Maja's magnificent monsters
Maja Ruznic’s oppressive paintings – on display in Belgium for the first time – retrieve eerie, story-laden creatures from troubled waters.
Haunting, uncanny figures with fading, mottled faces, twisted mouths, riddled eyes, and strangely shaped, maimed bodies, barely contained by their skins, populate the paintings of LA-based artist Maja Ruznic. Her paper monsters are terrifying, and yet, at the same time, you cannot shake the impression that there is something recognisable about them. From whatever intimate dream dust these creatures are made, they are laden with stories that are too familiar to dismiss as dark tales from faraway lands. These figments of the imagination come tumbling out of the head of an artist who employs the mechanisms of memory and imagination in an attempt to appropriate the things that might otherwise escape, and to set at a distance the things that might otherwise smother her.
Maja Ruznic was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1983, and fled the country of her birth in 1992, just after the beginning of the Bosnian War. She spent a few weeks in a refugee camp in Slovenia, briefly lived in Austria and Germany, and then finally ended up in San Francisco in 1995. Her personal history may explain in part where her honest, almost childlike look comes from, a gaze that observes voraciously, remembers anxiously, and reimagines vividly. Maja Ruznic’s work doesn’t focus on the events themselves, but on the devastating effects of war and other experiences that marginalise groups of people. Like a terrifying and fascinating descent into the psyche of shredded, tarnished, ashen, and worn out characters who live with the kinds of stories that transform a person. Maja Ruznic’s paintings are like collages in paint, splintered, constantly moving and morphing X-rays that bring fading, deeply nestled narrative kernels to the foreground.
The balance between contemplation and spontaneity, subdued colours and fluorescent accents, rawness and lightness, fluidity and layered detail is even more remarkable when you consider that she first immerses her stories in ink, gouache, and watercolours and literally lets them run free. This act of letting go, letting coincidence have its way but trying to contain it and steer it in a certain direction, could be symbolic of that fragile act of remembrance. It takes courage, honesty, and insight into the behaviour of your materials to create your work in the moment like this, to allow and rely on your intuition, the veracity of art, and the irreparably flawed act of remembrance. Monstrously magnificent!
Images © Maja Ruznic
She Left It All Behind, 2013
Jar Head, 2012
Ass, Mouth, Everything, 2014
MAJA RUZNIC: YELLOW THROAT RIBS ●●●●
> 19/4, Galerie d’YS, www.galeriedys.com