INTERVIEW Antonia Schmidt
IMAGES Courtesy of the artist
Bijanka Bacic lives and breathes art. With her abstract surfaces, she opens a space for interpretation, but especially for different layers that are concealed in her works. Colors, shapes, chaos, order, bodies and landscapes are hidden in these abstract paintings. Born in Australia in 1997, she received her Bachelor’s degree from the National Art School in Australia and is currently working on her MA from the Royal College of Arts in London. In addition to painting, she has also discovered analog photography and is exploring the boundaries of the medium. Besides various group and solo exhibitions, she has most recently shown her work in cooperation with König Galerie and STXDYOZ in Milan. In the interview, she talks about what no one else tells you about the life of an artist and why you often don’t feel connected to your art.

Antonia Schmidt: Bijanka, how are you these days?

Bijanka Bacic: Hey, Antonia! Ahh, it’s been busy. I had the excitement of moving into a new studio and preparing for my next body of work, so I can’t complain.

A.S.: How did you get to know painting in the first place?

B.B.: To be honest, I can’t recall the exact moment or event that sparked my interest in painting; it appeared to be a natural progression in my artistic journey. I’ve been drawing since I was a child, replicating everything I saw, and I absolutely loved it. However, once I felt I had reached a decent level, the logical next step was painting. I consider myself fortunate that the medium felt incredibly natural to me. The idea of using multiple layers to construct an image, gradually building it up through colors over an initial sketch. It very much aligns to how I study and view paintings in museums – I’m always intrigued by the process and the paint itself.

A.S.: How would you describe your working method?

B.B.: My working method is best described as a dynamic exploration of abstract painting. This process starts with an observational sketch inspired by historical works, particularly those of artists like Delacroix and Rubens. This sketch serves as the catalyst for the painting journey, one characterized by the layering of forms and pigments onto canvas until a moment of chaotic tension is reached. I then apply a broad brush, loaded with paint, sweeping it from the top to the bottom of the canvas, repeating this action across the entire surface. The handcrafted quality of these stripes leads to the alteration and enhancement of the underpainting. This deliberate interplay seeks to draw out the intricate and contrasting relationship among the different layers, playing with the illusion of depth by either pulling the different layers apart or drawing them closer together. The ultimate result is a rhythmic complexity, a connection that dances on the edge of coherence and disarray.

A.S.: What does a typical day in your life look like?

B.B.: A typical day for me usually begins with rolling out of bed and making my way to the studio as quickly as possible. In the mornings, I dedicate my time to analyzing the works that I have completed or that are currently in process. This process helps get my head back into the mindset I had before and consider my next moves and adjustments. I prioritize achieving a balance between the actual act of painting and delving into art books, essays, or articles to seek inspiration and explore new questions to advance my practice. Moreover, I love chatting to fellow artists at Thames-Side Studios, where my studio is located. We exchange thoughts on our latest projects, give feedback on each other’s works, or engage in creative discussions. At the moment, there are a lot of debates about the quality of art in galleries, especially post-Frieze week. And when I need to have a day off, I often head into central London to visit art exhibitions. So, it’s safe to say that I truly live and breathe art!

A.S.: What are the three things you can’t live without?


  1. Coffee
  2. Coffee
  3. Coffee

A.S.: Your paintings are abstract, often combining different layers. Why did you choose abstraction?

B.B.: Originally, when I first entered the art scene, my primary focus was on realism, particularly on figuration and portrait painting. However, it wasn’t until I pursued my BFA at the National Art School in Australia that I began to question my subjectivity. I ended up going through a profound process of trying to determine what I wanted to convey with this medium, what type of artist I truly was, and what I aimed to achieve with the viewer. And, in this quest, I found I was drawn to the abstract form, and I realized that the answer had been right in front of me all along: It was about painting itself. It took me a considerable amount of time to grasp the depth of my role in this subjectivity. And I do believe oil painting suits the abstract expression very nicely, due to its ability to capture the artist’s hand in motion and in a way that captures the process of how an artwork was created. Paintings, in general, possess a unique power: They are objects with illusionistic properties and have their own language that can evoke a sense of form, space, motion and light, all within the confines of a flat surface. Abstract art, in its purity, has the capacity to explore these aspects further.

A.S.: When I look at your work, I think of chaos and order. How do you balance these two?

B.B.: The objective isn’t necessarily to seek a strict balance between chaos and order within my work, but to allow both elements to coexist and flourish within a single surface. There are moments when one aspect may dominate the other, creating a dynamic interplay between these contrasting forces. This relationship between chaos and order seeks, perhaps, a type of truth or, to put it differently, is an attempt to portray the complexity of our lives and experiences – the duality in our existence.

A.S.: Are you a chaotic person yourself?

B.B.: Maybe chaotic in the studio. [laughs] Generally, I like to consider myself a calm person. Although, I’m not sure that my partner would agree!

A.S.: You also take photographs of people and places. How does photography complement the practice of painting?

B.B.: Indeed, I do take photographs of people and places and photography has become an integral part of my artistic practice. Initially, it served as an exercise for me to experiment with various compositions and forms, an area that I felt I needed to improve on. This endeavor led me to develop a deep appreciation for film photography, which I now prefer over digital. Film offers a more abstract and unpredictable quality, similar to the nature of paint itself. It allows for serendipity and unexpected results, adding an exciting dimension. Just like paint, film doesn’t allow for complete control, and that unpredictability has become an asset, influencing new perceptions/compositions which have come across into my painting practice.

A.S.: Where does your inspiration come from, from within, or the outside world?

B.B.: It is both. The compositional structures or forms within my paintings are often inspired by artworks I’ve observed or pieces I’ve read. However, when it comes to color, while I initially considered it as a device to manipulate the illusion of depth between the layers, it inevitably becomes emotional. So, the choice of color also comes from within.

A.S.: Who or what has been the biggest inspiration in your life?

B.B.: The most significant inspiration undoubtedly comes from other artists. Observing their work, delving into their discussions, and engaging with their practice. Drawing inspiration from a wide array of artists such as Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, David Reed, Gerhard Richter, Peter Halley, Agnus Martin, Katharina Grosse… Their contribution to the art world, along with their unique perspectives, have played a substantial role in shaping my artistic vision.

A.S.: I wonder, what is it in the life of an artist that no one talks about?

B.B.: Well, there are highs and lows, moments of self-doubt, with questions like “Will my next painting be as impactful as the last?” or “Was my previous work a one-time success, and will my creativity become stagnant over time?” However, I’ve come to realize that these feelings are essential. They serve as the driving force that propels artists to keep pushing themselves, to create new paintings, and to keep striving for that one exceptional piece that surpasses all expectations. Additionally, the solitude that comes with spending countless hours alone in your studio, surrounded by only four white walls, is a significant but often unspoken aspect. Paradoxically, despite this isolation, you never actually feel alone.

A.S.: Is love an indispensable part of making art?

B.B.: Hmm… there is a type of love for making art, but I wouldn’t describe it like that… Basically, I see it as a type of relationship with art itself. This connection entails moments of deep passion and profound correspondence, akin to love, but it’s also marked by periods of disagreement, disconnection, or feeling as though art isn’t cooperating. In essence, it’s not just a matter of feeling, but rather an interaction with something that seems to have a life of its own. This relationship is what fuels the creation of art.

A.S.: What are your plans for the near future? Any upcoming exhibitions?

B.B.: I do! Having just finished a solo show with KÖNIG GALERIE in Milan, I’m currently putting together a new body of work for my NYC show in January with Long Story Short. Super excited!