Pekmezmed is one of Croatia’s most well known street artists. In Croatian, pekmez means “jam” and med means “honey.” According to the artist, her pseudonym was chosen in a moment of fun, because it sounds playful and childish. A self-proclaimed hopeless optimist, her cheerful disposition is evident even in her bold and colorful work, tinged with whimsy and a forward-looking mysticism. Versatile and highly creative, pekmezmed also paints, draws, experiments with photography, makes sculptures and other “random objects,” and has even launched a free, online visual art magazine called Frrresh [http://issuu.com/frrresh]. Here, she tells us more about her work and street art in Croatia.
How did you become involved with the street art scene?
[After] I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where I studied sculpture (small sculpture and metal making, to be precise)… I was doing a lot of sculptures and reliefs in wood, and realized that living in Croatia would pose a problem if I wanted to sell these sculptures. People just didn’t have the money or need for sculptures in the post-civil war period … I started thinking of how to “get rid” of [the work]. While realizing that gallery spaces were too “sterile” and boring for me… I came to the idea to leave my art in public spaces. Shortly after, my friends told me that this new thing I invented already existed, and it’s called street art.
What are some of your favorite subjects to paint?
I don’t have a favorite subject, that’s the beauty of the freedom I feel when I paint. I find that limiting myself to favorite subjects will keep me, metaphorically speaking, in one place. I try to paint or draw the subjects, or random thoughts and feelings, that interest me at the time. I think that having an artistic nickname helps a lot. The nickname gives me the opportunity to do what I want. I can jump from one medium to another or even change the nickname if I see fit, while my real name gives me the sense of stability or even security.
Women with long hair and women in water have become motifs for you. Do they symbolize anything in particular?
In the last few years I started to become more aware of my personal change and, as cliche as this sounds, spiritual growth. Since I started taking more and more “me time,” relaxing or meditating, I often “saw” these female figures or female energies, if you will, in a moment of rest or pause. I began meditating on these visions and got the feeling they were linked with the earth, healing themselves and the world around them.
What have been some of your favorite creative projects?
Street art jams such as the Museum of Street Art (MUU) in Zagreb, Sinestezija Festival in Herceg Novi in Montenegro, and Hello Sailor in Rijeka. These types of art projects are rewarding because I get to meet new, interesting people and see how they work. And of course, being a part of Frrresh magazine.
Can you tell us more about Frrresh?
Before I talk about Frrresh, I should mention that the idea came from a project that was already in motion. Some of my friends, OKO, Puma34, Ninja Tiger, and I had this idea to make a street magazine where people would mail us their artwork and we would put it on the walls of Zagreb and Rijeka. We called it “Streetzine.” After I printed the artwork, I would paste the prints [around town] so people walking by could see it.
It worked fine for a while, but … I started realizing that more people would see it if it was online. That’s when I decided it was time for a new concept: a magazine about visual arts that would be free to read and available online. I asked my brother Rafael [to collaborate] with me, and a month later we launched the first issue. The idea is to make it as simple as possible, keep the emphasis on the artworks and artists, and keep it looking “fresh and clean.” We strive to have at least one artist from Croatia in every issue since we feel it’s necessary to promote Croatian artists and put them and our Croatian readers in touch with artists around the world. So far we have published 11 issues that are free to read on issuu.com and at our website frrresh.org.
What has your experience been as a young artist in Croatia?
Financially it was always a struggle, but Croatia is small and as long as you do something you love I think you can find your place under the sun. I have had some great experiences and have made great friends, so I would have to say that the experience has been perfect.
Interview by Elaine Ritchel (@elaineritchel)