from just two colors. And shadows. If you manage to create a vivid black and white photo, it’s a challenge! It’s easy with colors, they are full of life in and of themselves.
This is my current “obsession”; it allows me to make a good story without being disturbed by the seductive impact of colors. In a monochrome photo, you just read the narrative, think about it and have the freedom for your own reception. This is another reason why I don’t make titles for my photos: I prefer that people actively participate in every one of them and give them their own piece of meaning.
Nathan: Does music have any influence on your processing? If yes … what are some of your favorite things to listen to while you work?
Ivana: Music is actually the helper; it inspires me to create a working atmosphere depending on my current mood. My choice goes to music that creates rhythm that moves me enough to stay in a good spirit. Of course, there are days when it’s not necessary, days when I’m good just with silence and only “the music” of my thoughts and feelings.
These are some artist and bands that I like the most these days: Daughter, Angus and Julia Stone, Sia, Bon Iver, Cat Power, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Miles Davis, EKV.
Nathan: What are your thoughts about using social media to share your art?
Ivana: For me, the most important thing is to be satisfied with my final work. Then, I’m not afraid to share it with a world. Social media is an available way to communicate out here according to the time we live in. I repeat, everything that you do honestly will eventually find the way to the people who are willing to see what you do and accept your choice of expressing yourself.
Today, I have a pleasure to follow the work of my dear acquaintances and to support everyone that I find close to my artistic taste. I learn from everyone. We have an opportunity to see each other in another level; we are from different parts of the world, but when it comes to our work, we feel close to each other. Maybe we don’t drink coffee together, but we share the same sensitivity.
I’ve met some very nice and inspiring people on the web, so it would be wrong if I say something rude about social media. Maybe that’s because I use it only to share my work and also to support the work of people I admire.
Nathan: What advice do you have for anyone who would want to pursue creating surrealist images?
Ivana: First of all, ask yourself: is it your way? If it is so, let your being carry you throughout the creative process without thinking of a final result or fear of anything that comes from the external environment. It’s fundamental to free yourself and to create just for yourself and only then to share with others. Kant officially proclaimed that the whole world and it’s creations were made only for us. Everything that we see, we see it through our own eyes. This is just a simplification of his philosophical concept, but it is that Idea that matters. So, the conclusion must be – just do what is in your heart and head. No reproduction allowed, just influence.
Several Images with Notes from Ivana
A Gallery of Images
(all images (c) Ivana Stojakovic)