Dragana Crnjak

acrylic on canvas
60" x 48"

(B. 1977 – Yugoslavia) Working from backgrounds of muted pastels and earthen tones, Dragana Crnjak layers linear patterns and organic shapes to create paintings that, despite minimalistic elements, achieve a unique and romantic depth of field. Charcoal is often included in her paintings and, rather than fighting against the dusty residue inherent to the media, Crnjak embraces the material’s breakdown and uses it to further enhance the three-dimensional appearance of her work. Even in paintings without charcoal, a similar aesthetic is achieved in her willful push of the paint through elements in the foreground and in the attending, lightly feathered forms that seem to auto-generate and emerge from the depth.

In Arriving, we see the artist deploying these signature formal moves, where her abstraction takes on a surreal sense of pictorial landscape—a “scene” of sorts that meanders between an aerial perspective and a ground-level view of an estranged and potentially embattled territory.

Crnjak received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA in Painting from Myers School of Art at the University of Akron. Her work has been exhibited widely in the US and abroad, including with The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, SPACE Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, Curro & Poncho Gallery, Guadalajara, Mexico, and the McDonough Museum of Art, Youngstown, OH. She is a three-time recipient of The Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award (2008, 2011, 2015). Dragana is Associate Professor of painting and drawing at Youngstown State University.

From the nominating artist: 

I recently discovered the work of Dragana Crnjak, and was drawn to the space that she creates in her drawings and paintings. Using abstraction to create psychological landscapes, her work evokes ideas of memory, history, struggle, and place. Crnjak’s work challenges gravity with simultaneous movement and stillness. Through layers of atmospheric cosmic fragments and geometric architectural remnants, the lyrical results explore tension and paradox.
— Kristina Paabus

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