The artist abroad | Vesna Bajalska

We speak to Vesna Bajalska, a Macedonian-born Serbian painter who emigrated to Paris in the ‘80s to pursue an artistic career. Now in Malta to exhibit a collection of paintings at Opus 64 Galerie, Tigne Street, Sliema, she speaks about her formative years as a painter, and what drives her to keep creating.

Vesna Bajalska.
Vesna Bajalska.

What inspires you to paint? When did you first discover the urge to paint?

I tend to get inspired by any number of things: my own surroundings, photography, another painter's work and even some of my own 'internal' obsessions, or other imagined, more fantastical themes. But sometimes I go into it without any real 'inspiration' to speak of, all the while struggling to create something worthwhile, and as I'm going along I hope that something begins to form on canvas that would inspire me to complete the piece.

I think that painting has become an important part of my life, particularly after I emerged from some negative experiences... but there are times when there's nothing psychological to it, and I just enjoy painting for its own sake.

What are some of your main artistic influences, and how do they shape your own work?

In youth our antennae are primed for all signals. As it were, we hunt in flight, and in those years I, too, was pulled in various directions - the most dominant of which were the Expressionists, then the Paris School... however, I would say that Byzantine art remains the most influential strand in my work.

Autumn by Vesna Bajalska

Autumn by Vesna Bajalska.

What led you to move from Belgrade to Paris? How would you describe the artistic scene in Belgrade at the time, and how did it differ from what you encountered in Paris?

Ever since I was 15 years old, I had wanted to move to Paris, and as soon as I graduated from the Academy in Belgrade, I took that step. I like cities that enable you to be anonymous, as well as cities that put you into contact with various artists - it feels like swimming in a vast ocean. While I was living in Belgrade, I had a predilection towards modern American painters, but in Paris I began to edge back towards my roots, informed by new experiences of life in Western Europe... it seemed that the further away from home I was, the closer I got to me artistic roots.

The scene in Belgrade during the 1980s, before I left for Paris, was crucial for the city in terms of its artistic output. The decade heralded a breakthrough in artistic freedom of expression, and we also got a window into the outside world, with plenty of international painters choosing to exhibit in the city.

How would you describe your life as an artist on a day-to-day basis?

I paint, I visit my fellow artists' exhibitions, I enjoy that necessary glass of wine after a good exhibition... and so on.

 What does an artist need to do to survive, financially as well as creatively?

Patience and perseverance.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Paint regularly and persistently, paying no heed as to whether their work is trendy, or whether it's going to be liked by the world at large.

The exhibition will remain open until November 18. Opening hours for the exhibition are: 10:00 to 13:00 and 17:00 to 19:00.