Working with oil on canvas, Ruznic’s latest pictures verge on total abstraction, yet upon inspection, figures emerge, seemingly wandering through unnamed landscapes. Ruznic describes the process of composing each image as conjuring a memory and the redeeming of essential details as she paints with “the drunken hand”, an intuitive impulse that knows something the artist may not. This looseness of intention allows Ruznic to start with the lightest of stains on canvas or the manipulation of small fabric scraps until a face feels familiar. Applying thin layers of oil pigment onto the canvas with soft bristled make-up brushes allows Ruznic to leave the weave of the canvas exposed, displaying its organic nature and allowing for a sense of breath from the substrate.
As Ruznic’s figures emerge, they are perhaps asking the viewer to be held, to be helped. An empathy which can bridge the gap between the polarity and extremes of today’s political turmoil. Ruznic states, “Painting and stitching allow me to sift through my ideas about who they might have been. I make them up as I go, wiping and staining the surface of the canvas until a face feels familiar. The scraps of fabric make up entire little individuals who dance to help me remember.”
Maja Ruznic, a prolific and active artist, is primarily a painter, a storyteller who conjures form and narrative from ground up mineral, smeared oil, and stained canvas. Born in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1983, Ruznic immigrated to the United States with her family in 1995, settling on the West Coast where she eventually went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, later receiving an MFA from the California College of Arts. Ruznic’s often-quoted biography – a refugee who escaped the Bosnian War – is only the beginning of her journey. Ruznic’s vivid paintings speak for themselves, depicting figures that seem to emerge from the caverns of human history, from within their own supports, and somehow from within the viewer’s own recollections. These paintings breach something intrinsically human and Ruznic guides us deftly with dark humor and complex representations, not dissimilar to Werner Herzog’s wry, but poignant 3-D documentary depicting the oldest painted images in the world. Ruznic has exhibited internationally and her work has been written about extensively, most notably in ArtMaze Magazine, Juxtapoz, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Studio Visit Magazine, and twice in New American Paintings, including the cover as selected by curator Anne Ellegood. In 2018, Ruznic was a recipient of the Hopper Prize.