NMMU: You were born in 1993 in Beli Manastir. What does Baranja mean to you?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: Of course, I feel connected to my roots. It is a unique region. The marshiest place in Croatia where one feels a certain weight, both historical and current. People live deeply with that heaviness, but also with warmth. They are grounded in simplicity, and that’s why I love this region.
NMMU: What comes to mind when you think of Professors Duje Jurić and Matko Vekić, from whose class you graduated at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in 2019?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: Their humanity, among other things.
NMMU: When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: I have always drawn or painted, but it is different when you actually realise it as a purpose. This hapenned at a slightly more mature age when I was ready to correctly interpret certain stimuli.
NMMU: In 2021, at the 6th Biennial of Painting, you received an award for the best young artist from the Croatian Fine Artists’ Association, and the National Museum of Modern Art honoured you with a solo exhibition at the Josip Račić Gallery. How much do these awards mean to you?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: I am grateful to the Croatian Fine Artists’ Association for the best young artist award, and to the National Museum of Modern Art for the solo exhibition at the Josip Račić Gallery. Considering the underdeveloped system that rarely allows individuals to grow and make a living from their work, these awards are a privilege in terms of financial support and exhibition opportunities. They represent a step forward in my professional development.
NMMU: Can you tell us something about your recent series “Tree Alley” that you will showcase at the Josip Račić Gallery?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: It is too early at this stage for me to label the entire series as “Tree Alley”. The process of entering its visual space is still ongoing. The reliefs were created over the past few months, during which I delved into the potential of different mediums, primarily wood. The idea always emerges as a kind of feeling that I blindly follow. It just requires developing faith and patience that the process will lead in the right direction.
NMMU: In the foreword, my colleague Željko Marciuš, the NMMU museum consultant and the author of the exhibition concept at the Josip Račić Gallery, writes that encaustic, a technique known since antiquity, is extremely important in your work. Why is that?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: The material has always been equally important to me, just like any other aspect of my work. It is a tool through which an individual finds a language of expression. Beeswax, just like charcoal, carries a certain nobility within itself, but I believe that I haven’t yet fully tapped into the potential it holds.
NMMU: What does the symbol of a tree represent to you?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: I interpret it as a verticality. However, I don’t try to convey that literally in my work.
NMMU: Is it harder to express oneself through monochromatic works?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: Every artistic direction carries its own challenges. I wouldn’t say that it’s harder or easier. Each idea requires its own treatment and development in relation to the medium.
NMMU: Are the boards you carved from Slavonia?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: No, unfortunately, they are industrial wooden boards. I will, however, soon have the opportunity to work with local wood as well.
NMMU: What are your responsibilities at the Academy of Culture and Arts in Osijek?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: I am still an external associate. As of this coming fall, I will probably be working with students of various generations.
NMMU: If you could show your work in any museum in the world, where would that be?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: I try not to get caught up in such thoughts. It’s healthier that way.
NMMU: Which artist do you admire the most?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: It is difficult to single out someone in particular. I admire when a person experiences the path they have chosen deeply, even outside the realm of our profession. It is always an inspiration.
NMMU: If music could describe your works, what composition would it be?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: Perhaps something by Vlatko Stefanovski and Miroslav Tadić from their performance in Zagreb in 2000. I like to think that it’s possible to convey such values through painting.
NMMU: When are you most creative?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: When I complicate my life and know that the process will take a long time, but then I accept it and let things develop naturally.
NMMU: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
NIKOLA PJEVAČEVIĆ: Probably the relationships that have developed along the way.
Interviewed by: Lana Šetka © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: from the NMMU archive © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023