Emir Šehanovic on Japanese carpenters, being bitten by a dog and Bosnia

EMIR ŠEHANOVIĆ is a Bosnian artist. He was born in 1981 in Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina. In the late 90s he was already an active participant of the local street art scene under the pseudonym Aorta. His biography is filled with multi-faced engagements – from street art projects, over solo and collective exhibitions, all the way to foundation of the artistic group Manufaktura in Tuzla, as well as the regional initiative Art of Asfalt. 

Esh received international recognition for his mural projects, video, digital prints and multimedia. Pagan tradition, superstition and the occult are some of the constant themes present in his work, while collages and asamblages are his favorite instruments. The final result may be a collage, print or spatial intervention, based in the digital domain but intruded by specific materials which have a deep cultural value for the author. 

I had a quick chat with Esh following his successful exhibition part of Contemporary Balkan Art movement.

1. Congrats on your exhibition in London. You showcased as part of Interruption, why did you feel the need to involved with the project?

Thank you. The exhibition is organized by Contemporary Balkan Art, whose mission is to promote contemporary art from Balkans. For me, as an artist, it is a great pleasure to be part of it and to be one of the representatives of Balkan art scene.
Also, it was a great opportunity to present my work to a London audience in this way for the first time. So far, my art has been featured on the album covers of musicians from Great Britain, such as My Panda Shall Fly, S.Maharba and Microburst.

2. Being an artist from the Balkan region, how would you describe the art scene there?
Rough, like Balkans itself. I do not see that as negative thing. An environment like that brings quality and serious artists to the surface. There is a lot of talent and not too many opportunities, you have to be really strong to survive as an artist. Lately, there are some very interesting and promising things starting to happen. The Balkans is starting to be a very interesting place for collectors and the art world.

3. What were the greatest challenges you faced if any?
Hm, hm ….not sure.

4. How has your background and surrounding shaped your art?
My surrounding has a big impact on my personality, it is hard to avoid it. I think, an artist creates pieces that reflect their individual personality. I just try to emphasize that even more in my work. I found it really inspiring. Inspiration is all around me, I just need to find right way to present it.

5. What and who inspires you to create art?
I am inspired by any creative person. It could be anybody, not just other visual artists. Lately, I’m watching Japanese carpenters on YouTube doing amazing stuff with so much focus. I could watch it for hours. Also, fashion, traditional crafts, psychedelic and experimental music inspires me a lot.

6. You started as a street artist under a pseudonym Aorta. Why did you use another name?
Yeah, it was long time ago. When I was a kid, I started to do street art and like all other street artists, I chose to present my work under pseudonym. I see it more as a way of branding yourself, not a name I hid myself behind.
From this distance it has been even more practical. I do not do street art anymore, and I do not want my real name to be connected with street art. So, that name presents one part of my life.

7. You cover topics such as tradition, superstition and occult. When you start getting interested in such subjects and why?
When I was a little boy, I was bitten by a dog. It was a really scary incident and I could not sleep well for days. So, my grandmother decided to take me to an old lady to help me. This lady was dealing with the pagan healing practice known as “saljevanje strave”. She covered me with cloth and started to throw melted lead into the cold water. Throughout this process she was mumbling some mantras. It was such a strange and interesting experience for me as a kid. Later, I started to explore more about this and similar practices, and I started to use it in my work.

8. I particularly like your images Mlada, are those photographs of someone you know? What does dripping wax represent?
No, I do not know anybody from the photographs. They are random photographs I found at a flee market.
There was a period when I was visiting flee markets regularly, where I was collecting interesting objects and other things I can use for in my art.
Sometimes wax is used instead of lead in the healing process I mentioned before. The materials of my work – such as various scarfs, wax and lead – are based on the utensils that are used by the healer during the pagan healing treatments.

9. You’ve showcased all around the world, what is next for you?
Currently, I am working on new works – sculptures, videos. Experimenting with new materials.
I will be part of group show in Paris in September. And there are few more projects I am working on.

Check out the rest of Emir Šehanović’s work here

Words by Ruby Bukhari

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