A Strawberry under Lockdown: Tijana Petrovic on Human Splendour and Vulnerability

A strawberry, beautiful and breakable, is seen in seemingly cold white and blue interior spaces in the art of London-based artist Tijana Petrovic. Its reappearance makes you wonder what it might stand for. We see it on a bed, by the window, on a chair, in water, near something of an architectural maze. It seems like a human, either absorbed in the self or navigating environments that are too bland and inanimate to respond to its organic needs. At times, it is suspended in a heavy, tedious and endless present—between a comfortable past and unknowable future.

Tijana elaborates on the paintings she made during lockdown: “The reoccurring motif of a strawberry often represents a figure and has a meaning grounded in personal experience. However, its characteristics could be symbolic on a general level. A strawberry’s colour is vibrant, its shape is voluptuous, smell strong and alluring, taste appealing, yet it is soft, easily damaged and deteriorates faster than most other fruit – therefore it is delicate and short-lived. Strawberries are exposed – their seeds are visible and their attractiveness is tempting which makes them vulnerable. I relate those qualities with the notions of time-passing, fragility of life, short-lived nature of beauty and youth, and vulnerabilities of minds and bodies.”

Tijana Petrovic

In her work overall, Tijana explore the themes of inhibitions, vulnerabilities and complex emotional states such as nostalgia with an aim to cope with the anxieties related to everyday life. She aims to turn the negative or mundane into something positive—aesthetically pleasing or comical—and break the boundaries of the uncomfortable by enabling discussion on difficult topics in a light-hearted way.

Through her newest series of paintings (“Summer Vibes”, “Clearance”, “Goodbye”, “From My Perspective”, “Going South”), she deals with notions of nostalgia for carefree times, even more emphasised due to the pandemic. The playful scenes she depicts are overshadowed by an ominous or strange atmosphere alluding to the difficulties in everyday adult lives and relatable to the challenging times we are living in.

Tijana was born in 1990 in Croatia. She obtained an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins. She was awarded with the Mona Hatoum bursary while studying at the University of the Arts London. She won the Tim May Memorial Prize and she was shortlisted for the Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize, the Sunny Art Prize and the Visual Art Open prize. Her works are a part of private collections in the UK, Republic of China and Croatia. Tijana recently exhibited in the Saatchi gallery as a part of the ‘London Grads Now’ exhibition and in the Mall Galleries as a part of the ‘Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition’.

Links: Website (petrovictijana.com) | Instagram (www.instagram.com/tijana.petrovic_)

All the Things I will Miss © Tijana Petrovic. Reminiscent and nostalgic, figure in a form of a strawberry observes the life behind the closed window and strongly reminds of the situation majority of us found ourselves in during pandemic.
A Serious Matter © Tijana Petrovic. This painting deals with tragicomedy in everyday life in a form of various situations individuals could find themselves in. My aim was to introduce humour into mundane, repulsive, and sometimes painful and sensitive subject matters.
Cast-off © Tijana Petrovic. This painting was inspired by encounters and relationships which were once a large part of the life but are no longer present. It depicts the cruelty of reality through combining a cold architectural environment with the fragile and short-lived strawberry.
In My Room © Tijana Petrovic. This painting depicts the moments of solitude and being entrapped in our own minds, overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts.
Limbo © Tijana Petrovic. This painting portrays the feeling of being stuck in both a whirlwind of emotions and the mundanity of everyday life.
Clearance © Tijana Petrovic. This painting depicts the shift in life where simple and enjoyable turns into complex and worrying – where carefreeness is taken away and replaced by the new reality where obligations, fears, lost hopes and unfulfilled dreams play the main roles.
First Number Two at Your Lover’s Place © Tijana Petrovic. Through this sculpture I was questioning where certain inhibitions originate. Mundane and everyday needs sometimes represent an issue or an obstacle and as such are often determined by social conventions and biological impulses. I wanted to approach something that is always uncomfortable and everybody can relate to in a humorous way.
From My Perspective © Tijana Petrovic. This painting is a humorous depiction of various strange and unpleasant states of mind as well as personal struggles. It talks about pessimism, anxiety, and depressive states where mind takes over the control over thoughts and feelings.
Going South © Tijana Petrovic. This painting depicts the roughness of life and time-passing in a light-hearted way. The combination of gentle pastel colours and playful childish-like patterns, and the overflowing toilet symbolising a change, creates a strange and ominous atmosphere.
Goodbye © Tijana Petrovic. This painting deals with the notions of nostalgia for carefree times. Seemingly playful scene is overshadowed by an ominous atmosphere which indicates that the period is coming to an end. The painting alludes to the difficulties in everyday adult lives.
Summer Vibes © Tijana Petrovic. This painting represents a sarcastic and comical view on various aspects of adulthood. The familiar objects combined into a strange imagery create an odd atmosphere symbolising disappointments and failed expectations we face as adults. Created during pandemic, it is also relatable to the resulting lost moments and various difficulties we have encountered.
The Smoothie © Tijana Petrovic. This painting represents various frustrations and inner struggles – an emotional entanglement of regrets, failed expectations, unfulfilled wishes, moments lost forever and aspirations.