Art Talks with Emilija Pasagic

ART TALKS. Art is so often created to reflect nuance and zeitgeist: the human experience at a particular moment in time. Art tells a story and it’s important to stay connected to its storytellers.

Emilija Pasagic is one of those storytellers. She has been working with us for over 25 years and her work has been exhibited and collected internationally. Below you’ll find our chat about her work, her studio and her experience as an established mixed media artist.


Emilija Pasagic was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia. As a child Pasagic was always painting and drawing. A family friend, who was an established painter, nurtured her fascination with art allowing her to visit his studio and delight in all the art materials and works in progress.
Pasagic studied landscape architecture at Belgrade University, where she met her husband. After graduation, the two worked together as designers. As hostilities arose in the region during the early 90’s the couple decided to immigrate to Canada where they settled in Toronto. The move to Canada sparked an artistic rejuvenation in Emilija and she quickly became involved in the vibrant Toronto art scene.
Today, Pasagic works out of her home studio in Toronto, Ontario. She is represented in select galleries throughout Canada, Great Britain and the USA.


CH: What would you say motivates your practice? Why do you create?
EP: It is, I would say, instinctive. I just feel something is missing from my life if I don’t create. I have always felt this way about painting. My studio is a place to discover new ideas and new compositions. Other members of my family are creative individuals as well. My brother is a musician and plays violin and viola in several bands. So perhaps, it was nurtured in my family.
CH: Your work often focuses on the flower or abstracted flower as its subject. What do you find so compelling and relatable about this subject matter?
EP: It’s unintentional, but they are always there. When I start my painting, it is based on single brush stroke and I allow it to guide me in my process. When I determine the piece is finished the flowers are always there. They represent the people that affect me in my life and mean the most to me. These people, with all their emotions, passions and interactions find their way into the narratives and compositions of my paintings. The flowers are representations of these connections.
CH: You paint using a mixed media approach. What do you think this way of working contributes to your compositions?
EP: Mixed media, to me, means freedom to experiment, spontaneity, and allowing your instinct to take over rather than your rule-driven mind. It offers me endless new textures and new combinations that I can run with in my studio. These moments in my compositions created by experimentation offer unique resting places for the viewer’s eye, helping to guide them through the details in the work. I want my collectors to delight in discovering these details.
CH: You’re an established artist whose works can be found in collections internationally. What has been your best memory to date of a collector connecting with your paintings?
EP: I revel in meeting each and every one of my collectors. No matter their location, it is always such a special experience for me. The connection with people who find my paintings impactful and include them in their personal life and space is hard to describe: its emotional, its sentimental and personal. I have been lucky and privileged to meet many of them. We have shared stories about what connects them with my work and every story is precious and personal. This connection with people is hard to explain and can’t be replaced with anything else.
CH: How would you describe your process? Can you describe a typical day in your studio?
EP: As my studio is in my house, I am lucky enough to be able to work any time of the day or night; whenever lightning strikes me. It all depends on what mood I am in because I like to keep things spontaneous. Music is big part of my process as it creates atmosphere and often lends itself to where I am going in “composing” a painting. Music is like meditation for me. It has an emotional component. I often listen to my brother’s music. I find music affects every stroke I make on the canvas.
CH: What do you think brings you the most inspiration to start painting?
EP: Inspiration is hard to explain. I am inspired by everything though I may not notice I am until I start or finish my work. Sometimes I have something I call “post inspiration”. I finish my work and after some time has passed I discover what actually inspired me. I think it comes from memory, some tidbits from past connections in combination with emotions and colors. I often make connections between my paintings and images I take of nature. I appear to be drawn to particular patterns, colours and compositions that can be found in the natural world.
CH: How do you decide when a painting is finished? What role do you think titling a work has in a painting’s completion?
EP: My paintings are intentionally untitled works. I don’t like the imposed narratives that surround a title because my work is meant to ignite the imagination of the viewer. I think their input is important and I value their collaboration. It takes time and experience to know when to put the brush down. The work needs to make sense to me. The spontaneity is lost when you try to control the composition too much. I want my works to have buoyancy to them.
CH: Has social distancing and the current climate surrounding Covid-19 affected your practice?
EP: Yes it has. I haven’t been painting for a few weeks now because I have felt the pressures of this phenomenon like many others. I am starting to feel more optimistic now and I hope to start on a few projects in the coming weeks. I would like to give back to some of the community members who are fighting for those suffering with the illness so, I will be donating a painting to one of these amazing people.
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