Ghostly apparitions haunt Maja Ruznic's canvases, where spectral forms conjure memories of motherhood, generational trauma, and mystical ritual.Read More
Maja Ruznic was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the Bosnian War began in 1992, Ruznic and her mother fled the country, living in refugee camps in Austria for three years. Eventually they arrived in California in 1995, where Ruznic would graduate from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. She would later receive an MFA from the California College of Arts in 2009.
Maja Ruznic paints ethereal groupings of figures that shift in and out of definition, evoking the hazy miasma of personal and collective memories.
Ruznic's luminous paintings combine dreamlike figuration with a scumbled abstraction. A variety of suggestive mark-making leaves the images ghostly, conveying echoes of ideas rather than anything definitive.
In The Return (2020), Ruznic uses what she describes as 'the drunken hand', an intuitive, loose painting process that relinquishes some of the artist's control. In the painting, three women emerge from layers of thinly applied paint, overlapping washes, and distorted edges. These are archetypes drawn from mythology—the Three Graces—but imbued by Ruznic with a symbolic melancholy.
Ruznic's painting process begins with thin stains of Gamsol-saturated pigment that create an initial composition, out of which she pulls details and figures through scumbled layers of additional stains. These are then sanded back to expose the texture of the canvas, a subtractive process that further disintegrates the outlines of her figures.
Thematically, Ruznic's works can be read as responses to her family history and cultural turmoil, especially in the context of the Bosnian War she fled from. Narratives around motherhood, generational trauma, and ritual are explored through references to cultural practices such as Slavic paganism and shamanism.
In Truth Seekers (2019), a trio of women could be astral projections, shamanistic scientists unleashing rays of healing light into their environment. However, her works also resist clear interpretation, with her sensitive mark-making suggesting memories, emotions, and states of mind. She describes recalling a memory of her mother during the Bosnian War while working on her painting Mother (2020)—a recollection of a warm embrace following a week-long separation. This manifested in the emotive use of blue in the painting.
More broadly, Ruznic's paintings speak to the complicated web of human history, as mediated through our own memories. Ruznic seeks communion with this history, perhaps even absolution and healing from a painful past. As she explains, 'Painting has become a way for me to touch what I couldn't reach'—reconnecting with her history and memorialising matriarchal ancestors.
Maja Ruznic was a recipient of the Hopper Prize in 2018.
Maja Ruznic has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions internationally.
Select solo exhibitions include Consulting with Shadows, Karma, New York (2022); In the Sliver of the Sun, Harwood Museum of Art, New Mexico (2021); Name of the Voice, Hales Gallery, London (2020); My Noiseless Entourage, Conduit Gallery, Dallas (2020); Avet, Conduit Gallery, Dallas (2018); Phantom Caravan, Duplex100m2, Sarajevo (2017); The Wailing Sisters, CES Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); Soil as Witness, Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco (2016); Yellow Throat Ribs, Galerie DYS, Brussels (2015); and Untitled, Candyland, Stockholm (2015).
Select group exhibitions include HI WOMAN!, Museo di Palazzo Pretorio, Prato (2022); From Morning Til Night, We Should Never Rely On a Single Thing, Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Abstract with Figure, James Fuentes, New York (2020); GOOD LUCK, Shrine, New York (2020); A Little Tenderness, Gildar Gallery, Denver (2019); Figures, DORF, Austin (2018); Calico Sunset, pt. 2 Gallery, Oakland (2018); Tickle Torture, BEERS, London (2017); Elysian Passage, MAIDEN LA, Los Angeles (2016); and Angels With Dirty Faces, Galerie Ernst Hillger, Vienna (2015).
Ruznic's work is held in the collections of the Dallas Art Museum; The Rachofsky House, Dallas; EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; and the Jiménez–Colón Collection, Puerto Rico.
Peter Derksen | Ocula | 2022