ANDREJ JOSIFOVSKI, STREET ARTIST BEHIND THE IMPRESSIVE MURALS SIGNED BY THE ALIAS “PIJANISTA” REVEALS WHAT TREASURES ARE HIDING BEHIND THE OFTEN-CRUMBLING FACADES IN BELGRADE AND HOW TO EXPLORE THEM
The first and, so far, the only time that young Andrej Josifovski was sanctioned for scribbling on Belgrade’s walls was in 2014, when he was working on the mural of the tennis player Novak Đoković. He had to pay a fine, too. Today, he likes to joke that “Nole owes him some money”. Andrej remembers these days with a smile and says he is not sorry, as this exact piece was a turning point for him. “After I finished the mural of our renowned tennis player, sticking his tongue out to BBC, I realized I really wanted to get into this art more seriously.”
The twenty-six-year old is currently at doctoral studies, after having graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, where he is now a teaching assistant. As a young boy he played the piano, leaving him with the nickname of Pijanista (the pianist). It is this nick-name, now his alias, that will allow you to recognize the work of Andrej Josifovski on the streets of Belgrade.
“Street art is a separate culture and expression of rebellion. Through my work, I express my rebellion against conformity and kitsch, that seems to be swelling around us. In doing so, I am starting an intellectual revolution”, says Andrej, saying he is always open to critique.
His style is photorealism. As he explains, it is not that common in Belgrade. “What I am doing is something rather new here, something avantgarde and I would say my fellow Belgradians like it”, says Josifovski. He doesn’t ask for permits from city authorities, as he sees that as a waste of time, but he always talks to the residents of the buildings he is planning to draw on. “I usually look for facades that are already ruined and then I just classify my work as repair of the wall.” This was also the case in Savamala, when a few years back he drew a mural of a cat with a window in the place of one of its eyes. This wall, close to Brankov Bridge, was loved by Belgradians but also by foreigners. Was loved, because after two years of living on that wall, the cat was painted over. “I am always sorry to see an artwork disappear, but that too is a part of street art. As for the cat, I know that many people found themselves there, and posed for pictures in front of it. I know that no one destroyed that particular artwork on purpose. Simply, the time had come for the facade to be renovated,” he emphasizes.
However, Andrej is not planning to let the cat be forgotten. Next year, he wants to prepare an exhibition that will be a tribute to this furry animal. The idea is to hang all the photos, of all the people that took photos with the cat – that he could find on the Internet, on a wall.
There were two other murals in Belgrade that can no longer be seen, but are deserving of a mention. Unfortunately, they were washed away by water. At Ostružnički Bridge on river Sava, the Diver and the Swimmer, signed by none other than the Pianist, drew special attention. “I drew these murals from a boat and it was not easy at all, but that is the allure of it. There is something adrenalin-inducing in all this, that sits well with me”, says Andrej. Even though he knows that artwork on bridge pylons has a limited lifespan, he still plans to continue with the “bridge edition”.
By painting on facades, Andrej is striving to give the city a new visual identity. “I try to fit each of my pieces into a concept and into its environment,” emphasizes Josifovski, adding that he draws inspiration from everyday life, but also from his travels around the world.
During his student days, this multifaceted lad worked as a tour guide. He used to guide architectural tours through world metropolises, so he says that this is probably what a tour around Belgrade would be like, too. “These walks require effort, but there is always something to see and to tell, so I would take tourists to see the architectural cultural monuments in Belgrade”. When it comes to street art tours, he is a bit indecisive. “On one hand, this can be interesting, but on the other, I am not quite sure if it would be a good thing. I think the point of street art is in exploring the city on your own, finding these amazing graffiti and murals of local artists. In that sense, I am not in favour of taking tourists on organized street art tours. The point is in them exploring on their own.”
Still, if you are walking downtown, Andrej recommends some of his murals you can see. “In Dubrovačka street I recently did this mural for Russian National Television, it is a love story of two young people. Also, in Zmaja od Noćaja, there is another cat I painted. There are celebrity murals, such as musicians Bora Đorđević and Miša Aleksić, actor Lane Gutović, basketball players Miloš Teodosić and Aleksandar Đorđević, but also the guys from “Državni posao” (“Public Sector Job”). You have to find and see them. All these people are heroes to me”, he points out.
This creative lad lives in Bežanijska Kosa, where a lot of his artwork is located. This part of town could be said to be slowly transforming into an urban district, so he recently organized a Street Art Festival in his neighbourhood, called Runaway. Bežanijska Kosa is now all the richer by another painted facade.
As for Belgrade, the Pianist says it is one of the most beautiful cities. “This is a city that visitors just have to come back to. A few days, which is what they usually plan to stay here, are actually not enough.” Just like this text. It would take many more texts to tell all street art stories and plans of this artist, who doesn’t see himself as an artist yet.
By: Sofija Šajnović