Amer Kobaslija was born in Banja Luka, Bosnia, in 1975. With the outbreak of the Bosnian War in 1993, he escaped to Germany where he briefly studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. After tensions from the war eased, he was reunited with his family and they immigrated to the United States, settling in Florida in 1997. He earned a BFA from Ringling College of Art, FL in 2003 and an MFA from Montclair State University, NJ in 2005. He currently lives and works in Orlando and is a professor of painting at the University of Central Florida.
Kobaslija’s paintings are meditations on spaces and environments, “always about mark-making, mind-mapping, and self-examination.” He begins his paintings on a miniature scale and progressively develops the image at larger and larger scales, eventually creating several iterations of the same subject. Some of his earliest subjects were empty spaces, often artist studios or gritty restrooms, which he painted from vertiginous angles, seemingly looking down at the room as if from the viewpoint of a security camera. Although his studios are always vacant, their interiors are cluttered and evidently lived-in, acting as allegorical portraits of the people who inhabited them. In 2010 he was invited to visit the artist Balthus’ studio in Rossenier, Switzerland, which resulted in a body of work depicting both the artist’s studio and the surrounding landscape. Following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, he began an extensive series to document the wreckage, eventually making several trips to the country to witness the aftermath firsthand. Throughout, his work has been about a “sense of place” and the sensation of being in or having a connection to an environment. Beauty is also a preoccupation of his, and a particular quality of his paintings is the sensuous treatment he gives to otherwise desolate settings. Most recently, Kobaslija has been developing a series of portraits as part of an extensive body of work on the state of Florida. He views the state as his adopted homeland and these paintings are a reflection of his appreciation of its culture and people, coupled with his concerns over the impending effects of climate change and the rapidly encroaching urban sprawl on natural environments.
Kobaslija has exhibited internationally and participated in several residencies, including an artist residency and subsequent exhibitions in Brig, Switzerland in 2017. In 2019 he was shortlisted for the Florida Prize for Contemporary Art by the Orlando Museum of Art. Other significant awards include a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 2005, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2006, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. His work is in major public collections such as the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara; the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga; Staten Island Museum, New York; and the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brussels, Belgium.