Irena Pejovic


Trained in drawing and printmaking in my native Macedonia (where the course of study is rigorous, incorporating anatomy and other traditional pursuits), I came to the US primed to break out, ready to discover my own esthetic ‘voice.’ Over the last few years, I’m happy to say: I’ve found it. It’s no surprise that my work often depicts people breaking out of a chrysalis state. In many ways, that’s how I feel as an artist.

I continued my formal education in the United States at Montclair State University, where I earned a BFA in printmaking in 2003. My practical, ‘inner’ education, however, has come from the process of working itself. My knowledge of anatomy has stood me in good stead; the body, with which I’ve always felt comfortable, has now become a visual instrument that I use again and again in my work—all the better to play out my own, inner voice.

Over the last two years I have been striving to find ways to let go of my need to control the outcome of a work, and to bring more spontaneity in. “Core,” my newest series, does just that, and more, arriving as it does out of both the immediacy of gestural drawing and a great deal of experimentation in the printshop. First, in early 2012, I attended the dance rehearsals of an amazing experimental dance group based in Brooklyn called “KoreResponse.” While at their rehearsal space, I used india ink and litho pencil on mylar, working rapidly, capturing not simply the dancers’ forms but what I felt to be the essence of their movement. Later, in the studio, I transferred these transparent drawings directly into solar etching plates. I went through almost 40 artist’s proofs as I experimented with a huge variety of processes and media, eventually settling on silkscreen and collagraph. The silkscreens show a brushy quality of line; the collagraphs,* by their very nature, add something less literal, more ‘felt.’ I like the fact that this latter technique didn’t leave an outline, but rather an embossment, a more internal synonym for the idea I was striving for with ‘Core.’

When does a figure, abstracted, stop being just a figure? How far must it be abstracted until it becomes a metaphor, a part of something greater than itself? I asked myself these questions as I worked. “Core” was my exuberant, enigmatic answer.

*Collagraphy is a printmaking technique in which various 3-D textures are applied to a board; the board is then inked like a regular intaglio or relief plate, and run through the press.

Interview with Irena Pejovic, November 16th, 2012

On the occasion of “Core” – Silkscreen Prints and Collagraphs, , Gallery MC New York, November 16th to December 8th, 2012. Conversation with the artist, NYC.

By Sarah Schmerler, New York City-based critic and curator

Tell us about your color palette — in particular, your choice of color temperatures that are both warm and cool. Are there emotional resonances for you in these choices?

I started working with this flesh color (as well as warm peach, and reds with very little blue in them) to convey a sense of ‘the body.’ Our bodies are warm, and I wanted to effect a warm feeling. The colors that followed kind of grew from that: bringing in the bright yellow, for example, which seemed so joyous to me. As for the darker tones…to me they feel almost like a shell.

Can you define ‘shell’ a bit more? And how the dark tones function?

I guess another term for ‘shell’ might be ‘cover.’ I feel like these cooler colors represent the kind of cover we put over ourselves when we are afraid of being overly vulnerable. We carry it around with us. It doesn’t have to function like a mask, though. We don’t have to hide under it or feel it’s false. But we do have to see it. That’s why I called one of the prints “I Found Core.” I pulled out that print — with all its yellows and the peaches —  and I said ‘this is it.’ I finally saw something in the work that I wanted to see.

You work in such a broad diversity of mediums. What do you feel each brings to the table?

I like drawing because it allows me to capture movement so directly. You can draw fast with a brush or a litho crayon, and being able to bring that sort of spontaneity into the work was something unusual for me. Other media, like the collagraph, allow me time to experiment. I can find surprises of another sort in my working process via experimentation.

So you find using different media rewarding, and not at all distracting.

Yes. When you use a diversity of media, one pushes the other and then pushes the next. So: If I can make a discovery in one medium, then, I can feel the sense of confidence that I will do it in another media as well…

Tell us about how you’ve arranged the work in the space here, and why.

I wanted to show a rhythm, since the prints are capturing the rhythm of the dance. It’s interesting that in the rehearsals, the movement was stop and go, and so, that’s sort of how I arranged the prints. Not to represent what the dancers did, literally, but more abstractly. I chose a single image for a print and repeated it, with it facing right or flipped the other way as a kind of illustration of that point.

That’s a common sort of graphic strategy — to indicate a rhythm with a repeating single form or figure. Do any other artists inspire you in that regard? or in relation to transposing music to form?

Nancy Spero has lots of repeating images in her works, for instance, and I admire her. And I like Kandinsky a great deal; he is so inspired by music overall. But no, there isn’t really a specific influence here. The single figures just sort of repeat, and seem similar; but in fact, each one is different. Each one has a different note or tone or personality.

Tell us more about that different ‘note.’

I began this series here first in New Jersey; then I took 15 of the collagraphs to London where I did a residency and continued to work on them there. In New Jersey I was working on discovering the flesh tones. So I was looking for the ‘core’ here in one way, and in the environment of London, where I introduced the more vibrant colors, in another. London seemed such a joyous place to me, maybe it was the Olympics..anyway I started playing. I made some forms connect and thought of love, in another I was alluding to play and exploring that. I was exploring how it is we feel in the moment. Looking at them you can see how some have depth and some are so transparent, just as with people. Some people have a lot going on in the surface, but not much depth; some, the other way around.

I guess I just have an internal drive in making these; these prints are very personal to me. I was looking for my true self for some time. I was trying to be aware of these moments, in my own core, and trying to feel what is true.

So ultimately this is about emotional honesty?

Yes; in fact, if you look at all my work, going back, the work functions almost as if it were message I sent to myself. The moment is so precious, and I want to have a memory of it. In ‘Trapped’ I’m capturing a sense of myself feeling trapped, as an artist; in ‘Waking Up’ it’s like, Aha!, here is that good feeling again. And in ‘Core’ it’s about a primary feeling, or rather my search for a primary sense of what’s guiding me — artistically, personally. I found my core. I put a label on it..

And now you can give that sense of ‘core’ away to us.


By Sarah Schmerler, New York City-based critic and curator