A grandma’s advice: ‘Ignore the negative thoughts, life is hard enough anyway’

All images © Lucija Rosc

Lucija Rosc’s new project aims to capture her elder mentor’s creativity through collage, jokes and a vinyl record

“The most important thing my grandma taught me is it’s best to do what you love and ignore the negative thoughts, because life is hard enough anyway,” says Lucija Rosc. “She is a very optimistic person, very funny and lovely.”

Born in Slovenia in 1995, Rosc has spent a lot of time with her grandparents, hanging out with them rather than going to kindergarten, and continuing the relationship once she was at school. Her grandmother, Mica, spent years working as a primary school teacher and is creative, says Rosc. The artist has clearly inherited – or learned – this flair, studying photography at the VIST Faculty of Applied Sciences in Ljubljana, then for an MA in visual communication design at ALUO, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design at the University of Ljubljana. Rosc now lives in the city, working at Galerija Jakopič and showing her photography at venues and fairs including Unseen Amsterdam, Photo Basel, the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and Galerija Fotografija.

“It’s the biggest fear for me, that my grandparents are going to die, so I try to infuse all my works with them”

Rosc’s work brings a playful approach to image-making, often drawing on her childhood and family archives. Her 2020 series Junkcija (Junction) combines colourful still lifes with family photographs of her grandmother, plus shots of vegetables she has grown, while 2016’s Recikliranje spominov (Recycling Memories) found her printing family photographs and embedding them in plastic bottle tops she melted down at home. “In the end I covered them up using epoxy to make sure the photographs would stay protected,” she writes. “I still need to complete the final step though, which is to bury them in our backyard, so someone from the future will eventually discover them.”

More recently, she has faced the reality that her grandparents will not be around forever, and has made a new project, Mica bere vice (Mica Reads Jokes), in a bid to capture her grandmother’s humour and creativity. The work uses archive images from Mica’s life, such as a dashing shot of her as a young woman in the then-Yugoslavia, seated on a motorbike. A more contemporary image shows Mica cutting into a birthday cake, and there are collages she has made of photographs of flowers and insects.

Mica bere vice also includes images of Mica’s joke book, a hand-written affair compiling her best gags. “She started collecting them from about 2010, jokes from friends, or newspapers, or wherever, then she’d select the best ones and write them down,” Rosc says. “She keeps the book in her wallet, and whenever we have family parties, if there’s a quiet moment, she’ll read out a joke.”

Rosc translates one of the jests, which is about a virgin who dies and whose gravestone is engraved “unused, return to sender”. Mica’s jokes are surprisingly cheeky, Rosc says, often poking fun at authority figures such as priests and policemen, and rendered funnier by being unexpectedly told by an older woman. Mica also has a unique sing-song delivery, honed from her years of reading stories aloud to her class, and Rosc was keen to retain something of this tone. Recording her grandmother telling jokes, she had the audio pressed onto vinyl so that Mica could play them in her own home. Rosc also made a portrait of her grandmother for the front cover, aiming to depict her as a jazz singer, or maybe an electro artist, and she created a font from her grandmother’s writing.

Samples from the record are now played on a local radio station, but for Rosc this quirky project retains its personal edge. “It’s the biggest fear for me, that my grandparents are going to die, so I try to infuse all my works with them,” she says. “Their material, their handwriting, their voices – everything I can collect so that we will have enough memories.”

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy