The figures in her incredible ethereal paintings, emerge from thin layers of oil paint Ruznic applies to the canvas, allowing the movement of the characters to coalesce with their supple environments. The shapes bled, bleed into one another. Borders are shifted and unclear. Ambiguous and beautiful.
Her playfulness with the thresholds of form brings to mind lucid dreams, timelessness and transitional moments. Her washes of vibrant oils act like watercolours, filling the canvas edge to edge, radiating energy, electricity, pulsing and full of rhythm.
I love these explorations. These hazy mythologies.
Maja, your work is so tender, so soft. What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes and motifs running through your work? Is there a narrative that runs throughout?
My work changed pretty dramatically when we moved to Roswell, NM. The transition from Los Angeles, to this much more secluded place in the US, naturally pulled me towards a more toned down palette. The garish, almost feverish colors in my earlier work stopped making sense in the desert. I realized that although I never before considered myself a “site-specific” painter, I am in fact, deeply influenced by my environment. It’s just that everything happens so intuitively for me that I don’t, in the moment, notice the shift. The scumbling and blurriness comes from a natural desire to smudge and make ‘un-certain’ marks. When I was in school, teachers would always say “Make confident marks!”, “Make it look like you know what you’re doing!” But I always wondered—what does an anxious or sad mark look like? Can you paint if you don’t have something in your mind’s eye? Can you start a painting without an ‘idea’? Does the hand have its own intelligence? Can you imbue a gesture with fear, or discomfort?
I wanted the emotion to be transferred to the hand, so that not only that which is depicted—the illustration—signals an emotion; I wanted the way that something is painted to havepotency, to contain information. So I knew that I needed to marry the mark with the content. I knew that this was the only way to get beyond the brain and into the heart—into the nerves of the viewer.
What is your studio like Maja? (Inc. Where do you like to create best? What are your artist necessities? What could you not live without?)
I have a really beautiful studio and feel super lucky about that. It’s the most beautiful studio I’ve ever had. Prior to moving to NM, I’ve always been in shared spaces that were overpriced and too small. The new, airy, larger space made me want to paint larger and be more ambitious in general. Perhaps the most significant aspect of moving to New Mexico has been to work as a full time artist for the first time. The lower cost of living combined with more space has allowed me to fully behave like a professional. When we lived in California, I had various part time jobs, so I was only in the studio a few times per week. Often, I found myself too exhausted to start anything too ambitious. The slower pace of life here in New Mexico has given me the chance to take a deep dive and to really push my work to the next level.
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time, what would the meal be and who would it be with? Why for each?
With all the artists below, I’d love to have a great piece of steak and rich, red wine—I have a feeling that everyone I listed would be up for this choice!
Louise Bourgeois—because she is intimidating. I am a bit scared of her, so that of course intrigues me.
Mark Rothko—because his paintings are everything to me. I’d love to talk to him about color. The first time that I cried in front of art, was in front of his paintings that are part of MOCA LA’s permanent collection.
Marlene Dumas—she is such a force. Her work is so raw and honest and from what I have seen and heard in interviews, she seems to be as well. I am drawn to how unfiltered she seems.
Edvard Vuillard—Oh I’d love to talk to talk to him about his mother and how much of her being a seamstress has influenced his paintings. I adore his work. My mother also works with textiles—refurbishing vintage clothing, so I like that we have that in common.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Maybe that I’m a little obsessive compulsive. Everything about my work is intuitive, but everything about my studio and process is obsessive—like I have to clean my studio before every session, certain colors can’t touch one another and the consistency of paint has to be just right. Only certain brushes are used for very specific areas in the paintings. I can only move in one direction in my paintings, and I can only add so many layers of paint before I call it 'overcooked'. Perhaps that I’m just more tightly wound than my paintings would let on.
Who are your favourite practicing female IDENTIFYING artists?
Kim Kei (@kimkeistudio), Shannon Rankin (@shannonchristinerankin), Afton Love (@aftonlove), Nadia Waheed (@nadiakwd) , Rebecca Farr (@r_f_a_r_r_), Tammy Zibners (@tzibs), Raychael Stine (@rayrayandbertie), Shanti Grumbine (@shantigrumbine), Julie Alpert (@julie_alpert), Rachel Grobstein (@rachelgrobstein) and so many more that I’m forgetting at the moment!