Turbo-folk has experienced something of a revival on the Serbian art scene during the last couple of years, a result of experimentation by multiple artists, musicians and DJs across the Balkan region.
Amongst them is Aleksandar Denic, a 34-year-old painter who lives and works in Belgrade. Denic is known for painting famous personalities, from musicians to politicians, and also for combining various genres from pop art, icon painting to cartoon-style images.
We meet at Belgrade Insight’s stand at the Belgrade Book Fair on October 25, where he took the challenge to paint a picture on the spot.
“In a sense, I see art as a mission to make the world more beautiful. In my case, I wanted, through painting, to show the quality of pop-folk culture. To bring forth the quality of ‘narodnjake’ [contemporary folk music] to be part of art… and for them to be recognised in the art world. That was my goal,” Denic explains.
Turbo-folk was at its prime in Serbia during the 90s, thanks to artists such as Ceca, Aca Lukas and Lepa Brena. It reached mainstream popularity in Serbia and the Balkans generally but has also been associated with pornographic kitsch and the glorification of crime.
Serbian artists today, however, know how to repackage the often reviled soundscape into something new.
Vice Serbia recently released the documentary Turbotronik, featuring several DJs, musicians and artists, including Denic, who all share one thing in common: a fascination with turbo-folk and an ability to use pop folk music for their own artistic expression.
Denic told BIRN that he combined his love of portraiture and folk music, and started in 2010 to make pop icons portraying the artists he adores so much.