Briefly describe the work you do.
My work is primarily engaged in a process of translation, dealing with the question of how we perceive similar states of mind through a variety of media. I initially started out as a lens-based artist and later moved towards working with a variety of media, including installation and painting.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I think that my background as a photographer has strongly influenced my work, because light and composition, the most important elements in photography, are also the most important elements in my other pieces. In addition, having lived in quite diverse and international environments has allowed me to delve into the topic of translation- what is translatable and what is not? What’s the common ground and what are the areas of difference? Is a shared language possible? All of these are questions that apply to cultures and languages, but they also apply to how artists create across media and to the ways an audience experiences moods and qualities across art pieces.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
The studio to me is more a mental space than a physical one. Being in the studio just means being engaged with your own creative process. This can happen in the four walls of my physical studio or it can happen in my kitchen or on the road. Quite frequently it happens in interaction with someone, where new ideas are sparked for my practice and then automatically start to shape my next steps. Looking at it this way, I don’t think it’s ever possible to leave the “studio space”.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I frequently find myself playing the role of a researcher. I remember when during college I would take a required classes, and the research for papers was the hardest part because I didn’t have much motivation other than the external need to complete the module. Nowadays, on the other hand. I find myself constantly learning and researching, motivated by an intrinsic desire to know more.
Overall, I think that artists are asked to make sense of what they see in the world and place their own work within that context. I don’t know if there’s one specific word for that activity, but whatever it’s called there’s definitely a lot more of it than I anticipated.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Afternoons and evenings are a good time for me, but generally I work whenever I get the chance.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed because it is no longer tied to photography alone, so I am able to play with abstraction and reduction more than before. Photography can be an abstract medium, but for me it has always been more literal and direct. Developing my practice throughout other media over the past years has allowed me to think in different “languages”.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
With regards to family and friends, I think it’d be difficult to understand where exactly the influence begins and where it ends- to a certain extent we’re all outcomes of our environment. Listing all the writers and philosophers that have shaped my work would probably lead to a very long list. On a very fundamental level, their questions about the individual’s role in society and subsequently about art’s role for the individual are the same mysteries that drive me to make work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
If I had an occupation outside of being an artist it would most likely writing. My interest in language goes back to my school years, so working with the written (and spoken) word would seem like a natural step for me.
Sanja has lived between Europe, US and South America. Her education includes programs at Northwestern University, the International Center of Photography and Plymouth University (UK). Initially trained as a photographer, her work spans several media including painting and installation. She has exhibited in the US, Canada and Europe, as well as having completed artist residencies internationally. Her current practice focusses on the fusion of two and three-dimensional pieces. Sanja lives and works internationally with a year-round base in Berlin.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.