“I felt reset by being in a changed environment”; Dragana Jurišić on creating Daithí Sleeps

Erin Murphy

Dragana Jurišić discusses the impact of Covid-19 and moving out of Dublin on the themes explored in her work.

Today on the top floor of the National Gallery of Ireland you will find some beautiful pieces on display as part of the Zurich Portrait Prize competition. Among the works shortlisted for this award is Dragana Jurišić’s Daithí Sleeps. Jurišić’s piece stands out against its neighbouring portraits. Many of the portraits harbour a caginess not observed in Jurišić’s work, it’s clear that they were created through or heavily inspired by the lockdowns of 2020.

Jurišić’s work had a great openness and freedom about it, with its playful elements of nature. Jurišić, who is synonymous with creating political artwork, accredits this new shift in tone of her work to the move she made this year from Dublin City to rural Wicklow.

“I started spending more time in nature and in such quietness and darkness, that I felt reset by the change in environment,” She added, “It concretised this need for human beings sexually to spend time in nature, in order to reset themselves.”

Jurišić explained how lockdown influenced the trajectory of her work.

“Before COVID, I used to travel all the time for exhibitions and projects, of course I didn’t welcome the pandemic but there was a welcomed part of taking a break,” she added, “That allowed for the portrait that is now in the National Gallery … I guess my creative streak had to be satisfied.”

Jurišić discussed how traumatic it can be, creating art based on lived experiences. Having first come to Ireland in the 1990s as a refugee herself, Jurišić often explores historical topics such as war and genocide.

“I used to always think about this after talks, just how traumatising it is for me to go over and over things that happen, let’s say in former Yugoslavia where I’m from, civil war, genocide and other atrocities are committed,” she added, “I would love to be from some countries where war is not so present and make nice pictures of flowers for a change.”

“I think it’s happening now,” she laughed, “It didn’t happen as a plan, it naturally went there, I started working more and more on these composite images of friends, self-portraits, my partner and nature.”

To view Jurišić’s portfolio visit: https://www.draganajurisic.com/ or view Daithí Sleeps and the rest of the Zurich Portrait Prize exhibit by booking your free ticket to the National Gallery of Ireland: https://www.nationalgallery.ie/visit-us/book-your-ticket

Erin Murphy

Image Credit: the National Gallery of Ireland