Featured Artist | Sandra Eterovic

Blue Village Head

Australian painter Sandra Eterovic is a new represented artist at Sager Braudis Gallery. Her small, illustrative works in acrylic on custom-shaped panels and found objects are already a favorite of gallery staff and clientele, and they’e on display now through January 28. This week, Gallery Director Hannah Reeves asks Eterovic about her subjects and ideas.

Reeves: So many of the characters you depict have a really specific, funny combination of traits. Are they based on people you’ve met? Are there stories surrounding your depictions?

Eterovic: Some of my characters are based directly on people I have observed, found in the newspaper, or on the internet.  Others come largely from my imagination.  The babushka set is based on people I have observed in Melbourne, where I live.  A homeless man wearing a Chanel t-shirt, teens in animal onesies, bohemian ladies at with cardigans full of brooches.  Tony, the surf lifesaver in his Speedos, was based on a photo of a man in the local newspaper.  Others, like Rory (the red haired girl on the wooden paddle), come mostly from my head.  I do enjoy finishing a painting and seeing a new little being staring back at me. 

Reeves: I imagine you discovering an item at a thrift shop and envisioning the painting it could house, when I look at your works on found objects. How do you choose those objects on which you paint?

Eterovic: I am very lucky in that most of the time, those objects find me.  In fact, painting on paddles wasn’t even my idea, but my friend Pene Durston’s, who first collected them from thrift shops in Tasmania.  I am grateful to her for encouraging an interesting branch to my work!

Reeves: Have you always been a painter? Could you talk about how you developed your distinctive style?

Eterovic: I worked for fifteen years as a graphic/ textile designer and illustrator in the fashion industry.  I got to paint occasionally, but most of the time I sat behind a computer.  I started painting in earnest in 2009. I have no idea where my style comes from.  I suspect that my aesthetic stems from a childhood obsessing over illustrations in traditional children’s books.  My mother didn’t encourage painting, however, as she was worried about mess.  Instead, I drew with biros and coloured pencils.  Until relatively recently, I considered myself more a drawer than a painter. I appreciate the relative immediacy and intensity of paint, and being able to work on various materials and objects.

Reeves: What inlfuences and inspires you as an artist?

Eterovic: I am inspired by ‘anything and everything’, as the cliche goes.  I love to sit on a tram and watch the world go by, and observing the people who get on and off.  I am influenced by the internet on many levels — from the baffling communication styles of social media to the endless visual stimulation of Pinterest and Instagram.  Perhaps as an antidote to all of that ’surfing’, I am also increasingly interested in gardening and botany.   I love the strange colours and shapes that plants come in.  However that is only starting to manifest in my work.

Reeves: What’s your “studio quirk”? 

Eterovic: A sconce which holds a pair of candles that drooped to point downwards instead of up, after a particularly hot weekend.  Several summers ago the temperature in Melbourne reached over 47 degrees Celsius (around 120 degrees Fahrenheit).  On that day, 173 people died in bushfires, so I guess that my downward facing candles serve as a small memorial to what we now know as “Black Saturday”.