Jelena Telecki is interested in representation in painting and sculpture. Installation plays an important part in creating a dialogue between painting and sculpture and is used as a means of articulating her sense of personal and shared narratives, internal and the external.
Jelena has recently been a finalist in the 2018 John Fries Award (curated by Consuelo Cavaniglia), and has exhibited in Australia, UK and Japan. She has been awarded several scholarships and grants, including the University of Sydney Postgraduate Award 2008-2009; and the Australia Council for the Arts grant for the development of new work, 2010. In 2014, her work was exhibited in NEW14 (curated by Kyla McFarlane), Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
Jelena Telecki in conversation with Artspace Executive Director Alexie Glass-Kantor
Alexie Glass-Kantor (AGK): Can you briefly tell us how you began as an artist, and some background to your practice?
Jelena Telecki (JT): It seems to me that most of my life I spent imagining the most unlikely scenarios I could draw or paint. When I lived in Belgrade [Serbia], this dream of becoming a ‘real’, practicing artist evaporated due to difficult geo-political and socio-economic circumstances people living in ex-Yugoslavia found themselves in. But, with my migration to Australia, it was suddenly possible to go to art school and find out what happens once you finish your training. I believe that I followed a common trajectory of starting with exhibiting in Artist Run Spaces, yet from here my practice has been anything but linear. This all, at the same time, shaped my practice; mostly in the way I think about the work I make, but also when it comes to my working ethics.
AGK: How long have you been practicing now?
JT: It is not easy to pinpoint an exact date, or year that I mark as ‘the beginning’, but I feel like it was sometime during my Honours year when I spent more time thinking about what is it that I actually do in my work.
AGK: Where did you go to school?
JT: I completed my undergraduate studies at NAS (BFA), and then went on to SCA to do Honours and Masters. I started Masters in 2008 and finished around 2009.
AGK: Which is when I met you, so around 10 years.
JT: Yes! It is wonderful that you remember that meeting. It was during my very first solo exhibition in Melbourne; I thought that it was very kind of you to see me and introduce me to then Gertrude Contemporary team.
AGK: I am really pleased that you coming here is kind of like our ten year anniversary, even if your trajectory isn’t so linear, beginning again and again. In terms of the conceptual space of work, how do you describe what it is that you explore through your practice?
JT: It is always difficult to articulate or identify with certainty this ‘something’ I am exploring through my work. However, I can comfortably say that all my work begins with my interest in historical and contemporary narratives, intersections of personal and collective, universal and specific. Above all, I am trying to understand this through obsessively looking at representations or depictions in art. My current work may be somewhat different as it is tracing my interest in artists: in how artists rehearse and articulate their artist persona through their work. I am very interested in Joseph Beuys as art shaman, and how this charismatic, mythological ‘self’ he became well known for bled into his work, making it impossible to separate the work from the artist. But coming back to your question regarding what I am searching in my work - I feel that I cannot escape a mention of my attraction to a certain visual language or the look [and] aesthetics of the work that at times perhaps uncovers my background of growing up in Eastern Europe and my penchant for dirty, brown, somewhat depressing scenarios I like to depict in both my paintings and sculpture.
AGK: What kind of projects are you working on this year?
JT: At the moment I am working on solo exhibition at the COMA Gallery in Sydney. Titled Mirror Practice, the exhibition will be my opportunity to show new series of paintings and two sculptures. After I finish installing this exhibition, I aim to spend some time looking into traditional techniques of painting. My never-ending obsession with van Dyck resulted in this desire to gain a better understanding of his processes and techniques. Of course, it is also hard to think now of my next project and concepts that will develop after this one. I don’t like to go that far ahead - I like to focus on what I am doing now. But I am sure that there will be something, there is always something ‘simmering’ in the background.