TWO dogs, all muscle, snapping and straining against the short leashes that keep them close to a tile-covered wall. The perfect death machines, ready to strike. The head of one of the dogs is half left out of the picture but the important part is there - the sharp teeth and the blood-red tongue, the beast's mouth watering in expectation of the taste of flesh. The two tongues are the only spots of colour on the bleached white-light blue painting.
This is Bambi is Dead, one of five works by Yugoslavian artist Biljana Djurdjevic, exhibited at Irida Gallery. The painting is two metres long and 70cm tall. It is rather small compared with some of the others, and even the largest of them are small, compared to the average size of her works, Biljana says.
Another striking thing about the paintings is the colour palette: blood-red and hospital dark green on white and light blue, pulling you closer and pushing you away.
Then you see the images - sharp and graphic, standing out as if cut out from the background. To a layman like me, this is reminiscent of pop art. Only the images, the faces are more carefully drawn, less cartoon-like and more realistic. That is, the few faces that aren't cut out of the frame, or turned away from the viewer.
The exhibition itself is entitled Bambi is Dead, after the nice, cute Disney deer. But do not expect any lovable creatures and charming subjects here. What you get are the snapping dogs, and bodies unconscious after a police examination or laid out for an autopsy. The blood-red spots often turn out to be blood. And tiles everywhere, as in a hospital or a bathroom.
To the young artist, Bambi is dead, and humankind is crying over the deer's dead body - not because a beautiful creature is gone, but because it was the last food, and now there is nothing left to eat.
`Well,' I think, `these thoughts, these subjects are probably connected to the fact that the artist is from Yugoslavia,' - a country which during the last 10 years has become synonymous with war, violence, social unrest. "No," she says, at least not on the conscious level. Her works are never the product of the outside world, but are always the expression of some personal tick, she explains.
"I find everything I do a joke." The title of the exhibition, the subject matter of the paintings are `a joke' to her, and she finds it funny that everybody is trying to find a deeper meaning. " I just thought of the contradiction between the tender deer and these beasts," Biljana says, adding that she doesn't only mean the dogs.
Biljana Djurdjevic is from Belgrade, a graduate of its Academy of Fine Arts. Only 27, this is already her third solo exhibition, and she has participated in a number of group ones, both home and abroad.
She looks like a schoolgirl, with girly hairpins and in neat, tidy light-coloured clothes. She is obsessed with cleanliness, she says, hence the tiles in all her works - they are clean, or can easily be cleaned.
She also requires cleanliness in shapes and colours, hence the similarity to pop art. But her work is in her own style: the exhibition has a cold, depersonalised, dehumanised air to it; invokes the atmosphere of a police state, ruled by terror and fear. The anonymous lonely characters meditate on physical and spiritual survival, on estrangement, violence, and lost illusions. Quite opposite to her personality - friendly, emotional, with a lust for life and fun.
You won't be able to see her - she has already left for Belgrade. But you can see her art if you drop in at Irida Gallery by January 24. The paintings are for sale, at prices ranging between 1,500 leva and 4,500 leva.