The human face, with all its softness, contortions, wrinkles and sags, is the subject matter of Jelena Bulajics’ minutely accurate paintings. Each canvas is filled with the faces of people she spots in the street, or encounters in daily life, whose character, look, or empathy catch her interest.
She herself is unable to pinpoint the criteria for her selection: It may be that I am attracted to the human ‘map’ contained within a face, and the layers of its skin – a bodily margin that bridges the distance between the inner and the outer.
This is the appeal of her work, the flesh as thinly containing a soul, a spark of animation within. Her play with scale, some canvases are smaller than life-size others are huge, allows her to manipulate the intimacy with which we view her subjects.
I am trying to find a scale that demands a particular intimacy of proximity, and brings the viewer to an actual or illusional ‘kissing distance’ to the face of the other depicted in the painting, or even acts as an invitation to touch the surface / skin of the painting. What is striking about her choice of subject matter in this day and age, is its elevation of the elderly to beautiful object of contemplation. Our own youth-obsessed culture little allows for the elderly to be present in the media, something Bulajic is keenly aware of, whilst sincerely maintaining that these are the faces that simply draw her in.
© Natasha Hoare, 2015