INTERVIEW Jelena Panjković: I moved to Lika from Italy and opened an art gallery near Plitvice lakes

I always feel like something is guiding me in life, so it was the case with opening an art gallery near Plitvice.

The Plitvice Times expended the offer in the webshop by adding various products from new partners. One of them is Art Gallery Rubedo located not far from the national park Plitvice lakes. In the absence of art centers in the area, Jelena Panjković came up with a great idea.

Read more about this fenomenal place in the interview we conducted with Jelena Panjković.

Who is the artist in the gallery and how did you choose art as your life vocation?

The owner and artist in the gallery is me, but you can also see the artwork of my mother. She has strongly influenced that life vocation of mine. She has always loved and dreamed of painting, but at that time, studying art was not considered a “serious” vocation. Therefore, she graduated from the Faculty of Forestry.

However, she did not give up on that dream and started self-education along with her job. Today, I can freely say, she is an excellent painter. So I grew up surrounded by colors, canvas, silk, and she selflessly allowed me to experiment with it all. As an elementary school student, I learned to paint on silk, which was also very important in my life. In addition to studying in Italy, I painted silk ties and made money from them, so there are my unique ties all around the world.

At the end of primary school, we had one test with professionals for guidance in secondary school. After the test, I returned home with two addresses of art schools in Zagreb. And that was it! My calling was chosen. With the full support of my mother, I enrolled in the School of Applied Arts and Design and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Italy.

What motivated you to open a gallery near Plitvice Lakes?

I always feel like something is guiding me in life, so it was the case with this decision. I lived in Perugia, a city in central Italy, for almost 20 years. In recent years, I have worked as a goldsmith and I have also been involved in the arts. Italy was slowly entering the crisis so I began to think more about moving out and living in nature.

I grew up in Bjelovar. My grandparents are originally from Lika, not far from Plitvice, where I spent a lot of time as a child. I often dreamt that one day I would live in Lika and those dreams have now come true.

Photo: Ivana Tomić, Model: Laura Kvartuc


With the moral and financial support of my brother Dejan, who is a successful computer scientist, I decided to take that step. I moved to Lika and opened a sales gallery. After all, this is, as far as art is concerned, a completely unaccustomed area of ​​Croatia. Thanks to the most famous Croatian national park, it has great tourist potential.

Although the last two years have been a crisis, especially in the tourism sector, I have not regretted moving here. In fact, I am grateful that life has brought me here. I immensely appreciate that first breath of clean and fresh air, bathed in the gentle colors of the rising sun, a choir of birds, here and there a solo chirping, the roar of a deer in the evening or the dominant deep sounds of the wind in the forest. Nature is never silent and there is no greater teacher than her.

What can be found in the Rubedo Art Gallery?

You can view or buy artistic, unique, handmade works created by my mother and me. Sculptures, paintings, silver jewelry, painted silk ties and scarves, painted ceramics… there were also a couple of collaborations with other artists and designers. I intended to develop the gallery into something like a small art center, where music evenings, poetry evenings, exchanges of new ideas would be organized. However, the global pandemic blocked all that and plans were changed, at least for a while.

Where did you get educated about jewelry making and what inspires you?

I started designing and making jewelry at the age of 15 when I chose the metal design department in high school. After graduating, I moved to Italy and specialized in goldsmithing. Then I enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, Department of Sculpture, with a final thesis “Microsculpture to wear”, with which I came to the analysis of the contemporary and artistic value of jewelry through historical significance.

Jewelry is an artistic expression, just like painting, sculpture, architecture, but unlike them, it must be worn and thus establish a much more intimate contact with the person who chooses it and, so to speak, exposes it to the audience. Jewelry, sculptures, paintings are my three predominant artistic expressions and have intertwined and influenced each other for 25 years.

The combination of geometry and symbols with the colors black, white and red is the expression that I use the most in paintings, sculptures and jewelry. Colors that signify duality and manifestation are intertwined with the geometrically representing natural laws by which life acquires meaning.

The essence of art for me is not to give anyone any answers, but to encourage questions about the higher meaning of human existence.
Inspiration comes from asking questions and meditating on possible answers.

Lika is perfect for contemplation and spiritual cognition. When I moved here, it was interesting for me to find out, ie to remember that these three colors are predominant on Lika’s traditional folklore costumes. I also “made” an interesting connection with the sixteen Plitvice Lakes that originate from the Matica River, which is formed by the unification of two rivers, the Black and the White. Or becoming acquainted with the geometric jewelry of Japod, one of the Illyrian tribes who lived in these areas. All this has an impact, inspires and just like the biodynamic life of Plitvice and nature itself, it is in constant change and new creations.

The Corona pandemic forced you to close the gallery. How did that affect the production and selling?

Yes, as I mentioned before, the Corona Pandemic changed plans. It was reflected in the way that I decided to dedicate myself mainly to jewelry making and web sales, which I will most likely expand to other assortments that we had on offer in the gallery. Apart from the pandemic, a few other circumstances have recently led me to the decision to close the gallery until further notice. I will not say perminately, because it is a project that I still consider valuable.

Are you planning specific projects in the future?

So, the gallery will remain active only in virtual form for now. I have a couple of collaborations in mind, but I think I’ve finally learned that it’s not good to tell anyone about your own plans until they come true. 😊

I have not mentioned before, and it is also an important part of my life, that I am a licensed tourist guide in Croatian and Italian for Lika-Senj County, especially for NP Plitvice Lakes. It is a job I’ve been doing lately, that I love very much.

I literally adore Plitvice, for me, they are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and I am honored to show and pass it on to others, especially Italians because half of my life I have artistically formed among them and this is a nice way to stay in touch with that part of my life.

What I know for sure is that my head is always full of new ideas, that I want to live in Lika, in nature and continue the path of a versatile artist, the one I chose as a child.


Check out the Art Gallery Rubedo offer: 


Georgette – Scarf by Rubedo (85 x 85 cm)

Earrings Silver Resin Black & White & Red Triangles

Pendant Silver Rectangular Epoxy Resin