Thursday, July 16, 2015

BILJANA (bkc)

Not one to enjoy the spotlight, Biljana prefers to let her art speak for her. Once a University of Toronto employee, her life has taken a different path, one that has always been with her.

Born in Yugoslavia, in the 1950s, the family moved to Canada for more opportunities when she was still very young. Her father, knew nothing of Canada. He knew more about Australia and thought they would end up living 'down under'. But as fate would have it, the four family members and their four suitcases landed in Montreal, on their way to Kingston, Ontario. Not wanting to live in a big city, Kingston was between Montreal and Toronto. Speaking next to no English the family settled into the very quiet Kingston. 

Biljana headed west to the University of Toronto. "Like a good Yugoslavian girl, I studied math, computer science and business," she says laughing at the course of study that took her to various locations.

For 22 years, Biljana worked at the University of Toronto until she was "reorganized" and laid off three years ago. It is hard not to feel bitter, and as many people do, she tried to figure things out and tried to come to terms with her confusion and mixed emotions after a 22 year career she had enjoyed. 

"I have always been creative. My earliest memories is when I lived in a tiny town in Austria with one school. A single room school had several rows of students, one grade per row," she says, describing the school layout. "I wasn't allowed to draw after I finished my lessons early, but one of the younger teachers, recognizing my interest in drawing, allowed me to draw, but no more than 1" above the bottom of the sheets of paper in my workbook, " she explains, any higher than that, then she would get the stick!

Fostering her creativity, she now curates her small gallery of two narrow walls and a desk in the Arts Market containing many other artist's displays on Queen Street in the Leslieville neighbourhood of Toronto.

Her latest piece, seen in the upper right of the photo is highly interpretive. For her it is an underwater scene, looking up at things floating and suspended in the water. It is a richly painted and layered piece that one can study for ages and always discover new details.

BILJANA LIFE OUTLOOK: "I talk to people all the time. On the subway, on the street, total strangers. I'm curious about people and want to know their stories." Interestingly, Biljana's outlook embodies much of the thought behind The Hello Project: a desire to make contact with others, to say "Hello" and to humanize & personalize what is a disconnected world.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN


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