Olja Ivanjicki, renowned Yugoslav avant-garde painter, talks warmly about her father who starved to give a true home to a lonely little girl whose mother died when she was four. This included lot of reading.

Olja Ivanjicki's parents came to Yugoslavia from Russia in the twenties. Olja was born in Pancevo, near Belgrade, and spent her childhood in Kragujevac, Republic of Serbia, where her father was an engineer in the Military Technical Institute.

After World War II, Vasilije Ivanjicki and his daughter moved to Belgrade, where he taught ballistics at the Military Academy for two years until he retired.

Today, when she is one of the top Yugoslav painters, Olja has time to read only one author-Dostoyevsky, "Why waste time reading two hundred pages for a single memorable sentence? With Dostoyevsky, every sentence is a book", says Olja who has little time left for anything except painting.

Nevertheless, extravagant Olja is at the center of attention at all important functions or private parties in Belgrade. Her elfin face seems to fit perfectly in her pictures, in which figures of women resembling Madonna's are almost always present. Her paintings in which imagination and reality mingle and melt together reflect her way of thinking and expressing herself.

Olja Ivanjicki entered public limelight with Mediala - a group of young artists (painters, writers, architects) seeking their own original expression, who made a significant impact on Belgrade's public and cultural life at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties. The art they presented was strongly symbolic and based on the avant-garde trends of the first decades of the twentieth century. In their vision of Surrealism, Dado Djuric, Ljuba Popovic, Toskovic, Leonid Sejka, Miro Glavurtic, Milic of Macva and other Mediala members thus found themselves in the company of authors having an equally original style such as Vasko Popa, Danilo Kis, Borislav Pekic, Brana Petrovic, and Zika Pavlovic.

Olja caused a real sensation an Belgrade with Pop-Art, to which she turned following her return from the United States where she studied in 1962 as Ford Foundation scholarship recipient.

"I spent those ten days in tears, but it was at the same time the most beautiful experience I have ever had. The rejection, public mockery, and countless other reactions caused by my exhibition created an atmosphere of a kind that will not be seen again in Belgrade in a long time. It seems that Pop-Art will not be easily forgotten", Olja says today talking about her 1964 exhibition presenting Pop-Art to the Yugoslav public.

After 1964, Olja's painting shows, according to critics, a conscious need to express an international spirit in her style and her subjects, bypassing any regionalism and even her own background. "It is precisely this orientation which is the reason of Olja Ivanjicki's remarkable popularity. Olja, the way she is, represents a link with the wide world in the eyes of Yugoslav public, easily fascinated by her socialite charm."(Djordje Kadijevic, NIN, 1976.).

Olja's pictures imaginatively interweave the symbols of various cultures and civilizations (from Pytagoras and Da Vinci to space flight). This is why, as Miodrag B. Protic said in 1976, her painting has "a great multi-level complexity in time and contents". In his introduction to the Belgrade exhibition catalogue that year, Protic wrote that the "ideal of the integral was the main interest of Mediala and Olja...and the aspiration towards that age-old chimera had a concrete result: it inspired Olja's lively imagination to develop a vision of a modern fantasy having a deeply personal ichonographic and plastic structure".

In her pictures, Olja has already stepped into the 21st century, which she sees not only as a threat to humanity's survival, but also as a future challenge.

This is clearly seen in the monograph presenting her painting, titled "Olja", which caused a sensation at international Book Fair in Belgrade in 1984. It was published by "Knjizevne novine" in three thousand copies, which were sold out in a wink. One of Olja's best known large canvasses "XX vek"(20th Century) was exposed at the stall promoting the book.

Next year, another monograph on Olja Ivanjicki's painting appeared in 1985, this time published by the New York firm "Alpine Fine Art".

Olja Ivanjicki was also written about in the american edition of the book "Who is Who".

Olja Ivanjicki attended the Academy of Visual Arts and finished her post-graduate studies in 1957 in Belgrade. The same year, she had her first individual exhibition to be followed by many others throughout Yugoslavia, in the United States, Canada and Switzerland. Her works were exhibited collectively with those of other artists in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Federal Republic of Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Soviet Union and China.

The first official recognition of Olja's work came in 1964, when she got the silver plaque for fiction illustration at the "Zlatno pero Beograda" (Belgrade Gold Pen) exposition, to be followed, among others, by the award of public at he 11th October Salon in 1970, the first prize at the "Belgrade in Visual Arts" exhibition in 1974, the award of the public at the 16th October Salon in Belgrade and second prize at the "Belgrade in Visual Arts" exhibition in 1975, and the first prize of honor of the "First Biennial of Yugoslav Art" in New York, in 1978.





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