How do abandoned histories leave their mark on the imaginations of artists today, particularly in post communist regions and in places witness to war and conflict such as the former Yugoslavia?
Identity, memory, and narratives are retold, eliminating some moments and or details, adding others. In the case of the young Bosnian designer and artist Nevena Katalina, ruins and traces are a way of inhabiting such architectural space.
Nevena comes to making things naturally, as a young child she spent time learning craft, technique and creativity along side her grandparents whose own interest in drawing, creating and learning guided Nevena’s vision of the world.
Nevena’s work has a certain intimate presence, achieved by a combining the grandeur of Soviet era monuments, the arcs and scale reconfigured and made alive with a painterly inflection of color. As well, her designs, if not remotely, build on the sensibility of mid-century modernism, the graphic arts, and the well-regarded tradition of embroidery design of Bosnia-Zmijanje. As far as fine art and illustration, the artist notes a special affection for the work of Eiko Ojala, Jack Daly, Utagawa Hiroshige, and Kacishuka Hokusai.
RB: Tell me a little but about the Popshot project?
NK: I really admire the way this publication showcases the work of illustrators and writers together. I was commissioned to do an illustration for Curious Issue #14. My illustration is paired with Robert Stuart’s short story “Dumbing Down.”
RB: Are there any architectural or folk-art traditions specific to your country that you find important or beautiful?
NK: Yes, there are many creative traditions that most of the world is not aware of, for example, the embroidery technique of Zmijanje (Serbian: Змијањски вез / Zmijanjski vez).
The artist also mentions the omnipresence of the colossal monuments from the Communist era, now abandoned, creating a constellation of monoliths of strangely vacant abstractions. Nevena’s graduate work focused on a creative transformation of these images and places.
The emptiness and unflinching heroism of these monuments has a constant presence in Nevena’s work. As such, Camouflage takes elements of “inexplicable architectural space, deep feeling, strange lines.” Each portrait evokes a hidden story, as the title of the series indicates, these are tales of disguise, deception and traces, a private realm of secrets.
Unexpected Geometry is a new illustration project, an admixture of architectural themes, angles with monochromatic colors, the high graphic style of comic book narrative takes a dramatic turn in her geometric renderings, a depth of color and structure creating a compelling scene.
Not all of the artist’s work is so in the shadows, rather some of her most well liked illustrations are amusing, bright and full of suggestive pop culture references. For example, Whatever is a free drawing exercise. The artist puts a number of words written on a paper into a paper cup and adds a word selected at random to her drawing…
Learn more about Nevena’s work via