TUA: What are your artworks about? How do you start your works?
Elma: They are based on my parents stories of the war in Bosnia in the 90s. My work is fragmented, just as the stories my parents used to tell when I grew up. It has several elements which refer to that. I have a lot of conversations about it with my parents and they are very open about it. I try to document all the stories in diaries, and also the paintings are a way to document it and spread it to the world.
TUA: Is it hard for you to deal with the stories that your parents are telling you?
Elma: No it’s actually a process for me for understanding what happened there and what my point of view in the story is
TUA: Do you think art always has to be meaningful?
Elma: I think art always has a meaning because it’s based on something we see or experience. But does it have to have particular meaning for example political or social? No, I don’t think that is necessary.
TUA: Why do you think is it so important that the younger generations are confronted with important topics from the past ?
Elma: I think it is important to have these conversations because it can show where we stand right now, and maybe what kind of patterns we see in our society now that we can relate to events from the past. I would like them to think more about it. Some topics are maybe not related to them and can be complicated to form an opinion about, and I hope my art can contribute to start a conversation about the hard topics like war/genocide.
TUA: Do you want to scare people with your work? Is scaring people with the past an efficient method to prevent mistakes from happening again?
Elma: No it’s not my intention to scare people. I want my work to be open, to discover new questions, and for the audience to feel free to ask them to whomever you are with or just a random stranger. For example some artist's works have a really heavy and dark feeling. As a visitor you leave with a heavy feeling. There is almost no place for questions or imagination. I don’t want my work to feel like that. I’ll guide you softly through all the glitters before I dump you in the hole of the Bosnian war. I think that’s a more efficient method than to throw it in someone’s face.
TUA: Are you worried that we will loose the connection to our past? How do we ensure that we continue to be connected with it?
EIma: I don’t think we humans lose touch with the past. The past is our present. Humanity can only exist because of what has happened before, and we learn it and take it over and make it our own. Without documentation we wouldn’t be able to figure out a lot of things, so art is a really important piece of the puzzle for every century, even now.
TUA: Do you often explain your art? Are words an essential part of your artwork?
Elma: My work has a personal meaning and because of that I often need to explain it to people. Especially if they don't know anything about the war. I don't mind explaining it. It creates a moment to have good deep conversation about the topics I try to address. I would say my titles are important to read because most of the time they contain contradictions. They create 'huh??' moments with the viewer - just like the work below.
‘She wrote me that she got a boobjob’ ,2019
TUA: Can you tell us a bit more about your series “Symbols of Power”?
Elma: I tried to take a broader look with my paintings because the stories I have used so far are quite personal. With this series I tried to create a work that was more understandable for more people. It’s something I am still struggling with, whether I want that broader look on the subject or if I want to keep it really personal.
TUA: Why do you choose to paint faceless people ?
Elma: The reason why I don’t give people faces is because the face really draws the attention from the viewer and for me it’s more about the whole setting instead of the person itself it.
TUA: What would your dream exhibition be like?
Elma: I think I would want to show my work in books together with artists who work with the same subject or related to the subject. I think that would be a really interesting way of spreading our work to get it to a broader audience. From my experience not a lot of galleries are into representing this kind of work because it’s a heavy subject and most of the time it shows a bias through it. With sensitive topics galleries are more cautious because of the reaction it can elicit. I’ve had my work declined for hospitals because of the war elements. They include guns, tanks, and severed heads, and it would or it could catch some people off guard. It’s totally understandable for me that they wouldn’t want that in their hallways, but for some galleries I think it’s also important to discuss hard social topics and to not run away from it.