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Mirjana Vrbaški (b.1978 in Montreal) is a Serbian lens-based artist. After obtaining a BA in Literature in Canada, Vrbaški turned to photography, graduating from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (2010). Her ongoing series Verses of Emptiness has received and been nominated for, among other, the Renaissance Photography Prize (UK), the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize at the National Portrait Gallery (UK), Hellerau Portrait Prize (DE), Vattenfall Fotopreis (DE), National Portrait Prize (NL) and LensCulture Portrait Prize (NL). Vrbaški has participated in international exhibitions at institutions such as Fotomuseum Den Haag (NL), Transformer Station Cleveland (USA), and Museum Kranenburgh (NL). She is represented in international private and public collections, including The National Portrait Gallery, Fries Museum and Transformer Station Cleveland. She lives and works in Berlin.
Mirjana Vrbaški’s practice is rooted in the photographic image as a palpable site for contemplation of complexity. Generally working with large formats and repeating motifs, Vrbaški abandons the idea of photography as story-telling. Pushing past the narrative, she seeks to foster a deeper engagement with the photographic image — an engagement that ensues from calm, attentive observation of and continuous returning to the uneventful and the unspectacular. In such a process, looking becomes carving, burrowing, until the image is ‘hollow enough to echo’. Opening this space to the within, the images invite the observer into a gaze that does not seek yet still discovers.
In Verses of Emptiness (2009-ongoing), a series of large-scale portraits of women, Vrbaški and her model isolate themselves in the photo studio, working in silence and concentration so as to ’peel away’ the model’s surface layers. Placing her model against a neutral, contextless backdrop and consequently ’sculpting’ her inward, Vrbaški reduces her portraits to a minimum of visual elements until a more essential and strangely unsettling layer is exposed. Austere and otherworldly, the portrayed women are like cups about to overflow: They offer a glimpse into their vast interiority yet continue to evade easy categorization.
In ‘7/8’ (2017-ongoing), Vrbaški uses landscape photography to describe an open-eyed observance of intricate systems. Relying on the same methodology as in her portrait work, where seeing means unearthing layer by layer, Vrbaški immerses herself in the entangled forests of the Dalmatian coast. Capturing them as they pulsate under the midday sun, she remains democratic to both the breezy qualities of a forest as well as its dense, impenetrable character. Thus re-tuned to this environment’s ‘asymmetrical’ rhythm, Vrbaški becomes an observer of its inner logic — a logic that defies simplistic interpretation and an all too quick illusion of grasping.
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ON VERSES OF EMPTINESS:
Interview with Joerg Colberg:
Goodrum, Sarah. A New/old Ethics of the Photographic Portrait: Mirjana Vrbaski’s “Verses of Emptiness”. AfterImage Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Vol. 40
Brunner, Eva. Mirjana Vrbaski “Verses of Emptiness”. Brennpunkt Magazin für Fotografie
Download Brennpunkt.pdf (German)
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