Growing up in Belgrade, there was only one computer in Maja Djordjevic's entire apartment building. But she still has vivid memories of playing on the computer as a child. She and all the other kids in her building would pour into a neighbor's apartment and spend hours sketching and doodling in Microsoft Paint.
Djordjevic also remembers the natural curiosity with which the children in her building approached naked bodies. They would look up nude images online and recreate them in crude sketches in Paint. "And when an adult came, you could delete it fast," Djordjevic tells Creators.
Djordjevic has been an artist all her life. She began studying at a private art school and then a design high school. In her time as a very young artist, she learned an appreciation for art history and how to let her imagination blossom. Afterwards, she majored in painting at the Academy of Arts in Belgrade, however the coursework was very traditional and did not allow for much experimentation.
But somewhere along the way, the pixelated, colorful drawings of nude figures from childhood worked their way back into the now-27-year-old painter's mind. She would go home to her studio and let her colorful visions run wild.
She began using drawing programs on her phone, tablet, and computer as a visual diary. She would illustrate what was happening to her, her friends, or what she saw around Belgrade, using a crudely-drawn character and recurring motifs like ice cream, dumbbells, guns, bananas, crowns, and turbulent waters.
The colors are picked straight from the Microsoft Paint palette. They are bright pops of color that, once upon a time, were chosen without much thought but are now painstakingly recreated with oil paint.
In fact, Djordjevic's entire practice entails painstakingly recreating digital art. Her paintings are translated onto large, meters-wide sections of canvas. She does most of her work completely by hand, without the help of projectors.
Although the subjects in her paintings are often engaged in unhinged, perhaps violent acts, Djordjevic insists that they are shown through a humorous lens. The bright, poppy colors show a character who, she says, can be "aggressive" when brandishing a gun or lifting dumbbells, but is "always yelling and having fun."
"For me, my happiest moment is when someone comes into the gallery and looks at my paintings and laughs," she says. "When I paint, draw, or doodle, not everything is happy. But I want it to make me laugh and have fun."
Djordjevic's work is on display at The Hole gallery in New York City through March 27 and will be on display again as part of a group show at the gallery from April 6 to May 14. Follow her on Instagram and explore more of her work on her website.