On my screen a bearded man with a calm and serious face greets me with a dark voice. He is sitting in a room with bare walls except from a colored banner. The room is nothing like his works but quickly I will find out that his inspiration comes from a whole other place.
The Bosnian artist Emir Šehanović, who calls himself Esh, works with collages or as he refers to them himself; assemblages. A process in which the artist makes a two or three-dimensional piece combined by different objects. The assemblage art form takes the collage to a new level and combines different elements into one piece that is reaching for its audience.
His works are dark and mysterious, filled with delicate details.
When asked what he does and how, he calmly tells me that he takes different segments from local traditions, rituals, superstition and beliefs and build them into a world of his own.
But the working progress is somewhat the same on the computer as it was in street art. “When you do a mural you see the building and its parts and each part can give you something, some inspiration, I liked to go and search for the architecture. I never work with sketches, neither when I did street art. I get inspired and work from a certain idea I get from a wall, a photo or something different. Of course I sometimes start out with an idea and I search for the right things to make it come true but I like to surprise myself and not knowing where and how it will end up. I like to give something new to a certain thing.”
To Emir, a thing evolves and never starts out as a complete work. The idea around the work evolves.
The now mainly computer-editing artist started out as a street artist and was so for about ten years, but explains the transition to the computer as a natural result of starting to work more and more on computer. “I started to work as a graphic designer and I moved further and further away from street art. Now the computer is a part of me and it is how I work. I like to mix the physical with the digital but the computer is my main tool. I do not feel as a street artist anymore.”
So while the feeling of being a street artist might be gone, the artist still works manual, but in a different way than traditional street artists.
It is the process of breaking down an image and giving it new layers and new dimensions. On the artists webpage, he states that he is inspired by the occult. When asked what exactly this occult thing is and how it appears and inspire him, he replies with a quite logical answer. “The country where I am from, Bosnia, is a really superstitious country. Most people here are really superstitious. Especially after the war, I don’t know why, like is it the trauma of the war or because many moved from the rural part to the urban parts, but many people, not all, need something to believe in. You can see it everywhere”.
He talks about old ladies who can help you with alternative medicine and superstitious methods for your problems. The presence of superstitions is everywhere to be found in the Balkan area. Emir had his first encounter with the superstitious when he was a child with his grandmother. He believes it to be a kind of shamanism. “I grew up here, it is part of me and my culture, my parents and the people around me. We follow some weird norms like do not cut your nails on a Saturday night.” He says with a laugh. “I am not really sure, I do not know if I believe or not. But I must say that it is part of me.”
In the short movie, “Take Three Deep Breaths” we see the artist at an elderly lady’s living room practicing some strange kind of ritual. The video is a teaser for an upcoming book by Esh. The video can also be seen as an autobiography, the Balkan identity and shamanism is an important factor to him and he frequently visits elderly ladies who work within the field to learn more about it. Specifically an old lady told him that he might actually have a real talent within the field as a shaman.
After two years in the making and a load of up-and-coming projects, there amongst magazine collaborations, exhibitions and festivals, the Balkan artist has plenty of work to do.
This interview first appeared in our latest Issue here.
Interview by Elizabeth Wedel