About the artist
This week we meet Sanja Matkovic. Sanja is originally from Slovenia but now resides in my home town, Brighton. Her love of creating digital art came from her other passion, Techno music and a desire to escape her mundane lifestyle. She would sit on the beach, using the time and clear headspace to edit and combine her photographs of parts of the city, objects and people to create her dreamland abstract images.
Although she is relatively new to digital art, having been making images for only a few months, Sanja has already built a large body of work and has had her work accepted via open calls by galleries, both here in the UK and in Chicago, where she recently sold her first piece.
Sanja’s work is currently on display as part of the Brighton: Places, Spaces & Faces exhibition at the Conclave Gallery in Brighton between 8th of June 2019 and 31st of July 2019.
How did you first get into digital art?
My journey into digital art started when my job pushed me to the point of complete burnout. I had to quit for health reasons, and I was forced to stop and reassess the next steps in my life. I withdrew into myself, going back to my roots and realising what I had always loved the most was Techno music and dancing; that made me feel the most alive.
I took my phone, went to the beach and started making pictures that would represent my love for Techno. Initially, I was just taking photographs, but after discovering the Bazaart app, the magic began; merging photos and manipulating them into new stories became my new escape.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
A long time ago, when I was still living in Slovenia, I would go to techno parties and take photos of people dancing; trying to capture the vibe of the night to use in photo galleries for various web sites.
I think there’s a subtle connection between how electronic music is made and how I create my visual stories using digital devices. All those loops and layers of beats in techno tracks are being merged together with different filters and effects to create depth and mystery; it’s similar to my digital art making process. I guess it just goes along perfectly with how my brain works. I don’t paint or draw, I’m no good at that. There’s a sense of endless options in what can be done with images, and I like that a lot. And, having the Undo button makes a lot of difference: it’s all magic to me.
To what artistic styles are you particularly drawn?
My style is definitely abstract! My education was in cultural studies. There was a lot of anthropology, philosophy and religion, so I don’t really have a background in art. I am eager to learn all about it now!
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
I use my iPhone for my photos and the iPad with Bazaart to edit. The app doesn’t have the option to use it on my laptop, but I like the iPad because I can put it in my bag and have it with me wherever I am.
What inspires you?
Music, people and, I think I have a lot of love for life and excitement. I try to find magic in moments and to capture and build on that. I think it’s the curiosity of what I might create, what I might be able to do with just what I have around me. Sometimes I just take pictures around my flat, and I play with light that comes through my window, or capture a rose that I have on the table with some of my son’s toys. I can’t stop now!
What is your artistic motivation?
When I first started making images, it was an escape, a craving for freedom; I could lose myself in dreamland. I was utterly consumed, and I think I made around 700 images in those few months. When I moved and got to know the city of Brighton, I also found that freedom I was missing, it’s such a vibrant place with things always going on around me. I began by taking photos of places around the city, graffiti and the sea, which I would play with and edit; the first image I sold in Chicago was one of these images. I suppose my motivation is for my art to become more than what it is now, because it’s all I want to do.
What is your favourite image to date and why?
That is really hard to say. If I could just narrow it down to the last two weeks, then it would be the image called Happy with Occasional Thunder. The idea for the picture came as a result of a relationship I had recently. I was happy, but there was a lot of ‘thunder’ as well, and it didn’t work out.
Sometimes I’m surprised by what comes out as I begin to form my images from a particular idea. The creation process can take me to a totally different place; the result can show me what was really going on deep within my subconscious.
I guess when you let yourself get to the point of being entirely in tune with your emotions, your ‘raw self’ can emerge. That is what I love the most, being in the zone. It’s magic if you let it happen.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Daydreaming, escapism/freedom and magic!
What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?
There was an artist/painter who, just after I had my first image accepted to be exhibited in a gallery in Chicago, said to me: ‘That’s not normal, because there are people who have been doing this for years and they have not done what you have achieved in a few months.’
Most of the time it’s just the regular stuff: ‘Wow, this is beautiful’, or ‘Wow, this is so wonderful’ or ‘There is so much power in it’. I have been asked why I use so much red; I guess because it is probably the most potent colour – it means passion, it means danger, it’s fire and sex.
Give us the names of three artists who inspire you and why they had an impact on you.
Gerhard Richter is an artist that I really love, and I can relate to. He’s a living artist. There is an exhibition now at the Gagosian Gallery in London, showing the works where he paints over his photographs, it is just amazing.
Banksy is another artist I like and is a source of inspiration. The controversial side of his thinking is fabulous; the way that his brain works is something that I just would like to dive in.
The third artist would be Egon Schiele. I love the intensity and raw sexuality in his work. Some of his pieces seem like he was trying to distort those bodies but making them beautiful at the same time. It’s what I’m attracted to, the contrast of beauty and grotesque disturbance of images. My first big project will hopefully include that. I’m planning to make visual stories with dancing bodies that will be manipulated and abstracted to a level of beautiful disturbance.
Conversely, I also want to mention here what, for me, is a negative influence. Many successful artists seem to be able to do anything they want and call it art. As soon as people see the name, they will buy it, regardless of its aesthetic worth. It’s not something I want to aspire to.
How do you think you have improved as an artist, compared to when you first started?
It’s just been amazing. It’s such a journey – I sound like a cliché! – but it was just mind-blowing to realise how much I have inside that wants to come out because when I started, I was like a volcano, I couldn’t stop; it was just constant work. I think that things come to life quicker now, so that is an improvement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better, it is just an understanding of how to get to the point where you want to be more quickly. But still, it’s about the journey, not the goal! I think I am just improving all the time because I am so new to everything.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
Fifteen or twenty years ago, I was a contemporary dancer – not a professional, but that was what I was into. I didn’t do any art or photography back then but if I could go back to that point in time and kick myself in the bum and say: ‘No, that’s not what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to do what I’m doing now.’ that would be amazing!
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
Up until now, it’s just been an iPhone and iPad, but now I’m going to be using my new Canon 60D. It will give me more resolution and better images to play around with. It could end up taking me in a completely different direction, of course. You don’t get the same depth to pictures on the phone; sometimes when you take an image with a camera, it’s so good that you don’t want to spoil it.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
It’s really just Bazaart, as it does exactly what I want it to do at the moment. I may look for something more powerful at some point, but I am happy for now.
Do you use images from stock sites and if so, which are your favourite sites and why?
I only use my pictures. Sometimes when I have a particular idea, I will try to look for photos online, but that’s just to practice. All of my works that have been exhibited and sold have been created with only my photos.
And finally, do you find people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
To be honest, I haven’t been creating long enough to actually know. I have all these questions in my head, ideas and theories of how it might be or how it is. People want to know what the medium is; I just say it’s digital art and they don’t ask any more questions. So far, I haven’t had anyone ask me if I made all my pictures myself or if I got them from somewhere else. I think that if it’s not being dismissed now, it’s not going to be for a long time.
I suppose digital art can be seen in the same way as a traditional musician sees electronic music; they might think it’s just pushing buttons and getting a lot of money for it. The truth is, as much as technology improves, it will never be able to replace or take away the importance of human touch; that’s where the magic starts, where art comes to life.
Thank you so much for this interview and for sharing your fabulous artwork with us, Sanja!