Born on Halloween in the former Yugoslavia, artist Tanja Jokanovic Trager relocated to Germany shortly after the Yugoslav Wars began. Choosing to remain in Germany after the tensions lessened in her homeland, Tanja put her art career on hold while she raised a family as a single parent.
With her children now grown and more time to focus on her painting, Tanja resumed her art career just last year, and despite being back in the art world for such a short time, she has already had exhibits in prestigious galleries in Europe, Asia, and the US, earning accolades from art critics and peers, for her colorful and uniquely expressive portraits. Among the awards Tanja has just recently won, has been the Michelangelo International Art Prize she was presented with earlier this month at Rome’s Brancaccio Palace.
The following is Tanja’s first English interview and is being presented at Idol Features exclusively. All accompanying photos courtesy of Tanja herself.
TANJA JOKANOVIC TRAGER: I was born on the 31st of October 1971 in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia. When the civil war broke out, I was only 20 years old and started studying romance studies. I wanted to travel and see the world, what every young human being dreams of. But I followed the intention of my parents going to my uncle in Germany until the situation calmed down and I’m still living here.
CHRIS: You were born on Halloween. Does that hold any special significance for you?
TANJA: I’m not completely certain if there are possible connections with esoterism and spirituality, but I’ve always had interest towards those topics
CHRIS: Where did you study?
TANJA: I began my artistic study at the Axel Andersson academy in Germany. Due to financial and forms of family related reasons, I had to give up my studies. As I am a single mother of four children, there wasn’t a perfect time for finishing my studies.
CHRIS: You exhibition in Vienna last year was your first since resuming your career as an artist?
TANJA: Yes, the exhibition in Vienna was my first one. But I re-started painting because of my sister, Vanja Djordjevic, who needed a picture for her new apartment. So I went on and finished my second, third, and fourth paintings and then got my first exhibition.
TANJA: I had my artwork shown in Miami, USA at the Red Dot Miami, at the Asia Contemporary Art Show at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong, at Art Basel at Myer’s Hotel in Berlin, at the Bath Art Fair in England, and at Centro D’arte e Cultura Verum in Lerici and Montecosaro, Italy, by curator Mauro Giampieri. My favorite exhibition took place in Paris at the Louvre’s Carrousel du Louvre, that was possible because of the curator, Adriana Peterova from Vienna, and her gallery.
CHRIS: The way you use the colors in your portraits is fascinating. Has that been your style since you started painting or did that develop over time?
TANJA: My motto is; between black and white there are all sorts of colors.
CHRIS: Who are some of your artistic influences?
TANJA: I have many favorite artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sienri Matisse, Picasso.
CHRIS: Are there any modern day artists whose works you admire?
TANJA: I learned much from many artists like style, the work with color, their inspirations, but for me, women and colors have a dominant role.
CHRIS: We have a mutual friend in Judith Rabl. How long have you and Judith known each other?
TANJA: Judith Rabl and I got to know each other via Facebook.
CHRIS: Your works compliment each other’s very well. Have you and Judith ever had any art showings together?
TANJA: We have the same gallery, “Galerie Makowski,” in Berlin. But the love for art was a easy route for building a friendship.
CHRIS: How can people purchase your paintings?
TANJA: My artwork is available by Artsy via Gallery Makowski or directly from me. Request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also my Facebook fan page is TanjaJokanovicTrager, and my Instagram is JokanovicArts.
Some select examples of Tanja’s oil on canvas portraits (Click for full size slideshow)