“As an artist, I like to explore the construction of identity, and its cultural and social implications.”
As a reflection of Sadko Hadzihasanovic’s artistic agenda, the exhibition Kids with guns at Paul Petro Contemporary Art Gallery showcases a selection of work that exposes and surveys the social engagements of children in weaponized violence. The show covers more than a decade in Hadzihasanovic’s deliberation on the theme Kids with guns and includes 24 works from 1995 to 2020.
Installation view of Sadko Hadzihasanovic, Kids with guns
The title of the show was inspired by the song “Kids with Guns” released by British band Gorillaz in 2006. One of the songwriters Damon Albarn shared his inspiration behind the lyrics recalling his personal experience. A nice boy, a child at his daughter’s school arrived at school one day with a knife and decided to show it to his friends at lunchtime. As he said: “It’s a very real problem, but I’m not treating it as a problem. It’s part of the brutalization of a generation that’s going on at the moment.” As Albarn’s statement blames the society for encouraging children to play with lethal weapons, Hadzihasanovic’s show provokes viewers to further explore the issue with a great variety of portraiture-based illustrations.
Ice cream, 2020, oil on wood veneer, 12 x 9 inches
The lithography Boy with a Rose (2013), published in a renowned printing house in Poligrafa, Barcelona, recalls Hadzihasanovic’s passion with soccer as a kid growing up in Europe. In this piece the artist wishes to emphasize the game’s different meaning, that focuses on love instead of fight.
Boy with a Rose, 2013, lithograph with watercolour, 11 x 9 inches
Hadzihasanovic’s works have a humorous undertone. He juxtaposes a sense of brightness in his pictorial language with the heaviness of the issues he depicts. These contrasts appear throughout Kids with guns. particularly in the works portraying young boys with a layer of grief that calls for empathy. It is not fair to grow up under these circumstances. What might these boys do as adults?!
In Rose Garden, 2020, oil on Masonite, 12 x 9 inches
The featured artworks meticulously avoid any historical, geographical or cultural references. As the artist wrote: “I have noticed the constant presence of guns as a subject in my work since I have arrived in Canada, but I have never made an exhibition which focused entirely on the theme of weapons. I reflect upon the disturbing North American phenomenon, of young boys playing with toy guns, that seemingly condone and glorify violence.”
Night Watch 2, 2019, oil on copper, 9 x 8 inches
In Bosnian Folk Songs (1999), a child holds a plastic gun in hand. He is alone and unsupervised. Reminiscent of the aftermath of the war in his native Bosnia, Hadzihasanovic emphasizes the challenges faced by children on the streets who had known war at a very early age.
Bosnian Folk Song, 1999, oil, graphite, gouache, hair and collage on found wallpaper, 66 x 62 inches
When Hadzihasanovic first moved to Canada in 1993, he was fascinated by pop-culture and consumerism very different from the ethnic conflict and war in his native country. Over the years, he has found the nature of “the inherent violence of masculinity” troubling. These things motivated him to put together this exhibition as a means to provoke answers to his concerns: “the role of government in controlling weapons, how we educate children about guns, the role profit plays as well as how we contribute to the resolution of the problem that we face.”
Night Watch 1, 2018 oil and graphite on unstretched canvas, 66 x 98 inches
Images are courtesy of Paul Petro Contemporary Art. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
*Exhibition information: Sadko Hadzihasanovic, Kids with guns, March 27 – April 25, Paul Petro Contemporary Art, 980 Queen Street W, Toronto. The exhibition is online at