Jana Danilović: stepping outside your comfort zone

It's impressive how a single story can inspire such diversity through different mediums! Visual artists from around the world are taking part in WHISTLE project, in an attempt to present a multi-sensory experience never attempted before in the Greek visual art scene. And that's because we do not think of visual art as an experience that when viewed fades away, but as an excuse, a triggering event, a reason to produce an artistic conversation and a literal dialogue with everyone interested. This is the way we feel visual art should work.

In this article we meet visual artist, Jana Danilović, from Belgrade, Serbia.

Why did you decide to participate in Whistle Project?
I stumbled upon the open call for participation while looking for something else completely, and it seemed interesting for several reasons. First, was the fact that I rarely have a chance to collaborate with artists from fields other than street art / muralism, so the idea of having to create something that should obviously relate to someone else`s work, created in a whole different medium, seemed incredibly fun and seemed very challenging - in a good way!

What intrigued you?
Somehow, I was intrigued on different levels and by different things, as the time went by... Initially, I was intrigued by the atmosphere, I liked the story a lot and on that level, I started piling up ideas on how to catch that atmosphere in a still picture. Once I realized that `doing my usual magic` isn`t going to work on this, that was when I became really intrigued by two things at the same time. One, what is it that I`m really trying to `capture` on paper and two, what should the process be.

What was your workflow?
The point when I came clean with myself that I`m pretty much clueless where to start from, was the moment when I really started playing and enjoying the game. As a street artist, I get to be outside during night time a lot, and therefore I get the opportunity to see and hear the city once it calms down. So, I used some of that precious time to actually think about the atmosphere I was after. Some parts of some cities seem incredibly calm and peaceful by night and made me feel safe and pleasant, while other parts, even though no apparent threat exists, have somewhat of a menacing tone to them and gave me the chills. Those moments were the exciting ones I recognized as fitting to describe the atmosphere I wanted to depict. So, aside from just collecting experience, I also collected photos of shadows and walls and street textures that seemed visually interesting and possibly inspiring. What I also find out during those walks was how important the role of sound is, in creating the an atmosphere.I realized that the moment you actually start being afraid has the sound of your heart beat playing the role of a soundtrack. From that point on, drawing and collaging was super-easy, since it became a pleasant game of arranging the readable symbols and visual elements. Although the original idea was to make `something` in public space and have a photo-document as a finished product, I decided to actually make the work in the studio, collaging fragments of the drawings I paste-up around the city(ies) and drawing the rest of the elements, using the photos I made while walking around as reference. The whole process was interesting and amusing, because it made me step out of what I feel as comfort zone and what I considered to be my usual practice.

What was your artistic style, any influences?
When it comes to style and technique, it is fair to say that what we are talking about here is quite a classical drawing, somewhat digitally edited. Things that I always found interesting in visual, as well as any other type of communication and expression are rhythm and repetition, so this particular work is no exception. There are a couple of particular things that popped into my mind once I figured out the method and the goal of this experiment, and those might seem completely unrelated, but somehow - they fit together and served as inspiration - Giorgio de Chirico`s Mystery and Melancholy of a street and an song by `80s Yugoslavian band U Skripcu revisited by band Block Out called `Belgrade is Asleep` (in Serbian - Beograd spava)

Do you believe in superstitions?
First, I confidently typed `No`, then I thought for a second and realized that it was not entirely true. I do not consider myself superstitious. I have no l issues with black cats, I do not follow religious routines, I would never wear the red thread around my wrist not even under a threat of death. But now and then I catch myself wanted to do things in a way, in order `everything to be ok` or to notice `signs` or have `a feeling` about things. I guess that makes me a hypocrite, but when I come to think about that - I guess that every kind of superstition is based on fear of not having control over  things happening in your life. The more insecure you feel - the more superstitious you are prone to be.

What do you want people to see in your works?
On one level, the symbols used are universal and readable. A viewer, influenced by the atmosphere, can read the work based on his or her own experience of fear and surprise. Maybe think about their own reaction to a similar situation. Who knows, maybe we are about to create a new superstition from scratch, in lab conditions 😊.

What about the idea of collective storytelling?
I think it is brilliant, because none of the participants can predict what the others will create, or how the viewers will "read" each work. That is what makes this project, so precious. Diversity of possibilities to approach one same story and create unexpected experiences, bringing together uncountable influences and perspectives. 

Why should people support this project, why go to the exhibition?
I think what makes contemporary art forms so interesting is the fact that only once a work has been "read" (experienced) by an audience,  it gets its final form. Let us not forget that we are talking of a collective exhibition related to one story. This provides fertile ground for personal interpretations and personal re-thinking of what we consider normal or not. Those two processes combined, I can almost guarantee, will be surprising and fun for anybody!

All the works created for WHISTLE project by Jana, will be available to the public during the transmedia exhibition.

Jana Danilović (1989) is a Belgrade based muralist and street artist. She attended Belgrade’s Faculty of Applied Arts, and since 2018, she holds a D.A. degree. Her work has been displayed in twelve solo shows and about fifty collective exhibitions around the world. She likes to experiment with different art forms, ranging from traditional printmaking to murals. She has painted murals and worked on street art interventions in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece and Monte Negro since 2013. Member of Street Smart Belgrade art collective, working on promotion and production of street art related projects. Occasionally publishes articles related to hate graffiti and general role of the painting in public space. Advocates the opinion that walls can tell more honest truth about the society than news paper.