Maja Ružnić

Skills: Duplex 2012-2018

Phantom Caravan

These paintings are a search for lost cousins, forgotten uncles, and unknown fathers. The process of painting allows 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. They dance to  help me remember. The finished painting is a collaboration between myself, their whispers and moans.  Their dance destabilizes certainty and makes us feel comfortable with fog. My marks, barely legible, flirt with abstraction and let the figures be unraveled. My painterly language is the spoken language of my ancestors–gibberish–and it is in this balderdash that we meet.  My marks break, trip on themselves and cough up hairballs. How little can we get away with and still derive meaning from something?  Can I take the eyeballs away and one will still know that it’s a face?


Maja Ružnić, 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, Ružnić 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, Berkley, later receiving an MFA from the California College of Arts. Ružnić’s often-quoted biography – a refugee who escaped the Bosnian War – is only the beginning of her journey. Ružnić’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 Ružnić 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. The power of Ružnić’s vision can be evidenced in her myriad accomplishments: she has recently shown her work at Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery in Denver, Galeri G-Art in Istanbul, MASS Gallery in Austin, Galerie Ernst Hilger in Vienna, Arc Gallery in San Francisco, and locally at Charlie James Gallery, the Torrance Art Museum, Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, and most recently as part of MAIDEN LA. Ruznic’s work has been written about extensively, most notably in Juxtapoz, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Studio Visit Magazine, and twice in New American Paintings, including the cover as selected by curator Anne Ellegood.

Exhibition view, Phantom Caravan, Maja Ružnić