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Level 25 Artjournal

Level 25 ArtJournal

...art should be shared

Matthias Callay Michelle Engberg Joseph O’Neill Ana Zdravkovic

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Issue #12; January 2015


Level 25 ArtJournal

http://level25art.com info@level25art.com Sean David Wright, Founder and Chief Editor

Cover Artist

Matthias Callay pg 4 Michelle Engberg pg 12 Joseph O’Neill pg 22 Ana Dravkovic

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All interviews conducted by Sean David Wright; (editor@level25art.com)


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“Leaf II” Mixed media on paper Ana Zdravkovic

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Matthias Callay (Belgium)

In his works, Matthias Callay (1991°, Antwerp) is researching today’s mechanical way of organising our lifes. Related to Walter Benjamin’s work “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and Marshall Mcluhan’s “The medium is the massage”, he is posing questions that are relevant for our modern times in which we live; What does reproduction mean? What does reproduction convey? How do we relate to our mechanical way of living How does the mechanical or machinery relate to us? He reflects on these questions through multiple media such as drawing, writing, animations and 3D rendering. Hereby opening a dialogue between the different process-orientated works.

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He takes the reprodution to which we are so used these days upon himself, thereby he transfers the reproduced into something very physical and neurotic, and in this way shifting the meaning of the work to the machinery or contruction they hide. By shifting the meaning of these forms, he is also constructing a poetic field in which neurotic slavery in order to reproduce and an monk-like way of working merge together.


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“The Sublime” Digital Artwork Matthias Callay

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“Xerography 1” Ink on Canson Paper Matthias Callay

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Level 25 ArtJournal Your statement speaks of your analysis of “today’s mechanical ways of organizing our lives.” Yet, I have to wonder: it seems to me that today, most of our lives are organized digitally, not mechanically. What holdovers from the mechanical era of organizing our lives are you specifically addressing with your art? MC: The word ‘Mechanical’ is used in a very broad sense, it’s broader than merely the digital spectrum. In my opinion the mechanical and the digital are intertwined in the sense that the digital is structured as a mechanical entity. Let me elaborate; i have to put in commands that represent specific electrical signals that the computer knows as an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. The machine operates in the same manner; the operator uses commands to make the machine perform. The digital is -in my interpretation- not a new way of organising our lives, but rather an expansion of the ‘machine’ in general. My art is invested in the same principles that the machine uses, this is possible like a factory worker operating or a writer commanding the machine in the broadest sense of the word. I’m interested in the action itself, it surpasses human ability and we use it to make things ‘perfect’, but at the same time it’s getting more and more autonomy, the relationship between humans and machines is changing rapidly. Andy Warhol was another artist who had a fascination with the concept of mass reproduction. What do you think it is about things that are reproduced many, many times which draws the attention of artists? MC: Andy Warhol was indeed interested in ‘mass’ in general, but also criticized it from the inside out. With makes his position as an artist interesting: he believed in the system he was provoking. Mass production is a concept that is fairly ‘new’ in the arts, not many artists are able to coincide with this concept as Andy Warhol could. For me personally, it was the idea of the object that was reproduced -being reproduced many times- being considered as an original product. There’s the original that is reproduced, and the reproduction itself. though the second one is merely a cast of the first one it is considered the original, as if the reproduction is actually the real object, the original. For example: a toy car, company X creates a toy car out of plastic. One could say that the toy car company X holds in its hands is the original, this toy car is reproduced millions of times and then distributed all over the world. The reproductions are bought by consumers who treat that toy car not as a reproduction, something that had an original, but consider it original. It’s a strange and peculiar thing that intrigues me endlessly: the simulacra.

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“Machine Creation” Digital Artwork Matthias Callay


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Your work, “Machine Creation,” a digitally-created piece, can be looked at as taking the reproduction of computer code—the seemingly endless strings of ones and zeroes— and harnessing it to create something original and striking. Is the use of computers an experiment for you that will pass with time or do you predict you will continue using computers to create your art? MC: I do see the use of computers needed in my artistic process, I’m drawn to it. There are roughly two ways of dealing with a computer for me, or I tell it what to do, or the computer tells me what to do. In the Machine Creation (working title) I had a certain idea of what I was doing, but i couldn’t get the rendering program to work properly and so it took the initiative and gave me roughly what you see on the work, this crazy triangle sort of landscape/canyon/…, I still don’t know what it is. But I do know it will continue in a public space, to bring the digital into the physical world, forcing interaction. The computer is a beautiful example of a simulacra which I mentioned in the previous question; it does it best to take over the functions of the old media, so in a sense it’s the new media taking over the form of the old media, but replacing it in a more convenient way. That way it ‘looks’ real, like a sheet of paper, a landscape or something, but you’re always confronted with the surrealistic aspect of the imagery you’re seeing. It can’t be real because you’re looking at a reproduction. It may be something that the digital era can never surpass, but it’s intriguing in its ambiguity.

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“Xerography 3” Ink on Canson Paper Matthias Callay

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The language of the computer is simple in its complexity... “Xerography 3” (previous page) is a beautiful work. It even made me laugh when I first saw it because initially I thought it was a representation of holy Hebrew text before realizing it was computer code. In your opinion as an artist, is computer code the human race’s new holy texts? MC: Thanks, it had a lot of interesting response on expositions where it was exhibited. Several computer technicians immediately recognized an image-string taken from a website in which it refers to itself. Several people didn’t understand it but appreciated the calligraphic and aesthetic quality of the work. I wouldn’t say holy texts, but there is a certain aspect of it that can be interpreted as a mantra. The language of the computer is simple in its complexity, it’s completely honest in what it is: the representation of an image. But at the same time it tells us nothing, to me it’s a way of revealing the digital of an image.

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“Xerography 2” Ink on Canson Paper Matthias Callay


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Michelle Engberg www.michelleengberg.com (US) Cover Artist FROZEN IN TIME (series) Frozen in Time is a fine art series based on a idea/dream I have had on a unfinished fairytale. Each picture represents a story on how each character ended up frozen in time. The catch is I want the viewer to make their own story up on what took place in their lives before the occurrence, so I will leave my version out! I want to captivate people into interacting with my art in more ways than just viewing a picture, I want them to find a story. HER WORDS (collaboration with poet Alana Helapitage) Just a few months ago, Michelle Engberg and Alana Helapitage embarked on a fated artistic journey. began with their collaboration on Helapitage’s website, A Shared Path. Engberg and Helapitage met at a time of personal and creative rebirth. More than ever before, they both longed to stretch their artistic boundaries and to work in service to their shared passion, empowering and inspiring women.

It

Through the marriage of Engberg’s fine art photography and Helapitage’s poetry and essays, A Shared Path was born. The site includes “Her Words” as its first entry. Helapitage encountered Engberg’s piece, named “Her Words” after Helapitage’s poem, on Facebook. Helapitage believed the piece to be “award-worthy.” “Her Words” captures the vulnerability, grace, and undeniable beauty of a woman expressing her authentic self to the world. Engberg and Helapitage’s feminine, mythic styles complement each other perfectly. The visual and verbal interplay in their work create an impact that, the artists are convinced, flows from their natural synergy as collaborators and as women. What feels like overnight, the pair’s professional and personal destinies are leading them to exciting creative territory. Engberg and Helapitage are discussing a series of images, essays, and poetry, spawned from their love of supporting women, community, and selfexpression.

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“Frozen In Time #3” Michelle Engberg

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Level 25 ArtJournal You are a New Yorker. Level 25 has actually featured several New Yorkers as well as other artists from big cities (London, Berlin, Paris) in its issues. Art and cities seem to mix perfectly. I would like to hear your opinions on why that is, please. ME: Yes I was born in Queens New York and was raised in NYC most of my life. I feel that major urban communities keep me constantly inspired. Urban areas also have more diverse social communities, I have had more diverse stories and inspirations from different cultures from around the world in one city as opposed to traveling to many countries. OK, let’s start with “Frozen in Time,” your series about the “unfinished fairy tale.” I love that your work is designed to invite viewers to create their own story while examining the images. However, that being said, there is a certain amount of guidance which you, as the artist, provides to help the viewer discover his or her story in your selection of models, theme, props, et cetera. While you are creating your set pieces, do you often imagine what stories people may come up with while viewing that particular image? ME: While I am creating something for the viewer to interpret I avoid specific stories until the series is finished. I find it interesting that depending on what the audience is going through in that moment is generally where they take their story. I feel art in general breaks that barrier, doesn’t have to conform to one idea and I like playing with that concept.

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“Frozen In Time” Michelle Engberg

“Frozen In Time #”4” Michelle Engberg

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... sometimes you have to let go of y your mind and humble yourself t working with and to give them


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“Frozen in Time” demonstrates that your photography is very complicated, involving the support of a lot of talented individuals beyond the models: make-up artists, set decorators, stylists... Are there ever times when you crave simpler projects, just you and a model, no one else, no other creative noise? Just two people working quietly together to create wonderful art? ME: Definitely, each project is completely different for me, the first thing I think of is the concept, the second is what is this concept going to evolve and how much work is going to go into it. Her Words is a perfect example of that, My good friend and very talented Writer/Poet Alana Helapitage wrote this poem her words, that poem resonated in me and inspired me so much, I went out to the mountains with a stool, a big piece of fabric and a helper John Young, climbed to the top of this mountain and shot it very simply. It turned out to capture exactly how I felt when reading the poem initially and it was a very simplistic shoot. On the other side it definitely helps when you have found a creative team that you are completely in tune with when doing big projects, this is often rare to find but I have been lucky enough to find individuals that share the same magic. I also feel that as an artist that works with other artist, sometimes you have to let go of your need to create alone and open your mind and humble yourself to other ideas from whom you’re working with and to give them trust in their creative abilities.

“Frozen In Time #”6” Michelle Engberg

your need to create alone and open to other ideas from whom you’re m trust in their creative abilities.

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Level 25 ArtJournal Now I’d like to spend time on “Her Words.” Your statement about the image uses all of the words I would have in describing it: vulnerability, grace, beauty. You are the model in this angelic photograph, so to begin, I would like to know what was the motivating factor for that? What drove you to decide, “I am this woman!”? ME: I feel at this moment in my life I am accepting who I am as an individual and an artist fully, and I can absolutely relate to this poem. What I am taking from this is to be my raw honest self no matter what obstacles may come my way. Live my life the way I intended and accept myself and others no matter how many wounds I may endure. Her Words was a living metaphor for what I was experiencing at that moment. I felt no better candidate for the position, so yes I am this woman but also feel many other women are too. This last sentence for me really says it all. “There, heaving quietly in the swell of her breath, Her words would no longer bear the shackles of her silence And she would endure every wound, and grow every grace To speak-” The poem “Her Words” speaks of prayers; the photo “Her Words” has an unmistakable religious motif. Yet at the same time, when I look at it I don’t necessarily feel that it is a “religious” image, which I believe is intentional on your part. How were you able to walk the fine line between subtle and overt religiosity in this photograph? ME: I think by creating an idea where viewers can relate no matter what their beliefs are was important to me. I feel the picture represents, finding yourself spiritually no matter what religion you are in. And also the religious undertone evokes attention to not only the image but the poem and the importance of the message. I also wanted to emphasis that we all possess strengths in ourselves and surprise ourselves time after time as we surpass our life struggles A photographer/poet collaboration is somewhat unusual. Poets are usually very, very guarded when it comes to other artists—be they photographers, painters or sculptors—creating imagery for their words; and understandably so, because there is so much room for misinterpretation. Describe for us, please, what it was like to feel that synergy between you and Alana Helapitage. Was the collaborative trust immediate between you two? ME: I got to tell you I have read her poems before the shoot like 100 times because I was nervous of exactly that lol. But that was not the case at all, when we started collaborating we would meet a week or so before the shoot where we would go over Alana’s poems and really get to know what her message was and how it was going to be presented. Than we would work on a concept together. So far we have worked on about four shoots together because we trust each others creativity and work well together. For me, I have learned that I can pull so much inspiration from her poetry as opposed to something visual which is a new avenue for me. Finally, I would like to know your opinions on the role art can play in empowering women. ME: I feel art can liberate woman and inspire them to follow their dreams. I think art is meant to inspire and depending on the message it can impact a lot of issues in the world. I think women can definitely become artist weather it be recreational or as a career, and there are many different careers you can use your creativity for.

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Her Words Every loving witness to her Craved the vaulted syllables in her heart Until those syllables screamed for her voice So in the hum of their prayers and hers, that she would finally speak them She walked naked She walked raw as the bud of a lotus And she stood at the blade edge of the world There, heaving quietly in the swell of her breath, Her words would no longer bear the shackles of her silence And she would endure every wound, and grow every grace To speak By Alana Helapitage

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Words” Level“Her 25 ArtJournal Michelle Engberg

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Joseph O’Neill (US) My photographs give voice to the silent stories I find all around New York City ‒ most of them in plain sight. When the sun, the Hudson River, and the corner of a building all join in a dance of reflection, light, and shadow; when the last of the leaves blow ominously across an abandoned piece of playground equipment late at night ‒ these are the stories my photographs tell. There is a solitude that is known to most city-dwellers; a hollowness against the artificial light and the din of the city’s razzle-dazzle. It is that isolation that my camera seeks. This is a city full of diamonds. New Yorkers train themselves to tune out the everyday sensory overload; barely seeing what’s right in front of them. Looking at a collection of my work, I’ve seen people experience something extraordinary, beautiful, and even life-changing. It’s amazing how often they start discussing memories ‒ as they move from photo to photo, it’s as if they move through their own life as well. I prefer black and white to color, buildings and landscapes to portraits, large-scale to small. And I have exceptions to each of those preferences. I welcome you to enjoy this series of photographs, and to experience what I see through my lens ‒ the real, raw magic that is my city.

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“Reflection” Photograph Joseph O’Neill

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“Sunset” Photograph Joseph O’Neill


Level 25 ArtJournal New York City, one of the most photographed venues in the world. By now the challenge for any photographer working in that city is to make his work stand out and be original while walking in the footsteps of so many photographic giants who came before. While you are out working with your camera, how do you ensure that you focus on being original? JO: I believe that every photograph captures a particular moment, place in time, making each one unique. I can take a million pictures of the same subject but each photograph will have a different feel, evoke a different emotion or illicit a different reaction making each one an original. How much does art imitate Joseph O’Neill’s life in your photography? You speak in your statement of solitude, hollowness, isolation—a kind of personal insulation all New Yorkers have against what is around them. Do you find yourself falling victim to that kind of insulation also? And if you do, do you ever wonder what you may have missed during those insulated moments, however long they last? JO: In a couple of ways, I have an explorers heart. I love to experience new sight and sounds and walking around the city with my camera allows me to indulge my explorers heart. The pictures I snap are of my everyday life. I choose an art form that is solitary by practice and form. I am an only child raised by very strict parent. As as child I learned to entertain myself by playing games by myself. Solitaire was one of my favorite card games. I enjoy solitude, it allows me time to reflect. They say that this is the City That Never Sleeps, well I beg to differ. Living with 8 million other people plus the 3 million that travel into this city during the week, you try to find solitude and isolation wherever you can, to get away from it all The photographs that I snap are solitary in nature which makes them that much more interesting. Because this art form is spur of the moment, being in the right place at the right time, you can never have regrets about missing a moment. Something else will come along.

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“The Statue” Photograph Joseph O’Neill


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“The Eye” Photograph Joseph O’Neill

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What is one of your happiest moments photographing in New York? JO: It was early morning I had just got off from work, I couldn’t sleep and I decided to take my camera and catch the sunrise from the vantage point from the Brooklyn Bridge. I started traveling toward the bridge an hour before sunrise, it was very calm and quite. I arrived at the bridge, started to walk across, not a sole in sight. I found a perch, set my self up. Every couple of minutes I would snap a photograph or two not really paying any attention to my surroundings. Slowly as the sky started to go from dark to light, more and more people had the same idea I had, to watch the sunrise, began to arrive on the bridge. It became a swell of a couple of thousand people. It had become a communal experience, everyone staring in the same direction, watching the same thing without an utterance to be heard. I was just amazed that New Yorkers would take an hour or two out of their very busy lives to experience a sunrise. When you leave the city, whether it is to visit family or friends, or on business, and you find yourself in the suburbs or some rural locale, is your photographic eye as stimulated? Are you actually able to “see” photographs the way you do while in New York? JO: Living in Manhattan and having limited access to nature or other places. I find my documentary photographic eye is stimulated, knowing it will be weeks, months, years or maybe never that I’ll be able to photograph that locale or subject matter again. Every situation, place, or subject matter requires a different approach to photographing. I bring my gritty, raw New York aesthetic but allow nature to temper, situations to dictate, subject matter to speak to my artist’s eye.

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Ana Zdravkovic (Serbia)

www.anazdravkovic.com

My project is based on the forms of nature and construction of its inner world. The complexity of the world is formed by the subtle network whose structure occupies the space underneath the surface and creates a new image, hardly visible to us. Inspired by the existence of the Japanese Beetle and its interventions on the leaves of the plants, my artistic research treats forms of nature and the construction of the structure inside the things. Observing those fine thin structures, we are entering into the other minuscule world, the essence of everything. I am trying to respond the questions such as what things consist of, which are the outer and inner forms that determine them, and most importantly, does their construction always comes with destruction. My research brings together some of the primary interests and concerns of both, art and science, in the way of observing the subject and thinking about the world. The phenomena of the Japanese Beetle and its actions in the nature raises different concepts and problems related to the life of the human beings. It concerns ideas about nature, form, identity, time, as well as the relation between the opposites, such as construction and destruction, or reality and imagination. I was treating those problems by creating series of drawings based on experiments and different kinds of interventions on paper. I have started with simple ink on paper drawings, and then I started playing by adding more materials. The leaves started passing from two dimensional to the three dimensional space, forming a kind of small installation. The combination of materials is what makes the whole process interesting. It gave me opportunity to experiment and get the different vision about the subject I was treating. However, the process must not be stopped here. As this subject can be observed as part of many aspects of life, it opens variety of ways to continue the work on it.

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“Leaf Installation” Aluminum paper installation Ana Zdravkovic

“Leaf Installation (detail)” Aluminum paper installation Ana Zdravkovic

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Leaves, to me, have always been a good reminder of the transience of life. Has this project of yours forced you to re-examine the fleeting nature of life and to appreciate it more? AZ: Leaves actually turned up to be such a complex subject which can be observed from many points of view. First of all they offer us a wide range of forms which have been very inspirational for artists in general. Forms change from species to species, but also in one single leaf we can notice one form inside another one. My work is pretty detail oriented and I like keeping my focus on the small elements that compose the bigger things. I find quite interesting the question of scale: things repeating in smaller or bigger form, which exactly happens with plants. If we only pay attention to the fractal structure of the tree branches for example, we will notice that the same pattern repeats in the veins of a tree’s leaves. This physical aspect of leaves is actually what made me start working on my drawings and begin with my project. Later on I have started thinking about some other processes related to leaves, about transformation, change, construction and deconstruction and how they are all interconnected. It is true that leaves can be related to transience and fleeting nature of life, but I prefer to see them as a simple natural cycle: from growing, developing, through changing color, to obtaining the completely new form. I see it as of a kind of renewal, an opportunity to discover some new forms, new identities. You state that you want to discover what things consist of. In this project, you are speaking specifically about leaves, but what I would like to ask you is, what other objects--whether nature or man-made--do you want to discover this about? And, in your research about what things consist of, have you ever not liked what you discovered? AZ: I always had the curiosity about what makes the things the way they are. I was attracted by the miniature world, small inner microcosm, often invisible to the naked eye. First time I really started thinking about it consciously was while working on a series of paintings and drawings of glass bottles. I was fascinated by the glass as a material. Since it is so plane and simple, it might seem as not having much to offer. But if we have a deeper look into it, we will discover the whole new world full of unexpected reflections, details, shapes and colors. The simplest objects usually turn out to be surprisingly interesting. Later on I started working on those plant drawings. Actually I got inspired while reading some article about the intervention of the Japanese beetle on the leaves, discovering the impressive inner structure of the leaf. Plants have so much to offer: that tiny inner world seems infinite, full of patterns, forms and styles. I can`t say right now where my future artistic practice will carry me. Led by the idea about the inside view, I will continue my research in the field of botany, but I am also interested in different kind of everyday objects. Apparently ordinary, they have lots of potential. What we will discover depends on the type of observation we employ. The deeper view opens the door to that inner space which, I believe, can never disappoint us.

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“Leaf Transformation I” Mixed media on paper Ana Zdravkovic

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“Leaf Transformation II” Mixed media on paper Ana Zdravkovic


Level 25 ArtJournal Construction and destruction seem to fascinate you. For this project you are focusing on natural destruction; however, does destruction caused by humankind hold the same fascination for you? AZ: Yes, while working on my drawings the idea of the interconnection between the construction and destruction appeared as related to the intervention of the Japanese beetle on the leaf. While the insect destructs the leaf surface and the familiar presentation of the leaf, at the same time the completely new image appears. We have the opportunity to see the leaf from a completely different angle. The new image is being constructed, the new form is being revealed. At this point we can maybe even rename the `destruction` into `deconstruction`. The construction process can be seen as a successor of the deconstruction process. I think it is an interesting idea of seeing them as two inseparable processes which are forming a circle. I didn`t really relate this idea to the humankind, although there are many destructive processes connected to it. However, if we could apply the idea of ‘construction as a successor of a destruction’ on a humankind, hopefully we would have much more creative things going on! Your drawings are so very intricate, with such fine lines. They are truly wonderfully done. Give us, please, an idea of your technique for creating these works. AZ: Thank you! When I first started with this project, the first drawings were done only by pen and ink on paper. Later on, things got more ‘complicated’. Attracted to the feeling of infinity of the leaf structures, I decided to add pencil as well, since I wanted to achieve some thinner lines and allows me to enter deeper into the subject. As other ideas were appearing, I started thinking about transformation and how to visualize it. I started combining ink and pencil with different layers of tracing paper. Each layer was carrying a different fine structure, with the finest one on the last layer, revealing the whole transformation process. The last part of my project consists of three-dimensional pieces made of aluminum paper. I have perforated the leaf shaped pieces of this kind of paper, trying to depict those finest structures. The aluminum paper gives lots of opportunities as far as modeling is concerned, I could play with shape and position of each leaf, inventing its transformation.

“Leaf I” Mixed media on paper Ana Zdravkovic

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“Leaf II” Mixed media on paper Ana Zdravkovic

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Level 25 Artjournal; Issue #12  

An artist who sees art like a machine does; another who has used a poem to create a stunning representation of womanhood; and another who fi...