Meet Obonjan’s artist-in-residence

This summer, CR teamed up with Obonjan to offer a two-week artist residency on the Croatian island during its inaugural season of music, art and wellbeing events. The selected artist is Rozalina Burkova – an illustrator and GIF maker based in London

Rozalina Burkova's canvases on display in Obonjan restaurant The Kitchen. Burkova spent two weeks on the island as its first artist-in-residence. Images feature a woman swimming, people dancing late at night and someone meditating
Rozalina Burkova’s canvases on display in Obonjan restaurant The Kitchen. Burkova spent two weeks on the island as its first artist-in-residence. Image: Justin Gardener (justingardner.co.uk)

Rozalina Burkova creates illustrations and GIFs filled with bold colours and charming characters. A self-taught animator, she creates digital and handmade artwork and also sells enamel pins, postcards and prints on her website.

In August, Burkova travelled to Obonjan for a two-week residency, creating a trio of canvases and accompanying GIFs which bring each painting to life. She applied for the programme after spotting a call for entries on Creative Review and was selected to take part by CR and Obonjan’s creative team.

Burkova’s artworks are inspired the island and activities taking place there – for six weeks this summer, the previously uninhabited space off the Dalmatian coast was home to music, art and wellbeing events including open-air film screenings, yoga and meditation classes, stargazing sessions and late night gigs at an open air amphitheatre.

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Dance, one of three artworks created by Burkova during her artist residency on Obonjan

“I [focused on] the most characteristic aspects of Obonjan – wellbeing, magnificent water and party nights. So I made three paintings – Breathe, Swim and Dance – and tried to further emphasise their character by animating them into GIFs,” Burkova explains. GIFs could be unlocked by scanning QR codes.

Burkova studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins and graduated in 2015. She worked as an intern and design assistant at luxury fashion houses before deciding to pursue a career in illustration.

Breathe, one of three artworks created by Rozalina Burkova during her artist residency on Obonjan. The image reference the island's yoga and meditation classes
Breathe, one of three artworks created by Burkova during her artist residency on Obonjan. The island runs a summer wellbeing programme which offers yoga and meditation classes

“In my second and third year [at Central Saint Martins], I started realising that I wasn’t so interested in three dimensional pieces – I just wanted to create images and narratives. I also had major moral problem with the fashion industry as a whole, but that’s another story,” she explains.

“Illustration came as a natural progression – CSM teaches you many creative transferrable skills, so I was already experimenting a lot with line and texture and digital editing. I did both fashion and drawing for a while and then moved onto full time illustration. It all happened very seamlessly.”

The list of artists she is inspired by is diverse – from Chris the Simpsons artist and David Shrigley to Jean Jullien, Linda Linko and Faye Moorhouse.

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Swim, another of Burkova’s artworks created during her residency on Obonjan

“I can’t stick to one medium yet, sometimes I prefer to draw and paint on paper, others it all starts and ends in Photoshop,” says Burkova. “I sketch very quickly and messily on a tiny A5 sketchbook to allow myself some accidental design. But style-wise, I would say [my work features] bold colours, textures, big shapes and imperfect bodies.”

Burkova went freelance in March this year and now works from her home in East London. Since returning from Obonjan, she has been working on an animated music video for Los Angeles musician Entrance and has a solo exhibition opening in London in October.

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Burkova creating canvases from her forest lodge on the island. Image: Justin Gardner
Rozalina Burkova's canvases at her forest lodge on Obonjan island
Burkova’s canvases. Image: Justin Gardner

She also says she would like to work with charities to help promote their work through visual media. “Charity:Water has been using illustration and animation very successfully recently – I would love to do something like that,” she adds.

Burkova was one of a series of artists to visit Obonjan this summer: Camilla Walala and Julia Jomaa transformed the outside of the island’s corner shop with colourful patterns and the motto ‘Play More’, Melbourne-based designer and illustrator Darren Henderson painted a vast mural on a building by the island’s forest bar and London-based Slinkachu installed a series of miniature street scenes.

Rozalina Burkova with her finished paintings - titled Breathe, Swim and Dance - on Obonjan island
Burkova with the finished paintings. Image: Justin Gardner

You can see more of Burkova’s work at rozalinaburkova.com. For details of Obonjan’s arts programme, see obonjan.com

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