Maja Maljević studio
Maja Maljević's Joburg studio is a riot of abstract colour | Photography © Pieter Vosloo

Maja Maljević’s Joburg studio is an artistic space filled with a riot of colour, creative spirit and endless energy. In this exclusive online extension to our current issue’s DECO Profiles feature, discover unseen pictures and details of this artist in residence.

After graduating in Belgrade in 1999, Serbian-born Maja moved to South Africa in 2000 and has been based in Joburg ever since. Loving the fact that her studio is part of her house here and that she can paint at any time without having to ‘go to work’, Maja credits her creative energy to the modest size of her working space. DECO sat down with Maja to poke around her funky studio and find out what makes her tick…

Describe your artistic concept in a nutshell…
I am interested in expressing a visual language made up of abstract elements and principles that converse with each other but do not construct a narrative through symbolism or analogy. It is a language of primary, bold, colourful, layered and dense imageries assembled on the canvas without prior negotiation. The composition evolves as each part is painted. The painting becomes itself.

Who is your favourite artist?
Just one artist? Under duress I’d pick Cy Twombly. But also Tal R, Jonathan Meese, Julie Mehretu and and and…

Maja Maljević studio
Maja’s paintbrushes cover every surface / Her trusty companion by her side | Image © Pieter Vosloo

What role does art play in your creative space?
Art is a necessary ingredient in the making of art. The more you surround yourself with it and creative or stimulating work, the more you are inspired to produce. This applies to the actual studio space itself. The more I produce in my studio, the more I am motivated to work and the more likely I am to generate new ideas.

The more you surround yourself with art and creative or stimulating work, the more you are inspired to produce.

What three words you would use to describe your workshop / studio space?
TooSmall (that’s one word), MessyButOrganised (another word, and I know when my husband has ‘borrowed’ something) and Mine

How does your working space inform or inspire your designs?
My studio is small and claustrophobic. I have the sensation of being immersed in the world of my paintings when working on a project and the busyness of the studio is energetic. It invigorates me and makes me more prolific.

Maja Maljević studio
Paint-splattered furniture adds to the creative history of Maja’s space / Her colourful artworks adorn every wall | Image © Pieter Vosloo

What are you creating in your workshop right now?
I am exercising my fascination with repetition and the patterning of elementary shapes and forms – and my process of layered addition and subtraction – in order to construct increasingly complex optical sensations.

What would be your dream commission?
I typically don’t take on commissions but I would like to be involved in public art; so maybe a commission for a mural. But on a grandiose scale, downtown in a big city like Johannesburg, and with creative carte blanche. No interference from commissioners.

Does your studio/workshop space reflect your personality – if so, how?
It’s my studio so it probably does, but you would have to ask a psychoanalyst for an interpretation.

Maja Maljević studio
Lego characters add personality and a cheerful spirit to Maja’s artistic space | Image © Pieter Vosloo

Do you have any lucky items / rituals within your space that help you work?
I don’t believe in luck, ritual or whatever – but I habitually listen to audio books while working.

What is your favourite thing about your studio & what would you most like to change?
I love the fact that my studio is part of my house and that I can paint at any time and without having to “go to work”. But I would l love to produce work that is bigger than the space allows.

What is your top design trend or idea at the moment?
I don’t follow trends but I talk to local designers, artists and interesting people, both here and in Belgrade, so I keep abreast of what is happening and then I decide what I like or what I don’t.

Maja Maljević ELLE Decoration studio
Maja often prefers to sketch on the floor in her Joburg studio | Image © Pieter Vosloo

What one piece of advice would you offer home owners to make their own space more artistic?
Be curious and enjoy beautiful things and ideas. Collect fashion, art, design, furniture, movies, books, toys, kitchen gadgets, whatever inspires you. When you are interested in looking at the world, your space will reflect your interests.

When you are interested in looking at the world, your space will reflect your interests.

What is the biggest challenge for SA artists and designers?
Politics, academia and galleries who won’t appreciate a work of art without reference to a political position and / or a scholarly piece of poppycock printed alongside the piece or in the catalogue.

What is our greatest asset as artists/designers working in SA?
The confidence to be open-minded and expressive in a screwed up world.

Maja Maljević ELLE Decoration studio
Maja Maljević’s studio is a riot of abstract colour | Image © Pieter Vosloo
Maja Maljević ELLE Decoration sketch
Maja’s colourful sketches inspire her creative space | Image © Pieter Vosloo
Maja Maljević ELLE Decoration studio
Pencil pots and old tin cans overflow with colours | Image © Pieter Vosloo


Find out more about Maja Maljević on her website. Follow Maja on Facebook

Photography by Pieter Vosloo.

Discover more artists’ studios in Artists in Residence, in our current issue, out now.

ELLE Decoration Artists in Residence

ELLE Decoration Winter 102 June 2015

The Winter edition of ELLE Decoration South Africa is on shelves at your nearest magazine retailer now. Packed with stylish ways to hibernate this winter, it’s full of all your favourite features, décor tips and tricks plus brand new pages, including DECO Read, DECO Kid and DECO Grow. Pick up your copy today for the most stylish winter yet and tell us what you think on Twitter @ELLE_Deco. #winteriscoming #Winter102